I-405 BRT Corridor Options

There has long been a regional consensus that I-405 Bus Rapid Transit would be a part of the ST3 program. But that general agreement has hidden a fuzziness about the form it would take. The December 4 workshop saw a range of options presented. The studies make a compelling case for a low-cost version of I-405 BRT, but complicate the case for doing much more. The eye-popping conclusion is that a range of investment levels between $340 million and $2.3 billion all produce the same ridership.

Staff presented “low capital” and “intensive capital” representative models. In between are a long list of a la carte options. There are two alternatives for a southern terminus; one at Angle Lake, the other at Burien TC. The “low capital” model leans heavily on existing infrastructure, and is less ambitious than any of the options examined in the previous set of studies in 2014.

Low Capital BRT

Staff analysis helpfully breaks out cost and performance by segment. Segment A, Lynnwood TC to Bellevue TC, is the most productive with up to 10,000 riders, about 60% of all the ridership on the BRT. 10 of the 19 miles are served via general purpose lanes on I-5 and I-405 (other than limited shoulder-running southbound on I-405). Only the portion between Brickyard and Bellevue can be served via HOT lanesSegment B, Bellevue to Renton, runs entirely in HOT lanes, but achieves fewer than 1,500 riders. That would include a deferred project to build HOV direct access ramps at N 8th St in Renton.

Beyond Renton, there is little new investment. Segment C, Renton to Tukwila International Boulevard Link Station, would run in HOT lanes on I-405 and general purpose lanes on SR 518, achieving a respectable 3,500 riders with little cost other than vehicles. From TIBS, the service could continue to Angle Lake via BAT lanes on SR 99 (Segment D1), or to Burien Transit Center via general purpose lanes on SR 518 (Segment D2).

The total capital cost under $350 million is modest for the ridership, mostly because the highway infrastructure is largely existing or funded through WSDOT. 28% of the cost is for parking.ST3_i405BRT_Elements2

Intensive Capital BRT

The ‘intensive capital’ option adds several stations and upgrades others. It eliminates much of the interaction with general purpose lanes via added ramps in the north and BAT lanes in the south.

Segment A sees added HOV ramps from I-5 to I-405 and station upgrades along I-405. This gets the BRT out of general purpose lanes except between Canyon Park and UW Bothell. Segment B is in HOT lanes in either proposal. To the south, general purpose segments on SR 518 would be eliminated. Segment C, D1 and D2 would all shift to BAT lanes on arterial streets.

There are up to six additional stops. Two are in Kirkland; at NE 112th St (the southern part of Totem Lake) and at NE 85th St (near downtown). Two more are between Bellevue and Renton; at 112th Avenue SE (adjacent to the Newport Hills Park-and-Ride which would be expanded) and NE 44th Street in Renton. The realignment of Segment C from SR 518 adds service to Tukwila Sounder Station and Southcenter. Other stations all along the corridor see added parking and direct access ramps.

Downtown Kirkland gets close attention. The NE 85th flyer stop is estimated at up to $260 million, lower than the 2014 study because the station footprint has been reduced and parking eliminated. But there is another $105 million for bus lanes to downtown Kirkland and on 85th St, much of that for property acquisition. The cost and disruption may be too great to stack up against alternatives serving central Kirkland directly.

E02_Comps2

The Outlook

Remarkably, the intensive capital investments produce no net additional ridership. Ridership increases on some segments, but the five-minute time penalty offsets this for through-travel. Eastside leaders view these results skeptically. How can six additional stations and improved reliability, with such a minimal travel time penalty, not yield more ridership? The added stations have mostly poor land use and TOD potential. Other than the Bellevue CBD, I-405 serves generally weak transit destinations, with urban centers at some remove from the highway. There may be diminishing returns to transit access via park-and-rides. How useful is a second P&R within easy driving distance?

While the poor modeled performance of the intensive capital option will be questioned, it likely means that the extra stations go to the end of the queue for funding.

170 Replies to “ST3: Bus Rapid Transit on I-405”

  1. As much as I want to see better suburban transit, when I hold up an I-405 BRT option against investment in Link Light Rail, Sounder, Tacoma Link, and a subway linking dense Seattle neighborhoods… these “enhanced BRT” options should fall to the end of the queue. This is one of the most congested corridors in the state. With the existence Eastside Rail Corridor, the fact that we’re discussing BRT on I-405, and not a complete light rail line from Lynnwood to Tukwila strikes me as ridiculous. Let’s just keep the 56x and 53x series of buses and invest in more frequent trips.

    1. Wait, what? These proposals are fairly cheap and fairly fast but don’t have great ridership and you want to replace them with light rail? I don’t understand the logic. If much faster buses doesn’t get that many new riders, why would much faster trains? The answer is it wouldn’t, and we would be spending a huge amount of money for very little.

      I too am skeptical about these numbers and the Sound Transit modeling in general. It has failed miserably in the past, and a lot or projects seem ridiculously optimistic or pessimistic. But it is possible that there just aren’t that many people willing to make this trip in the manner. As Dan said, there aren’t that many urban centers along I-405, which means that you are dependent on park and rides, and for that there is diminishing returns. Building rail won’t change that.

      1. Eh? He didn’t say anything about building light rail along 405. He said building rail in Seattle and building rail along the ERC.

      2. Are you sure? “A complete light rail line from Lynnwood to Tukwila” could mean two things. The first is the light rail line that is about to be built (but then why say we need to discuss it). The second is a 405 light rail line.

        To be honest, I’m not sure what is meant. My apologies if I misinterpret what was said and only added to the confusion.

      3. “Lynnwood to Tukwila via Seattle” is already in ST2. In this context it must mean a 405 light rail line from Lynnwood to Bellevue to Tukwila, and “Eastside rail corridor” means sharing the track (and project) with the Kirkland-Issaquah line, and you could also throw in the Burien-Renton line in for good measure. So the unique track not in any other project is Lynnwood to Kirkland and Bellevue to Renton.

      4. I disagree that they are “fairly fast”. The blue options should not be averaging less than 30 MPH, and the red options should not be averaging under 25 MPH. Really, the blue options should average around 35 MPH, and the red options around 30 MPH.

    2. I think what Engineer is referring to is an alternate plan where there would be rail service added to the full length of the ERC, from Renton to Bothell (or maybe Woodinville) with extensions to Tukwila and Lynnwood. From my reading of this site, there seems to be a lot of talk about using the ERC between Totem Lake and Bellevue (and maybe as far as the Factoria area), but no talk about the fact that the ERC still exists between Factoria and Renton.

    3. I’m just saying that glorified bus routes should be a lowest-priority improvement. Putting in stations and building new road (additional freeway lanes, off ramps, etc) just to have a bus that will get stuck in traffic (even HOV lanes in the Puget Sound region experience some pretty bad congestion on a regular basis) does not seem like a good use of money. Light rail to Microsoft, a Seattle subway, extending the light rail spine, additional trips on the Sounder, are all great long-term investments. BRT on 405 is a short-term throwaway investment, since even these new and improved 3-person HOT lanes on 405 will sooner rather than later be clogged with congestion. If there is ridership demand for an ERC light rail, excellent, let’s build it, it is a long-term solution. If not? Okay, shelve it until there is demand. BRT on 405??? I just don’t think it’s worth investing in. Pour money into other projects instead.

      1. The cheap version leverages existing infrastructure, so I see no harm in that version.

        Clearly spending 2 billion for zero gain is a waste though. I would rather that spent on a low ridership light rail line than on freeway improvements that yield no extra riders.

        By the tax structure we have, the East Side has to spend $$ on something. The challenge is finding investments that will be the most effective…

      2. There’s a magnitude of difference in cost between low-capital BRT in HOT lanes and a light rail line. So it’s not a wasted investment: it gives incrementally better service now and builds a ridership base that can support a rail line later maybe. These people aren’t riding the existing ST Express buses because they’re infrequent, caught in traffic, spend time meandering on surface streets and getting back on the highway, etc. The question is whether the proposal meets the area’s trip patterns and is a significant enough improvement over the status quo to generate a “BRT full” of riders. If the answer is yes, then the low-capital project would be worthwhile.

        As for what would be abandoned if a rail line is built after it, it depends on what materials can be reused. Station components like benches and real-time signs can be moved to another location. The rail stations may be somewhere else; we won’t know until a concrete rail line is proposed, and that would require some assurance that it would be built soon to make studying it worthwhile.

      3. These people aren’t riding the existing ST Express buses because ..

        Because nothing. The buses are packed to the gills. The simple act of tolling on 405 has made bus transit faster than driving alone and cheaper, much cheaper.

        I think ST’s modeling is bias toward what creates the most ST jobs. Let’s see, hand over money to projects where WSDOT is the lead or spend decades studying light rail. The ERC is a non-starter. It doesn’t even go anywhere that BNSF wanted to keep it. Maybe it could have been an alternate for 522 and I pushed hard for keeping it in some sort of rail service but ST ponied up the money to study it and said it didn’t pencil out. Of course they don’t want to do anything that isn’t electrified light rail with huge capital expense and the thought of sharing the line with freight just isn’t in their wheel house.

      4. My point is that ridership along here doesn’t justify rail, plain and simple. Even after spending the big bucks on infrastructure improvements, you are talking ridership roughly the same as some of our buses. What exactly would rail give you that this BRT wouldn’t? More capacity? Of course, but as should be obvious, it just isn’t needed. Run the buses more often if they are crowded.

        I find it bizarre that folks like Charles are saying we need to find a place to spend our money, while Bernie has the obvious answer: more buses. I have been extremely critical of Sound Transit, but I think ST buses are a huge success. Ridership is very high. They are very popular. They just need to run more often, that’s all. Mix it up a little and run some slightly different routes (which this would do). I’m all for bus infrastructure improvements, but as Mike said, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. No sense spending huge amounts of money when it won’t make much difference. Put that money into more service.

        I know everyone here is a big Jarrett Walker fan, and I get that. I’m all for transfers and all. But when you are talking about a very big region, then it has its weaknesses. The distances and the frequencies make it difficult to work. You end up with a system not unlike Metro (of old) where every trip involves going downtown first. Sure, it works, but it take forever for a lot of trips.

        Sound Transit’s buses are very popular because someone from, say, Northgate, doesn’t have to go downtown (and wait) before taking another bus to Eastgate. I know this doesn’t scale. But an express all the way over to another major node point has a lot to say for itself (and I think Walker would agree). We are simply not going to be able to afford an “I-405 subway” and even if we did pay for it, what would be the point? Imagine a trip from Issaquah to the airport. First take a bus from Issaquah to Factoria. Then wait for the train (that runs every ten minutes, max). Then wait as it makes stop after stop before finally arriving in SeaTac? Sorry, I’ll take the Airporter. But a four stop express to SeaTac? Sure. If I live in Issaquah and work in Renton that is a great thing (Renton being one of those stops). There may not be enough people making that trip to justify a train, but there certainly are to justify a bus.

        Even if you don’t add new routes, just add more service. Sound Transit actually has something that is working, and working well. Buses stacked “to the gills” means that you can easily add more of them, which means that you can greatly increase ridership. You get people who shun the bus right now because it isn’t flexible. With increased frequency you get people taking Metro buses to the transit center, then taking the express (maybe followed by another local). Why spend billions when what you really need is increased frequency, which is justified simply by the need for more capacity. When buses run every couple minutes then we can talk rail.

        If this report is correct, increasing frequency would probably add more ridership than spending billions on bus infrastructure, and it certainly would add more riders than spending even more money on light rail.

      5. If this report is correct, increasing frequency would probably add more ridership than spending billions on bus infrastructure, and it certainly would add more riders than spending even more money on light rail.

        Please! Stop making sense. You’ll put a bunch of ST planners out of work.

      6. “The ERC is a non-starter. It doesn’t even go anywhere that BNSF wanted to keep it. Maybe it could have been an alternate for 522 and I pushed hard for keeping it in some sort of rail service but ST ponied up the money to study it and said it didn’t pencil out.”

        BNSF is a Class I railroad, Their interest is in long-haul freight, not short-line operations.
        The ERC was useful to them for delivering 737 fuselages via the Malby turn due to the ability to ship high-wide loads. (Including wind turbine parts, too).
        By rebuilding the line between Black River Jct. and the Boeing Renton plant they no longer needed to come in from the north, hence why the entered into the deal with the POS to abandon the line.

        And how did you determine that the ERC “Didn’t pencil out” according to ST
        Certainly not from the reports, and from the presentation I saw staff giving Joni Earl.
        Segment for segment, (commuter) rail on the ERC had the same ridership, and cost less.

        What reports did you read?

        Look, I don’t live on the eastside anymore, so I have no skin in this game, but we all know the reason NOTHING will go in the ERC is because someone or some group of well-heeled good-ol’-boys is working the politics.

        I wish they had the cajones to just come out and
        then say it:
        Not In Our Back Yard.

      7. ” When buses run every couple minutes then we can talk rail.”

        Thank you.
        You’ve just made clear the path to having the Puget Sound Region look like Los Angeles.

      8. ” When buses run every couple minutes then we can talk rail.”

        Thank you.
        You’ve just made clear the path to having the Puget Sound Region look like Los Angeles

        Which actually has turned the corner. Alternately, we can keep drinking the ST Kool-Aid and never have an effective transit system. But we’ll keep collecting taxes and push them more toward the ownership of cars (gas tax, MVET). So, it doesn’t work because transit isn’t popular or it doesn’t work because transit is popular; what’s it going to be? Oh wait, the real goal is just to punish car owners.

      9. And how did you determine that the ERC “Didn’t pencil out” according to ST
        Certainly not from the reports, and from the presentation I saw staff giving Joni Earl.

        Link please? ST “looked” at DMU service on the ERC. EastsideRailNOW was the (poorly) organized group that tried to support it. Go back to the blog posts here to see how strongly the Kool-Aid effect was in effect. And now the “transit advocates” are bemoaning the lose of the ERC and even going back to “we need rail over Snoqualmie Pass”. Out of touch much.

      10. “Out of touch much”

        Is an internet link the only thing that validates a discussion?

        Yes, I suppose I could see if there is something out there, but you see I still have most of my original documentation in paper form, i.e handouts and pre-FEIS letters, and actual discussions with real people.

        Life did exist before the Seattle Transit Blog.

      11. ST “Oh wait, the real goal is just to punish car owners.”

        Seriously?

        Yep. That’s the purpose of most of the Seattle centric posters. ST of course is centered on keeping their plush jobs that are rail oriented rather than handing over money to WSDOT. Someday the “progressives” will catch on that this is a Democratically controlled State and we are not building new GP lanes. There is a huge funded WSDOT budget that works in transits favor. But I guess if it’s not rail and not in Seattle then it must suck. That’s not going to pass ST3.

      12. >> >> When buses run every couple minutes then we can talk rail.

        >> Thank you. You’ve just made clear the path to having the Puget Sound Region look like Los Angeles.

        I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean building a much better public transportation system? That sounds good. L. A. has lots of good bus service and is spending a huge amount of money on a subway. Their subway is and will continue to be very successful, because it doesn’t try to do anything like build a “spine”. The stations serve dense areas and interact well with buses.

        Or are you talking about density? Do you mean that Seattle might catch up with L A. in terms of density? That could happen, but keep in mind that while L A. is known for suburban sprawl, Seattle sprawls much more. Their pockets of density are much bigger. That is why their big investment in transit (train and BRT) work so well. They aren’t considering spending billions trying to connect sprawling low density areas like the (Washington) I-405 corridor.

        I’m not sure if extra bus service will bring about increases in density or magically produce a transit network plan as good as L. A.’s, but I appreciate the confidence.

      13. Wow. Lots of responses. This is all great. So, if the ERC isn’t feasible, fine, don’t build it. Spending billions on glorified bus routes makes little sense. YES, DO spend the money to fund additional trips on existing routes, improve the existing routes by splitting them up/run them more in HOV/HOT lanes, etc. Do every imaginable low-cost improvement you can to the existing bus routes, that’s awesome. (I would have loved being able to take the 564/565 from Bellevue to Auburn without having to wait for the second or third bus to arrive because they were all full, then endure 30 minutes of standing room only.) But, I really don’t think that spending BILLIONS on new ramps, platforms, “stations,” etc. is going to improve the service THAT much.

        RossB, you hit the nail on the head in the last 2 paragraphs of your 9:23 post.

      14. Spending billions on glorified bus routes makes little sense. YES, DO spend the money to fund additional trips on existing routes,

        First, the lions share of the money is coming from WSDOT. They are going to spend the money already appropriated on the 405 corridor. The question is, do you want it to optimize HOV and transit use or just more GP lanes? The second “problem” is more insidious. ST is committed to spending the majority of their money on capital projects. I think the split is 70/30. So yes, it’s great to have more bus service but to add service hours they have to find a way to burn money. Parking garages are one of the options. Funding or partially funding direct access ramps is another. But once you complete the project then you have find something else to build that will cost twice as much as the new service hours; and it keeps snowballing. That’s why projects that take 20-30 years before they ever move a single person are so appealing.

      15. “Someday the “progressives” will catch on that this is a Democratically controlled State and we are not building new GP lanes. There is a huge funded WSDOT budget that works in transits favor.”

        What transit, pray tell, is WSDOT supporting? Obviously Amtrak Cascades because it’s a statewide service and and replaces widening I-5. And jump-starting the rural statewide bus lines that replaced Greyhound or where Greyhound never went. But other than that it’s a few piddly grants for specific routes, mostly for exurban and rural coverage, like the 168 Maple Valley extension, 164 east Auburn service, 592 Olympia extension, and in Skagit County. WSDOT’s BRT support on 405 is essentially a “complete freeway” approach like a parallel ped/bike trail; it’s a tiny fraction of the overall freeway project. WSDOT provides no support for Link, ST Express, Sounder, Metro, or anything else, other than the haphazard route grants and work on shared highways and freight rail corridors.

      16. “I’m not sure what you mean by that. Do you mean building a much better public transportation system?”

        If it means a roadway based transportation system, with associated high-cost bus infrastructure, and turning a blind eye to the amount of spending being done on congestion relief for the SOV, since we can always “Leverage off” of that, then yes. That’s what Los Angeles was all about.

        Cars first, transit second….

        If you are talking about the Peter Rogoff method, and plan to TAKE a LANE of GP traffic with your can of paint, then I’m on board with you.

        East Coast and other old cities are walkable and transit friendly because they were established before the advent of high-speed automobile travel. Their rail systems were put in place to create non-freeway based sprawl. Highway capacity is the afterthought, and it’s the highway ‘improvements’ that are an extremely expensive endeavor.

        Cities like Los Angeles went the other route. They grew around the highway systems, and rail based infrastructure is the afterthought.

        Seattle is neither one of those, yet, but it’s heading towards the LA model.
        BIG Freeways, Big Boulevards, Un-Walkability in and around that type of infrastructure.

        I prefer the East Coast model.

        High Cost “Better Bus Systems” are at best a short term solution, and if based on freeway alignments, just perpetuate the low density development patterns since there is absolutely NO ROOM for any Transit Oriented Development next to the freeway.

        (And that’s where Sound Transit screwed up on North Link, by the way)

      17. Seattle went the L. A. route a long time ago. What isn’t clear is whether they will follow L.A. and build cost effective, appropriate transit or go the Dallas route and build ineffective infrequent transit to the sprawling suburbs.

      18. Along with freeway monorail and unfortunately freeway light rail now, I don’t want ST to waste tax dollars on high-cost Freeway Bus systems.

        However, I think one thing we have to realize is that Sound Transit in not a Regional Transit Authority, in the classic sense.

        It’s a political organization. That’s evident by how they respond to the whims of the local politicians.(Bellevue, Shoreline, etc).

      19. I have to clear up a few misconceptions here.

        Seattle became “a roadway based transportation system” when the Seattle-Everett Interurban and streetcars ended in 1939. In an odd twist to Jim’s framing, LA didn’t completely end urban rail service until 1963. In the same year Seattle opened its bus tunnel (1990), LA reopened its interurban rail line (Blue Line light rail). Who’s the leader and who’s the follower here?

        “Their rail systems were put in place to create non-freeway based sprawl.”

        This also applies to pre-WWII LA. Look at a map of the Pacific Electric Railway. It was once the world’s largest interurban electric railway.

        “They grew around the highway systems, and rail based infrastructure is the afterthought.”

        This describes ALL of America post-WWII. Levittown and Robert Moses’ parkways on Long Island are the prototype of auto-suburbia. The pre-war rail systems on the East Coast still exist but have a lot of deferred maintenance that’s causing a lot of problems, which brings me to…

        “Highway capacity [on the East Coast] is the afterthought”

        If you’re implying that rail is a spending priority then that is false. So many examples of MD, NY, NJ governors canceling rail projects in favor of highways. Boston built the Big Dig instead of a rail tunnel connecting North and South Stations. Etc, etc. But yes, they are spending tons of money on expensive roads while leaving the rail system to rot.

        “BIG Freeways, Big Boulevards, Un-Walkability in and around that type of infrastructure.”

        LA has a lot of walkable stuff in between those freeways. Have you walked around LA lately? I was pleasantly surprised by how many walkable places there were. The same can’t be said of suburban DC. A few of the big boulevards in the older parts of LA are remnants from when trains used to run down the middle of them.

        Because it’s constrained by mountains and water (ocean and supply), LA auto-sprawl is actually much more compact in form than East Coast auto-sprawl. The uniform grid pattern makes it easier to adapt to transit, unlike the haphazard/leap frog development with spaghetti roads in the NE that makes it incredibly hard to serve even with buses.

        I agree with Ross. I don’t want Seattle to be the next Dallas.

      20. Yes Oran, but choices can be made now for the Puget Sound Region.

        We are on our way to build the LA Auto dominated transportation system FIRST.

        WSDOT and the local municipalities are hard-wired (as it were) to spend on pavement first, transit second.

        And the Robert Moses era of NY is the prime example of how wasteful that spending is, and the NY metropolitan region is more than Levittown, and any other post WWII sprawl development you can think of. It contains more ‘old growth’ development (i.e. walkability) than Los Angeles.

        I’m not saying they did it with any intelligent ‘smart growth’ designs, it’s more like ‘Dumb Old Growth’ by default.

        We could do well to at least be like Salt Lake City, where they can sprawl to kingdom-come, and they still vote for more transit (rail) options. (it might have something to do with not being able to see the Wasatch range in winter from a mile or two away during an inversion).

        We are at the point of making choices regionally, and following LA’s lead is not my vision of the future.

      21. “These people aren’t riding the existing ST Express buses because ..

        “Because nothing. The buses are packed to the gills.”

        I’m talking about people who are not currently on the buses. You can’t say that the current level of service just happens to be optimal and all the market will bear. There are people who will take a 10- or 15-minute route but won’t take a 30- or 60-minute route. And people who are dissuaded if the bus is overcrowded, especially they can’t get on it.

      22. “and following LA’s lead is not my vision of the future.”

        The LA of the 1960s-2000s isn’t my vision of the future either. But Today’s LA is breaking the mold and changing for the better. You cite SLC voting for rail, well LA did too. I submit to you this:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measure_R

        Same year as ST2. More % yes votes than ST2 and it required 2/3 to pass! ST2 would’ve failed in LA. They went back to the voters in 2012 to extend the sales tax and accelerate rail projects and got 66.1% yes (but failed 2/3 req). Clearly they’re doing something right to get so many votes. Not even SLC’s Prop 3 got that high a %. Learn from the bad and the good.

        I spent a few days in SLC. While parts of it remind me of Portland which is impressive for an inland city, I hardly see it as a model. The outer parts of the rail system are quite disappointing with crappy weekend headways on 1-car trains. Not much TOD out there either.

      23. My point about Salt Lake City is that they didn’t need to even think about their transit system.

        They have a gazillion acres to sprawl into, and yet they are looking long term.

        How will it turn out? Who knows, SLC is after all, in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t know what the procreation rate is. (This is, of course, presuming there is no influx of Californians.)

        Hey, I get what you guys are saying about a robust bus system. It solves transit problems the way new lanes solve congestion problems. Wait until things are crappy, and then do something about it.

        But spending billions of dollars on extra pavement to support it is not cost effective in the long term. Unless you think 30 years is a long time.

  2. Did the study look at the impact these additional stations would have on housing affordability? Affordable transit and affordable housing go together. I would wish that the issues are not siloed and the impact on transit decisions would include, not only ridership, but the impact on housing.

    1. Wait, you mean you think ST should estimate the rise in property values around stations after construction and not build if that number is too high?

      1. There is concern about the high cost of housing in Seattle. However if housing affordability is looked at as a regional issue, then affordable transportation will be a part of the solution. I don’t know how big the region should be, but maybe within a one hour commute. One hour commute will depend on whether the commute is in cars or buses or light rail. City lab has articles that look at this question. http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/08/7-charts-that-show-how-good-mass-transit-can-make-a-city-more-affordable/379084/

      2. One approach is to ask, how well does it get people who live in lower-cost areas (Burien, Tukwila, Renton, Kent and Sounder South) to where the jobs are plentiful (Bellevue and Redmond). If Lynnwood and Canyon Park are similarly low-cost, then the same would apply.

      3. to what end? to allow nimbys to argue against any transit project that could possibly raise prices?

    2. “Did the study look at the impact these additional stations would have on housing affordability? Affordable transit and affordable housing go together.”

      405 does not go near any plausable places for affordable housing besides the various downtowns. The freeway exits are in single-family areas, industrial areas, and empty unbuildable areas. I toured the Kirkland rail corridor on Christmas and was struck by the number of million-dollar McMansions that had sprouted up around it. The area around 405 is similar, and even if there are fewer mansions, the area is low-density, car-dependent, and unaffordable houses. So the surrounding houses are already out of reach of lower middle class workers, and BRT stations will not change it much. There is no better place for the BRT besides 405 or just west of it, so there’s no alternative location.

      1. I wish I could disagree, but you’re right. Canyon Park is all commercial and 195th St is industrial on one side and UW Bothell on the other. Brickyard and Totem Lake are better. Brickyard has a bunch of apartments surrounding it and Totem Lake has a bunch within walking distance. But as for affordable, I don’t think they’re quite that (though not ultra-luxury either). Both areas could probably be built up more if the city encouraged it, but Bothell is concentrated on downtown Bothell and Kirkland is probably concentrated on the Totem Lake mall re-development.

        As for the ERC, those houses are definitely not cheap.

      2. Brickyard has a bunch of apartments surrounding it and Totem Lake has a bunch within walking distance. But as for affordable, I don’t think they’re quite that

        Compared to most of the eastside and almost all of Seattle they are. There are a lot of apartments along NE 124th that have by eastside standards have really good transit with stores and a lot of jobs close by. And I think the Totem Lake Mall redevelopment is finally for real; assuming they get it started before the next real estate bubble bursts.

      3. “Canyon Park is all commercial and 195th St is industrial on one side and UW Bothell on the other.”

        To be fair, I wasn’t thinking of the Snohomish County part because I’ve only been in Canyon Park once (at night, in a friend’s car coming back from Arlington, so I couldn’t see much). I don’t go where buses hardly exist, although I do mean to try the Bothell-Mariner route someday (maybe this weekend) to see what the environment for Swift II is like. (PS. Any ideas where to go when I get to Mariner P&R? It looks like the best way out of there is the 201/202 to Lynnwood or Everett.)

  3. I used to live near Brickyard for many years and still go back often. For a freeway transit project with limited stuff within walking distance, access is critical to ridership. Parking fills up really quickly at the existing P&R and the feeder service just plain sucks (infrequent, slow and unreliable 236, 238). I don’t bother with both and just walk but I’m a minority who lives close enough.

    If people can’t get to it, they can’t ride it, no matter how frequent or fast it is.

    1. The 2014 study also included a trunk-and-branch service model – basically a set of routes that overlapped in the middle of the corridor and terminated in urban areas. Better access at some operational cost. The trunk-and-branch service had greater ridership in the 2014 study because it reduced transfers to reach destinations off I-405.

      It was dropped without explanation in the latest study. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a more cost-effective way to improve access than adding more highway stations and parking.

      1. Here’s a link to the whole document we tax payers funded ST’s buddy buddy politically connected CH2M Hill to produce:

        I-405 Bus Rapid Transit Corridor

        A2c looked like it made a lot of sense. At the time the report was written much of the required WSDOT funding was not it place. Guess what? Now most of it is! This is the same brain dead thinking that put East Link on the wrong bridge. If ST can’t advance the best 405 BRT poposal to vote in ST3 then not only should the eastside vote no but the region should actively seek to disolve an agency that has failed at it’s stated mission of regional transit. Let Seattle take it over and rebrand it Streetcar Transit. Actually, Tacoma may want a part of that; they love useless streetcars as much or more than Seattle and ST loves planning rail projects.

      2. Wow, I forgot that. Yes, absolutely, a trunk and branch system makes sense for an area like that. Of course it does. It is simply a matter of geography and demand. We don’t need the BRT version of an I-405 spine. We just need some good express bus service that overlap in all the right places.

        @Bernie — So far, I have been largely impressed with the way that the east side thinking has gone. The folks in charge (mostly Kirkland and Bellevue representatives) have come up with the most sensible set of proposals for their area (from what I can tell). Largely because they haven’t been fixated by rail. But if my assessment is wrong — if they fail to propose decent bus service for an area that simply needs to add decent bus service, than ST3 will die an horrific death. What happens after that is critical, in my opinion. ST will probably not dissolve, but they may be go through a major restructure (long since overdue). The east side will probably stay put. Seattle may try and get the authority to pass (and then pass) the exact same proposal. This scares me. If ST3 fails the entire region needs to rethink transit. It should be obvious that the major agencies in the region (Sound Transit and Metro) have some serious problems. They may be OK when it comes to operations, but they are terrible when it comes to planning. We should do better.

  4. So now we see it; Capital intensive B RT on I-405 has essentially no benefit at an additional cost of up to $2B more. And in fact, not only does the capital intensive option cost billions more, but every year it costs millions more to operate and maintain. This is a clear loser.

    Ya, reliability goes up somewhat, but nobody really expects high reliability from a bus system. If you have any doubt about that, just look at the DSTT and how willing Metro has been to put up with unreliable operating conditions in what really is their marquee piece of infrastructure.

    The real problem with I-405 BRT probably is in that it doesn’t go to DT Seattle. Ya, Bellevue is a regional center too, but it just doesn’t generate anything near the ridership that a dense urban core like DT Seattle can generate.

    1. Even 5 to 10 years ago the Bellevue Transit Center was crazy crowded at rush hour. I remember having to wait for THREE buses to Renton, because the first two were full. Downtown Seattle is bigger than Bellevue, yes. It doesn’t make downtown Bellevue any less of a destination. The problem with 405 BRT is 405, not Bellevue.

      1. Actually, DT Bellevue is less of a destination than DT Seattle precisely because it is so much smaller. DT Bellevue might generate some transit demand, but it will never generate the transit demand that DT Seattle will.

        And that is precisely what these BRT estimates show. This is pretty anemic performance, to say the least.

      2. Well, 650k people vs 134k people is a pretty noticeable difference. Even more noticeable is how unconcentrated this populatiob is.

        Probably the only realistc way to generate ridership to support any of these new lines would to be require a lot of new growth (5-7 story apartment buildings) within the first 5 blocks of each new station.

        Is the east side ready for this level of development?

      3. Of course Bellevue’s job market is several times smaller than Seattle’s, but it’s still large enough to need regional transit. To answer the question of how transit works for Bellevue jobs, you have to start with Bellevue’s job locations, which are less sprawled than Bellevue’s residential population. A large chunk of the jobs are in downtown Bellevue or on east Link (a transfer away) including Redmond. Most of the rest of them are along RapidRide B. That still leaves Factoria and southern 148th, but one or two routes there can fill in the gaps. (The routes exist; they just have to be made more frequent and straightened out, as Bellevue’s transit master plan suggests. And by the way they would like ST Express on 148th.)

    2. There is a lot of truth to that, but the problem is not Bellevue, it is this route. There are lots of people headed to downtown Bellevue. Not nearly as many as Seattle, but still lots. The thing is, they don’t live along this route. They really don’t live along any route. They live all over the place. This is why a centralized route — what I’m now calling the BRT I-405 spine — is not really a good idea. Trunk and branch is the way to go. A2A (http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/405-brt-options.jpg) is better. It simply covers more area. Maybe not as quickly as this does, but it should be obvious that the speed improvements here aren’t that important (or that great). Simply adding more service would make a bigger difference in transit, since the major bottleneck (I-405) has sped up considerably.

  5. Rather than trying to shoehorn Kirkland into the existing mainline, slowing down trips for all the thru-riders, I would start with the “lower-cost” option for the north segment and serve downtown Kirkland with a separate route that would simply go Totem Lake->downtown Kirkland->downtown Bellevue. This would route be a considerable speed upgrade over the 234/235, while not bloating travel times for thru-riders.

    On the south end, I think the sensible terminus needs to be Burien TC, not Angle Lake Station. TIBS to Angle Lake Station is already taken care of with Link and airport riders can transfer to/from Link to complete the trip. Some additional ramps to allow the BRT line to serve Southcenter would also be beneficial.

    1. Agreed at Angle Lake being a silly extension for the BRT. TIBS and Burien make a lot more sense.

    2. Is there any reason ST is not looking at Kent as the southern terminus. With WSDOT looking to build HOV ramps from 405 to 167, it might make sense to make use of it. TIBS (and Angle Lake) will have connectivity to Bellevue via Link transfer at IDS. On the other hand Kent and other places in the valley will lose the connection once 566 is (expectedly) discontinued after 405 BRT starts service.

      1. They can’t discontinue 566. Way too many passengers use this route, yes, all the way from Kent and Auburn. Perhaps they change it somehow (re-branded number, revised routing), but discontinuing it completely is a terrible idea. Where are the receptionists, technicians, secretaries, paralegals, bank tellers, and entry-level employees with mountains of college debt supposed to live??? They certainly cannot afford to live anywhere on the east side without first sacrificing their first-born. We can’t really expect people to live long-term in slummy 1960s-era fire-trap apartments of Bellevue and Renton, and that’s really the only alternative that’s affordable for working class folks between Renton and Bothell. The obvious locations for the non-wealthy are south of Renton or Snohomish County. Perhaps a 566-Express that skips downtown Renton and goes direct to Bellevue from 167 is the solution.

      2. “Perhaps a 566-Express that skips downtown Renton and goes direct to Bellevue from 167 is the solution.”

        That route already exists; it’s called the 567, and it’s very popular.

  6. If we must do a 405 BRT, if the numbers hold its clear that the low capital version is the only one worth doing.

    That leaves a big open question on what the East Side should do with the rest of their subarea funds. Its further evidence that requiring subareas to use the same tax rate is a bad idea.

    If both 405 BRT and LRT from Totem Lake to Issaquah were built, what effect would it have on ridership? Would the cost of building both produce worthwhile results for the East Side? Would the separate lines work with or against eachother?

    East King likely has enough money to build both likes (especially if they go for the low capitol BRT option) but what investments would produce the highest ridership for East King needs to be evaluated so they aren’t throwing large gobs of money at problems that money won’t solve.

    Are there other transit investments likely to pay off large dividends that haven’t been investigated, or is the only hope for high transit use new TOD nodes at these new transit stations?

    1. Good point and good questions. I fear that Sound Transit is not very good at doing the little things right. They are very good at digging tunnels, but have trouble putting in the stations. They can study huge projects, but dozens of little ones just aren’t considered. This makes sense, when you think about the agency. They are regional and don’t have the authority to just change the streets. SDOT can go through and change dozens of areas in the city with relative ease, but Sound Transit would have to talk to several cities to do that on the east side.

      This is one of my gripes about Sound Transit planning. They are focused on big corridor projects. Sometimes this makes sense (like a light rail plan). But sometimes you don’t need a BRT project, but improvements in the bus infrastructure. You could see this in the West Seattle proposals, for example. Their BRT plans were quite extensive, but they called for new bridges and one or two lines. They didn’t focus on the things that would benefit all the bus lines in the area (e. g. improvements to the West Seattle freeway or a WSTT). Sometimes WSDOT does the same thing. They get enamored with adding a new freeway when all they really need to do is clean up a few interchanges.

      I could easily see a bunch of projects on the east side that would save people a lot of time. If memory serves, Issaquah buses spend a lot of time just trying to get onto the freeway. Once they are there they are fine. I could also see an investment in infrastructure so that it was easier to get from Eastgate to South Bellevue Park and Ride. That could be really expensive, but if you did both of those, the payoff would be huge. You could then have fast, frequent buses connecting Issaquah and Eastgate to Link for a fast shuttle to downtown Bellevue. This is a much better connection point for buses from the south as well (Renton and Newcastle). This would tie the area together really well, which is really the whole reason Sound Transit is in business.

      It is probably too late for all that planning, though. I would assume that Sound Transit could go back to their roots, and not propose anything grandiose for the east side, but simply add more bus service. Sound Transit has a point to point, low transfer model. This doesn’t scale as well, but if you are looking to spend money, then it is a benefit. A bus from, say, Issaquah to Renton seems unnecessary, but that is exactly the type of transit that Sound Transit is supposed to serve.

      Even without new routes you could probably add service. Sound Transit bus ridership continues to increase (at roughly the same rate as Link). This suggests that some of the buses are getting pretty crowded by now. More service would be welcome, and would have an immediate impact on riders.

      1. Maybe the Eastside can plow all that money into building a Link Station at the 520 crossing of U-Link!

        Yeah, I know… well, a man can dream, right???

      2. Or full-time bus lanes from 520 to UW Station! (Seriously, I think that’d be better for the Eastside than 405 BRT.)

      3. I’d agree with you, Eastside Rider! Spending even just $500M to connect UW station with 520 would enable lots of trip pairs all over the Eastside.

        It never gets talked about, but the 520 proposal in the same set of East-Central corridor studies attracted more riders than this extremely long corridor did. It would be a much better investment!

      4. I agree with everyone. Connecting 520 to Link would be a huge improvement, and worth the money. Even a retrofit (which would require more digging to level out the area) would be worth it. That won’t happen, because ST doesn’t want to admit that they made a very bad mistake in not adding that station in the first place.

      5. ST doesn’t want to admit that they made a very bad mistake in not adding that station in the first place.

        ST won’t admit it made the mother of all mistakes assuming the 520 sinking bridge wasn’t going to be replaced before their glacial planning could produce an eastside rail plan. Major FU that can’t be fixed. Just stopping East Link would be a good start since it’s useless and will make eastside transportation (both SUV and Transit) worse. But ST planning is all about keeping ST jobs and not about regional mobility.

      6. The biggest problem connecting the 520 corridor to Link is getting stuck in traffic down the Montlake exit ramp. WSDOT is already funding a solution to this by adding an HOV ramp to Montlake in the final design with the Montlake lid.

        While East Link won’t do much more Kirkland, I wouldn’t just call it useless. It will be a significant speed-up for Redmond->Bellevue trips, compared to the infrequent 566/567, which often get stuck in traffic when they do run. Bellevue to Seattle, it will avoid the 550’s problems with traffic jams on Bellevue Way and on I-90 through Mercer Island. It will also play a big role in connecting the Bel-Red area to the region’s major employment centers, once it redevelops and people actually start living there.

  7. Eastside leaders view this skeptically?

    Didn’t the leaders present in the original I-405 Corridor Program talk to the current ones and tell them why I-405 BRT is the superior choice?

    The next question is – What problem do they see transit as the answer for?

    1. Here’s a case where BRT shows the folly that it is. How do you have a segment that estimates only 1500 riders? Now granted transit operators are essentially forced to lowball ridership numbers & beg for funding,but these numbers look especially bad.

      1. BRT is just a tool (like a hammer). You can use it poorly or use it wisely. ST seems capable of using the more expensive light rail quite poorly, so I guess it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise that they are capable of failing when it comes it comes to BRT.

  8. Guys — this is in my opinion, a really bad investment for the Eastside (I say that as a resident of the Eastside).

    Let’s compare E04 to what we have in the 560 (to SEA) and 535 (just for the purposes of easy comparison since the other routes aren’t all that different).

    The 560 + 535 currently take an average of 102 minutes between SEA and Lynnwood. The proposed “BRT” takes… 105 minutes!?

    The 560 and 535 hit many key ridership generators on their routes that are not included in the BRT, including S Renton P&R, Renton Landing (3 stops), S Bellevue P&R, Bellevue East main area, actual Downtown Bothell, UW Bothell, and Alderwood Mall (2 stops).

    Really the only advantage of this BRT option is I’m sure it will increase reliability and frequency. However, it’s at a huge cost for all options, and, **it skips a huge percentage of the stops that are being served today**!

    I really don’t get how this is a good investment for the Eastside. I would much, much rather see investments where the people actually **are** rather than in the 405 corridor that skips most of Renton, most of Bellevue, all of Kirkland, all of Bothell, and much of Lynnwood.

    I hope ST goes back to the drawing board here.

    1. Stephen, every successful transit corridor in the world has at least 3 components: express, local, and “paratransit” (taxi and van service, and now Lyft and Uber.)

      A rider from Sea-Tac Airport to Bellevue certainly does serve a lot of stops. But any real length of it is- like from the Airport to the Bellevue CBD, is a slow, miserable trip.

      A hundred percent of the time, I’d take LINK in from the airport, and transfer to the 550 at IDS.

      So it will probably stay exactly where it is, serving the exact same purpose. But the express job, whether bus, rail, or both, will be a completely different level of the same system. Both being absolutely necessary for the corridor to perform.

      Mark Dublin

  9. The best thing about this is it’s frequent, so it will end the problem of wanting to travel north-south but no bus is coming for 30-60 minutes. The other thing that stands out is it doesn’t serve downtown Bothell, Kirkland, or Renton, so you can’t walk from the urban villages to a station. The higher capital level doesn’t address this, which is what a higher level should do (and what a lower level should do). So I’d say scrap most of the high-level options (except direct-access ramps that keep the bus up to speed) and and perhaps put the difference into the projects below.

    The next question is, is it necessary to serve downtown Renton? There is RapidRide F, and it connects The Landing (N 8th Station), Oakesdale Station, Tukwila Sounder, Southcenter, TIB, and Burien. Could we make capital improvements to speed it up and make it more frequent, so that transferring from downtown Renton becomes not a big deal. Can we split it into two routes, an all-day RapidRide on a straighter path between the express stations, and a peak-only shuttle for Sounder, Boeing CAG (in south Renton), and Boeing Renton (the Sounder riders’ destination). Metro originally included those in the F so it wouldn’t need to run a second route, but I think it’s slowing down RapidRide too much, plus the ridiculous spectacle of 90% of the RapidRide trips detouring to Sounder when no train is there. The shuttle could be timed with Sounder, because even non-Sounder riders would find it close enough to their peak commutes. It wouldn’t have to go to Southcenter because Tukwila promises the urban village will be “a 10-minute walk away from Sounder station via a new pedestrian bridge”.

    For Kirkland, a frequent Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake bus route is probably best, on 108th rather than the ERC, or express on 405. For Bothell, I think something can be arranged with the 522 (upgraded to BRT) and 372.

    For the southern terminus, my initial reaction was Angle Lake for one-seat airport trips. But that duplicates Link three stations. So maybe Burien would be better (and that also gives Burien a substitute for the Burien-Renton Link line). People who go to the airport with luggage aren’t going every day, so a transfer at TIB may be an acceptable tradeoff.

    1. I agree with your points. I frankly don’t know enough of about the geography and usage patterns to comment with any confidence, so hopefully someone else will.

      I do want to comment about frequency, though. I agree that increased frequency is a great thing. But it is especially great if it is also met with increased frequency on the other end. This requires coordination with Metro, which as we all know has not been a strong suit of either agency. So, for example, if I work somewhere in Renton (but nowhere near the stops served) then this is only useful if I can take a second (or third) bus. If that last bus to my job in Renton comes every half hour (and the buses aren’t coordinated) I’m pretty much screwed. I’m better off joining the giant conga line as it makes it’s way south. Does anyone know if there has been much work in this regard? Is this mostly focused on getting people to downtown Bellevue, instead?

  10. ” Segment A, Lynnwood TC to Bellevue TC, is the most productive with up to 10,000 riders, about 60% of all the ridership on the BRT. 10 of the 19 miles are served via general purpose lanes on I-5 and I-405 (other than limited shoulder-running southbound on I-405). ”

    Can someone explain this? Didn’t we start tolling the HOV lane from I-5 to 522 so we could use it for buses and keep them going above 40 MPH? Why would we decide to not use that? Also why is it not an option to use the HOV lane on I-5, too much merging?

    I find it odd that the segment that generates by far the largest numbers, has almost no transit priority (according to this blog at least), yet the segment from Renton to Bellevue, which has the lowest ridership, is expected to have lane separation via HOT lanes.

    1. Do the HOT lanes go all the way to Lynnwood? i vaguely thought they ended in Kirkland or Bothell.

      1. The HOT lanes didn’t exist when the 2014 study was published. It has shaved 20-30 minutes off the travel time from Lynnwood to Bellevue. HOT lanes from Bellevue to KSEA are not built but funding is in place and the money the State is bringing in on the north segment says it’s going to happen PDQ. If ST wasn’t just totally rail bias they would be updating these numbers to reflect reality. But the reality is that ST staffers bread and butter is as the Pusher Man for rail projects.

    2. Looks like in the low cost plan that they have a number of exits between Lynwood and Bellevue, making the left-side HOT lanes usable only part-time, whereas there are no exits between Bellevue and Renton, so the bus can cruise in the HOV lane (soon to be a HOT lane?) the whole way.

      1. Awesome that actually does make sense. Knew I was missing something. For Mike Orr, yes there is a HOT lane all the way from the start of 405 at I-5, it’s just that it’s only 1 lane. They only added a lane from 522 (roughly, and apparently it’s actually brickyard).

        So essentially the low capital option is just adding buses and nothing more. So my take away is that the higher capital costs of adding bus ramps and exclusive lane access from the HOT lanes, doesn’t add new ridership.

        I find it hard to believe that a corridor which is gird locked by 7:30 AM every morning from Lynwoood to DT Bellevue, would not gain ridership by keeping buses from merging across 3 lanes of gridlock in rush hour. Maybe Eastsiders hate buses so much they intend to never ride them regardless of transit times?

      2. “I find it hard to believe that a corridor which is gird locked by 7:30 AM every morning from Lynwoood to DT Bellevue, would not gain ridership by keeping buses from merging across 3 lanes of gridlock in rush hour. Maybe Eastsiders hate buses so much they intend to never ride them regardless of transit times?”

        One simply has to read the EVERYTHING in the I-405 Corridor Program Final Environmental Impact Statement.
        Including… studying in minute detail all the diagrams and charts… Ready?
        Start now…
        Check back with us in a year or so.

        One very revealing analysis was traffic counts at screenlines all along the corridor.

        It showed that vehicles entered the corridor… that is, people (these are SOVs remember), are NOT coming from I-5 at Lynnwood. If you read the FEIS, WSDOT isn’t even planning for as many GP lanes between Bothell and Lynnwood.

        The bulk of the north end gridlock is entering the system at – SR527 (Bothell-Everett Hwy), Hwy 9 (Snohomish), and SR-522 (Monroe).

        The sprawl is already outside the bubble, folks.
        Enabled by the paved highways, with the endless ‘safety improvements’ – via road widening, occurring in perpetuity.

        There is no ‘problem’ on the Eastside, people want things the way they are, otherwise they would zone and build with the future in mind.
        The only real problem is – How far into the future?
        Right now, 20-25 years seems good enough for everyone, hence Freeway Express Buses (BRT).

      3. “It showed that vehicles entered the corridor… that is, people (these are SOVs remember), are NOT coming from I-5 at Lynnwood…. The bulk of the north end gridlock is entering the system at – SR527 (Bothell-Everett Hwy), Hwy 9 (Snohomish), and SR-522 (Monroe).”

        I can’t believe that more PEOPLE are coming from Mill Creek, Snohomish, and Monroe than from Lynnwood and Everett because there aren’t that many people in the lowest-density exurbs. So if an insignificant number of CARS are coming from Lynnwood, that means… ST Express is working! Most Lynnwoodites going to Bellevue are using it! That’s a great sign for the suburbs, and something to build upon.

      4. Mike – That’d be great if true, but I don’t think so. I think a lot of the people from 527, 9, and 522 are going to Seattle and taking 405 because it’s one of the most direct ways there; Lynnwoodites bound to Seattle are probably all on 5.

      5. Does anybody think that the HOT lanes will be any use at all to transit? But will any of them be transit-only, and will buses have their own ramps for entry and exit? Like at Totem Lake?

        I need to pay more attention. But I really think there was a reason tolls went away in the first place. I a lot of places, public toilets take coins.

        Better ones I’ve seen have attendants on site, who collect money and also clean the stalls after every use. But not sure any sanitary system put coin slots on every fixture.

        Civil engineering and ideology aren’t friends. Stalin killed a lot of engineers. Starting, horribly, with our prisons. Run on public money by contractors with a huge lobby for mass incarceration. Penny-wise, pound-dumb-as-a-doorknob is an understatement .

        Like previous former toll-roads, and schools, reason they went toll-less was paying for them with taxes made them work better for everybody. Eventually, will be like before, for same reasons.

        Right now, only toll should be paid transit fare. For machines running in their own lanes, especially entrances and exits. And excepting emergency vehicles, nothing but air in front of them.

        Mark Dublin

  11. Would like to see same attention to speed as projected ridership numbers.

    One, a standing load on an express bus stuck in traffic can be exactly the same load on a moving bus. Difference is in their attitude toward transit.

    And two transit can’t really control what people will do, including working from home and getting stuck in traffic where they can smoke an talk on their cell phones.

    It certainly can control its own rights of way. If it gets them. In context of any transit called “Rapid”, term “General Purpose Lanes” means “Forget the Whole Thing.”

    Cost difference? If bus is going to spend 10 out of 19 miles trapped in general traffic- that’s what it’s already doing. So why spend a dime?

    Getting really tired of usual argument over rubber tire or steel wheel. Bus or train, transit is as fast as the slowest vehicle in the way of it, period and paragraph.

    Since buses can’t be coupled, when number of buses needed for any route’s passengers has to slow down over following distance, time to go to trains.

    Yeah, this element gets old too. But any discussion using the term “Rapid” needs to start with it.

    Mark Dublin

  12. I can’t help but feel like this is the political “kitchen sink” legacy alternative with different corridors added together that don’t have much reason to be wedded. Many of the longer-distance trip pairs here could be better made on rail with good BRT connections for a shorter part of the trip. Meanwhile, many useful interim destinations are skipped in order to achieve this long BRT corridor hugging I-405. Let’s call this what it is: a corridor designed by freeway drivers and not transit riders.

    1. Some examples:

      1. Burien residents going to Bellevue or points north would probably prefer getting to a green line (at TIBS) or green/red line (SODO) Link train. Getting into Downtown Seattle quickly would be most ideal for them.

      2. Snohomish residents traveling would consider hopping a red line or blue line Link train (every three minutes!) and either transferring at UW for a 520 connection or simply just staying on the train.

      3. Woodinville and Bothell residents would look to connecting via SR 522 buses to get to a high-frequency Link train for anywhere south of Bellevue, especially for SeaTac or Tacoma.

      A second issue is with the hassle of double-transfers between buses. Most of Renton, Kirkland, the 167 corridor, the I-90 corridor, the SR 522 corridor and the SR 520 corridor residents would be forced to make double bus transfers to get anywhere outside of Downtown Bellevue using this route concept. Double transfers on rail across platforms is a minor hassle, but double bus transfers that require changing elevations and walking several hundred feet is simply unacceptable!

      So I would recommend that ST toss this and we give ST one simple service design instruction: show the public a plan that minimizes double transfers for BRT trips! For example, a 405 busway where routes use it but branch on and off could have much more utility — but having one long line is planning transit like a freeway, and not planning transit for transit riders is not good transit planning.

      1. The earlier studies have multiline/branching alternatives.

        HCT Corridor Studies document archive. Download the second report, “Corridor Report: I-405” (Oct 2014), and see page 12. I would prefer a multiline design but ST is pursuing the single-line one, probably to get the most frequency with the least expense.

      2. I have often felt that the HCT study concepts were not very well-developed either. Still, this service concept is much worse in my opinion!

        As long as we keep thinking of a transit route as if it is a freeway, we are doomed. We would get better concepts if we thought about it as something other than a “405” project. The HOT lanes are a mere segment asset and not a destination.

      3. ST doesn’t call Lynwood Link something like I-5 North LRT. ST doesn’t refer to Link to Tacoma as I-5 South LRT. 405 is the only new corridor in the ST3 studies which begin by assuming a freeway alignment for its entirety. In all fairness to the Eastside, we should be defining the travel corridor first, and developing the alignments later.

        Just to illustrate this, the conversation would be wildly different if the corridor in Bellevue deviated from 405, went east to be closer to Factoid, then over to South Bellevue Link, then up Bellevue Way Kirkland where a busway took buses back to 405. The conversation would be wildly different if we were looking harder at the north end of this, and working with Bothell, Mill Creek and others to have an exclusive transitway through the cities rather than hugging I-405.

        In this specific case, ST is planning things backwards; that’s completely different than in most of the other corridors that they study. I realize that the existing HOT lane and direct access investments drive the discussion, but its getting way too much focus here.

      4. I don’t think ST is planning things backwards exactly. There are two options for transit with dedicated right of way (which is really needed): either use something already there, or create a new right of way (whether surface or underground). Building new ROW is probably impossible, so you have to start with a 405 or ERC approach – hence why the options are like that.

        The other problem is that there’s simply no good solution for transit on the eastside as it is right now. Assume we have unlimited budget – what areas do we connect? The only “dense” area is probably downtown Kirkland. Downtown Bothell and Woodinville are starting to build up, and other candidates would be Juanita, Totem Lake, Brickyard, Houghton and probably others that I’m missing. So maybe you could put BRT/LRT on the ERC to 85th St, then tunnel through downtown Kirkland, up Market St to Juanita, east to Totem Lake, and then run along the center of the 405 until you deviate to Bothell, then back onto the 405 until you hit Lynnwood. Woodinville could be served using the 522 transit with a connection in Bothell. Doable? Yes. Expensive? Definitely. Worthwhile? Probably not, unless you convinced the cities to basically stop most development outside of the walksheds of the stations, but I double that would work, no matter how much Kirkland/Woodinville/Bothell have realized they need to do something about traffic.

      5. Al S is on the right track with thinking “What would people with the most plausable trip pairs want to do?” I wouldn’t be so sure of the answers though; it requires further research. What we can say is that for trips from Burien-ish or Lynnwood-ish to Bellevue, travel time via ST2 Link would be about the same as 405 BRT based on the 101-minute estimate. Link might be ten minutes slower in the worst cases, but Link’s reliability and ultra-frequency and capacity would mitigate that. I also don’t see people from as far as Lynnwood transferring to a 520 bus at UW if they’re going to Bellevue (as opposed to Kirkland or Redmond), because it’s more of a hassle to transfer to a bus, so Link’s one-seat ride would win out. From the south end the problem is the opposite-direction transfer at International District; the transfer ST said too few people would make to justify center platform. Wrong-o.

        Then the question becomes, is 405 BRT better than these Link alternatives if the travel time is about the same? Or if not, is it worth building it anyway to give them a second choice? Probably not just for that. But here’s where ST should research potential riders’ reactions, because it’s important to know whether they’d strongly prefer 405 BRT or they wouldn’t care much if ST2 Link were comparable. In short, what is this demand for 405 BRT: who wants it and why, and who would use it? Does it fill a need we don’t see, or do people just want it because of intertia (they think they need it because they see 405).

        Of course, Renton, Kirkland, and Bothell would say it’s more important to them. And it’s not at all feasable to take ST2 Link from those places to Bellevue. And some people are going between these places rather than Bellevue. So does this give another strong reason for 405 BRT? Or again, what are their most plausable trips, and would another combination of routes and modes serve them just as well?

      6. I would say 25%-50% of 532/535 passengers get on/off at Totem Lake or Brickyard. There are about 2,000 people per day using those routes and about 1,000 parking spots between those two P&Rs. Lynnwood is definitely not the only place that needs to be considered. Now it may be worthwhile to run just to Canyon Park and back, but at that point going all the way up to Lynnwood probably makes sense.

        I’d also say that if you ran in express lanes all the way, you would make it in 30 min from Lynnwood to Bellevue 95% of the time. The 532 is currently estimated at 32 min from Ash Way P&R to Bellevue TC. Add direct access ramps or a freeway station at Canyon Park, 195th St, and Brickyard and you can probably drop another 5 min from there.

      7. I would say 25%-50% of 532/535 passengers get on/off at Totem Lake or Brickyard.

        Having actually ridden that route it’s more like 25% and approaching zero at Totem Lake. The Totem Lake ridership is disappointing since Evergreen Hospital Medical Center is the largest employer in Kirkland and there is a P&R lot and a “transit center” there. That said, it’s all really poorly done. The 255 isn’t schizophrenic; it’s tri-zophenic. There are a bunch of buses in that vicinity and it’s all poorly done. No surprise sense it’s all done by politicians that never ride the bus.

      8. I ride the 535 most days and I rarely see fewer than 10 people get off at Totem Lake (usually more) and maybe another 5-10 at Brickyard. The only time I see fewer is if there was a 532 just before the 535.

        As for it being a destination, I have a feeling many employees don’t use it because they work odd hours that don’t necessarily align with rush hour (and hence driving is easy). We have friends who work there and live only a few miles away (10 minute drive) but for whom it would take an hour by bus (including a lot of walking, which you probably don’t want to do after a 12 hour shift).

      9. You can look up the ons/offs for 535 at Brickyard in ST’s SIP appendix. Sadly Metro does not have numbers available.

        But yep, David, why spend two hours on the bus to Totem Lake when my shift in Renton ends at 10 pm when I can drive it in 30 minutes or less?

      10. “ST doesn’t call Lynwood Link something like I-5 North LRT.”

        Seattle and Lynnwood were built up before I-5, have several other transit corridors, and two others were considered for Lynnwood Link. 405 and 520 are what built up the Eastside; before that they were small farming/industrial towns. Eastsiders say “405 transit” to mean north-south transit, and the only highest-ridership location is 405 or just west of it. The only other possible location is 148th, and that would bypass all the cities except Redmond, and hit a wall at Redmond and I-90 (no route to Bothell or Renton except through farmland, residential areas, and hills).

      11. While I agree the route to Bothell would be through farmland, it would actually be pretty cheap to get there. The Sammamish river trail is already there. It’s pretty wide and no homeowners to complain if you put BRT on it. Run BRT along the trail up to Woodinville, then put transit priority on the roads and link up to the 522 BRT via UW Bothell. It gives fast access to Redmond and Bellevue from Kenmore/Woodinville/Bothell and connects three relatively compact downtowns that are all being densified now. Plus you give good transit access to the wineries, which is not a bad thing. You could probably add another station or two in North Redmond, a station at 124th St, at 145th, and then Woodinville as necessary.

    2. Like I’ve said elsewhere today: human circulatory system needs major vessels and capillaries. Lose either one and a body part falls off.

      Mark Dublin

      1. ST “planning” is a lot like looking at a patient that’s bleeding out and prescribing cardio classes. Studies suggest that is the best answer to long term health.

  13. 405 needs light rail. Tacoma – southcenter – Renton – Bellevue – Lynwood. In 30 years, how much more will the Eastside grow in terms of jobs and population? 405 is a mess already and the southern part is only getting a HOT lane. That won’t help much by then. By the time light rail is built, they will need it!

    Densify and build up southcenter, Renton, and Factoria…turn them into urban centers and connect them with a light rail line to downtown Bellevue. we need a strong regional vision here.

      1. Which is the same problem here, with ‘BRT’

        The ERC gives more opportunity for future TOD, but over the neighbor’s dead bodies.

        What drives up Light Rail costs, and makes the C/B ratio poor, is chasing the current auto-oriented development ‘density’. Properties need to be bought, and lines need to be elevated or tunneled for reliability.

      2. Zach: “Light rail on 405 performs terribly because people can’t live anywhere near the super wide highway.”

        YES. And this is why Kenmore and Bothell have been working so hard to try to tame 522. Before WWII, that was a two-lane road, and a narrow one, at that. Afterwards, Kenmore’s old downtown (such as it was – it wasn’t much) got paved over for the monster that’s there now. And that’s why we’ve been adding lights and trying to get the state to lower speeds and generally studying different ways to reconnect across it.

        There’s a project right now down the hill where one of the big points is to fix the intersection at Bothell Way (522) and Cat’s Whiskers (61st Ave NE), hopefully to make it at least somewhat less insane as a crossing point. Even as it was before this, it’s an important transit stop, but pretty harrowing coming back home at night. (Eastbound from downtown or the U. District, mostly.) Hopefully the improvements will make it better.

      3. What’s the length between Factoria and Renton on 405? And the length between Rainier Valley and TIB ? I feel like they can be similar situations- nothing in between, but worth connecting either way.

        Especially since South king and Pierce County being way more affordable than Seattle and the Eastside in general, it’s important to connect these areas with reliable fast light rail to the job centers. I doubt 405 capacity can handle future growth..

      4. JK – I’m surprised; you’re right! Distance between TIBS and Rainier Beach is 5.7 miles along ST’s political-compromise route, just the same as Renton Landing to Factoria along 405. (By comparison, TIBS to Rainier Beach in a straight line is 4.1 miles, downtown Renton to Rainier Beach is 4.3 miles, and Judkins Park Station to South Bellevue P&R is 6.3 miles.)

        Does this justify rail on 405? Not till we’ve got a lot better BRT, since the BRT is going to be a lot cheaper. But I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility.

      5. BRT may seem “cheaper” but let’s look a little closer at the design requirements for freeway median BRT. There has to be at least a half-mile or longer of pull-off space for buses, then there has to be a wider buffer between buses and freeway traffic than a light rail would require. Lynnwood is a good example of the required design. Both modes would have the expenses of stations.

        If stop spacing is more than 3 miles, it would save capital money but if we are looking at stops at less than 1.5 miles it doesn’t appear to have that much cost savings except with the differences between pavement and steel rail..

    1. In the ST studies, the ERC option was analytically sandbagged. The study admitted that they assumed four miles of single track north of Renton, reducing possible service frequency, yet costed the rest of the line as double- track. Then, the limited stops to stop a long distance from several major corridor destinations — like across 405 from Downtown Bellevue or almost a mile from Factoria. They did not look at any corridor deviations seriously. They did not consider any DMU or EMU option.

      1. In the ST studies, the ERC option was analytically sandbagged.

        Yep! But everyone drinking the ST Kool-Aid rallied behind it. Now they are all saying how stupid it was to give up this rail corridor and ignoring the fact that it was ST that drove the final nail in the coffin.

  14. Jim Cusick has a good point at 405 congestion starting at SR 527 & SR 522, which is traffic from Mill Creek, Snohomish and Monroe. All of these cities have pretty awful connections to Seattle and no connection to Bellevue. Snohomish residents, in particular, have to take this ludicrous out-of-the-way jaunt to Monroe on their way to Snohomish. Improving things for these groups could be key to helping out.

    So, first an all day Mill Creek, Bothell, Bellevue, Seattle route. Then a Snohomish, Woodinville, Bellevue, Seattle route direct via highway 9. Finally extend the existing ST 522 bus to Monroe, essentially completing the route. The new Snohomish route would provide the currently non-existent connection between Woodinville and Bellevue as an additional plus.

    CT existing 424 route could keep its schedule but swap Snohomish with Sultan.

    1. The ST district ends at Mill Creek and Woodinville. Somebody else would have to fund extensions to Snohomish and Monroe.

    2. Monroe, Sultan, and Snohomish are outside the boundaries of Sound Transit. It might make sense for CT to connect to Sound Transit routes, but I don’t think ST can (or should) serve those areas. As for SR527, how much traffic on it comes from Snohomish or Monroe? I don’t see any direct route from Snohomish or Monroe there, except through SR 522, at which point I don’t understand why you’d detour to 527 (unless you’re going to Lynnwood I suppose).

      1. Sound Transit does not strictly stick to boundaries and themself says the operate outside boundaries if it makes sense. For example, ST busses run all the way to Olympia, which is way outside the service area.

      2. The portion of the route outside the ST area to Olympia is not funded by ST (this is mentioned in the SIP report from ST). So CT would need to fund any extensions. If someone else wants to pay for it, sure. Woodinville already has bus service to both Bellevue and Seattle via the 237 and 311. From the times I’ve been on both, the 237 rarely has many people (and Metro was planning to eliminate it) while the 311 has a number of people headed to Woodinville.

      3. @Donde those out of boundary services are always paid for for other agencies. The state is paying for the buses going to Olympia and Pierce Transit pays for buses continuing past Tacoma out to Gig Harbor.

        Sound Transit does not spend money outside its district.

      4. @Donde: ST didn’t just unilaterally send buses to Olympia because it made sense, it made specific arrangements to have those particular extensions of those runs funded by relevant local agencies. If the runs were in high demand from residents of the ST district, and scheduled to benefit them, the arrangement might be different.

        Your proposed extensions are much the same. They’d happen only with CT involvement and CT funding.

      5. The quality of transit in the Monroe/Sultan/Gold Bar area leaves a lot to be desired. It’s considerably better now, than it was a year ago, due to frequency improvements and restored Sunday service, but the all-day network still leaves Everett Station as the only way in and out of the entire corridor. Throw in large, time-consuming deviations through the streets or Snohomish and Monroe, which one is required to sit through in order to get virtually anywhere.

        Try to get from Monroe to anywhere on the eastside, for example, outside of rush hour (or, even during rush hour, if traveling in the reverse direction). You have to take a 45-minute bus ride to Everett, then transfer to the 512 and ride another 55 minutes or so all the way to downtown Seattle, only to transfer to another express bus that goes to the eastside, with possibly an additional transfer to a local, on top of that. The result is a 2-1/2 hour transit trip, compared to just 15 minutes by car. If this is not the all-time record for longest transit trip for a 15-minute drive in the Puget Sound area (assuming a departure around noon on a weekday), it’s got to be close.

        An extension of the 522 to Monroe would go a long way to alleviate this. Besides providing a direct, straight-line connection between Monroe and Seattle, it would also connect Monroe to the I-405 BRT at the UW Bothell, allowing a 2-seat or 3-seat ride to most eastside destinations. Depending on how many times one has to transfer to get between the ultimate origin and destination points, the total travel time may still add up to close to an hour, but that’s still a lot better than 2 1/2 hours.

        That said, I am totally in agreement that ST should not be funding this, as Monroe is outside the ST taxing district. But, once Link is extended to Lynnwood and the existing CT commuter buses are truncated, for CT to re-invest some of the savings in neglected corridors like this would make a good amount of sense. It would do far more good for Monroe, than, say, simply running the existing 271 bus more frequently.

        If CT does one day decide to pay for an all-day Woodinville->Monroe bus, the network would be much more usable if it were done in the form of a route 522 extension, rather than a separate route, requiring yet another additional transfer to connect between Monroe and the broader Puget Sound region. Even if the frequency of route 522 improves one day to every 10-15 minutes, not every trip would need to be extended in order for the extension to be useful. As long as a timed connection exists on the Monroe side that could be trusted (which would probably require route 271 to be split into two separate routes in Monroe), the Woodinville->Monroe segment could run as infrequently as once an hour and still be a big improvement over the status quo.

  15. I like the really expensive option, with precisely the same ridership option as all the others. This reminds me of the phony weld reports in the China Syndrome.
    It does solve a lot of problems of using all that cash being generated in the East Subarea, building a BRT line costing $700M per rider and subsidies in the $20-$30 range (taking some heat off N. Sounder).
    That alone sends a powerful message to other Metropolitan areas – We’re rich enough to do damn near anything we want to do, so suck on that!

  16. For covering fairly large distances between stations I’m not convinced that light rail or BRT are the right answer.

    Either way, ridership is going to be terrible for two decades after it is built because I-405 was built without asking the question about how many people will use it. It was built to take traffic away from I-5, and then all the development followed it.

    So, the transit solution is going to have to tolerate the same gradual generation long shift in land use that turned I-405 into a congested nightmare.

    1. I agree that I see little reason for pure BRT. Good and cheap thing to keep would be expanded bus shelters (at least at Brickyard they’re often full in the morning during bad weather). I see little reason for a sign with the time of the next bus – just put up a sign with a link and QR code to the same thing. Even if you don’t have a phone someone else will. Instead of off-board payment, double cash prices. Or, if you want, kill cash fares and give bus drivers a stack of ORCA cards pre-loaded with $5. Hand the driver $10, get an ORCA card, and swipe it.

      Personally, I’d be in favor of direct access ramps (or freeway stations), but those do cost money. But direct access ramps and BRT don’t necessarily need one another, so I don’t think that’s part of BRT.

    2. Yeah, good point. It is worth it to review what BRT means. Here are some features (from Wikipedia):

      1) Dedicated lanes. Always a good idea, but this can work for any bus. In this case you really have a branch and trunk demand system. There is nothing special about any particular corridor, which is why the ridership is so low. So fix the main trunk and you are good. WSDOT has already done this with their work on I-405.

      2) Busway alignment. Very similar to dedicated lanes. These are not buses running in a crowded urban environment, but buses that spend most of their time traveling on a freeway.

      3) Intersection treatment. See Busway alignment.

      4) Off board pay collection. This is very important if you make a lot of stops. But these buses don’t make a lot of stops. They make hardly any.

      5) Platform level boarding. This is a lot like off board payment. Of course you want this, but you want this most with buses that run very often with lots of stops (like the Madison BRT). Without it you have bus bunching. In this case, you are nowhere near the frequency to worry about it, and even if you were, it isn’t an issue because the buses serve transit centers (which means they can easily pass one another).

      6) High capacity vehicles. Not needed (obviously). If these buses get crowded, run them more often. Everyone wins. It is only when buses run extremely often (ever couple minutes) that you need higher capacity.

      7) Higher quality station and branding. The first is nice, and second is already done (ST buses are pretty easy to pick out).

      This is really not a BRT type project. This is an express bus project. I’m afraid that ST thinks in terms of major corridors (like light rail) and then, when it can’t afford it, substitutes BRT. But they are really two different things. More importantly for this corridor, a third thing is needed, which is simply more bus service. Just run lots and lots of buses in a trunk and branch format, and call it a day. Look at whatever cheap bus infrastructure improvements you can make, but don’t spend a bundle on only one particular area, because no one particular area (with the exception of downtown Bellevue) is that special.

      1. This is really not a BRT type project. This is an express bus project… a third thing [I’d say 1st thing] is needed, which is simply more bus service. Just run lots and lots of buses in a trunk and branch format, and call it a day.”

        Yep. That nails it.

      2. Ross, I agree that this is in no way a true BRT system. But I would assert that there is value in establishing the low-capital “BRT” service in the corridor because it ensures people that they can make the leap to, say, live with only one car in the house. A Bellevue-officed worker in the family with a partner working somewhere else might very well be willing to use the express bus overlay (which will continue alongside the BRT project) knowing that there’s a frequent and pretty quick all-day service for the instances when she or he needs to get home mid-day.

        Today, it’s whatever local winds its way to Brickyard in the middle of the day.

        Such a person is not going to “commit” to the transit system by giving up his or her car, even if s/he plans to use the bus every workday. And when the car is there it’s going to be used, and it will be used more frequently than the rider “desires”.

        So, I’d go with the low capital model and put the savings into a flood of express buses.

        I do think that should all-day Sounder become a reality the “high capital” changes around the Tukwila Sounder Station should be added later.

      3. Very nice summary Ross. Let me add one thing I think would be worthwhile – add signal prioritization. There’s zero reason for a bus coming off the 405 to (for example) the 128th St stop to have to wait at a red light. Once it gets to the appropriate place, switch the signals so that the bus can go straight through the intersection. Shouldn’t be too expensive and would probably save at least a few minutes (+ fuel) on every trip since almost every stop requires stopping at a traffic light.

      4. David,

        Where it’s possible, yes, signal priority is a great tool. Unfortunately, ST does not own the roads; it’s a tenant for WSDOT or one of the counties or cities it serves. Metro can’t change light cycles either so you get things like RapidRide.

        ST can ask publicly, though.

      5. I think we are on the same page but quibbling over semantics. If “low capital BRT” means frequent all day bus service, I’m all for it. That makes a lot of sense. So too does implementing some of the features of BRT (like signal priority and new transit lanes) when they are a good value. I haven’t looked at a breakdown of each project to see which ones could really speed things up for very little money, but signal priority is likely to be one.

        But it is obvious that many of the features of BRT aren’t needed here. Off board payment is silly when you only have a half dozen stops. Likewise level boarding. We also don’t need a new brand. The ST bus brand is just fine (and quite popular).

        But more to the point, we shouldn’t focus on this one line with a huge BRT investment anymore than we should with a light rail investment. The area is too spread out and the particular stops are nothing special. Spending billions serving them is overkill. That’s why a trunk and branch system (with a few high value bus infrastructure projects) makes a lot of sense. Put the money into service hours spread over a wider region, not huge infrastructure projects serving a handful of riders.

      6. There are really two types of BRT projects in the world. The first is similar to light rail in that it involves a major investment in the area. The second leverages the existing infrastructure as much as possible. There is a lot of overlap, of course. But Madison BRT is a lot like the first. There is very little that is leveraged. They basically started with the route and then spent the money to make it as good as possible. The Orange Line in L. A. is a good example of the second. They took advantage of an old rail line to build a BRT system for relatively little money ($325 million). Despite the low cost, ridership is quite high: 25,000 people per day (or over half of Link). This is because they lucked out, to a certain extent, in that the area is fairly dense. In Van Nuys, for example, there are census blocks well over 25,000 people per square mile.

        This project has none of the advantages of either type. Spending billions means you failed to cheaply leverage the existing infrastructure. You much be building the first type, focused on a high value corridor. But it simply isn’t a high value corridor. There is not a single census block close to I-405 over 25,000 people per square mile. There aren’t any over 10,000 except for the ones in downtown Bellevue. That is just a very low performing line, which means it isn’t worth a major investment.

        Add more bus service, by all means. Find high value low cost bus infrastructure projects and implement them. But don’t pretend this is anything like the Orange Line in L. A. or Madison BRT. It just isn’t.

  17. 405 BRT is “spine destiny” for the eastside.

    So… the geography “doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”? Considering the difficulty of connecting the walkable areas, located away from the freeway, to regional transit centered around freeways. Here it’s an echo, a pale reflection, with the strength of the walkable areas diminished and the influence of the interchanges amplified.

    Or the geography “repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce”? If I was some kind of jerk I’d say “e.g. Northgate, Totem Lake”, but I’m not a jerk. Nope.

    Anyway, terrible metaphors aside, the real story will be the development of strong city centers on the eastside. Strong enough transit pulls land use, but only so far in the face of barriers to walking; strong enough land use pulls transit, too, but so far through barriers to vehicles. West of the lake Capitol Hill and UW pulled Link way out into a tunnel; the Rainier Valley pulled it out to MLK (but not to Rainier); Northgate and Lynnwood at least pulled it out of the median. Before deciding on the expense of continuous infill ROW connecting all these places we had a whole network of bus routes, following paths of less resistance. The same would be said of our street network before I-5. So, I suppose, “The reasonable city adapts itself to the geography; the unreasonable city persists in trying to adapt the geography to itself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable city.” The discouraging projections for high-investment 405 BRT suggest the eastside would not be reasonable to be so unreasonable yet.

    1. While I agree developing strong and dense city centers would be good, waiting to expand transit until you get that is, in my opinion, not the best thing.

      First, you discourage density by not providing good transit. Living in a dense areas involves sacrifices. Land value is much higher, so you either pay more or get less. Hence you need to provide a benefit to living there. But if you have to live a suburban (car-dependent) lifestyle because there’s no transit and you need to deal with much worse traffic because many more people are in a smaller area, why would you ever want to move to such a place anyway? Very few people will be able to (or necessarily want to) live and work in an area they can walk (or perhaps bike) in.

      Second, let’s say there’s no transit but we still get high density. Now we want to add transit. The costs will be much higher. Want to expand streets? Now you need to displace an apartment building instead of a single family house. What used to cost $500k now costs 10 times that. Which means you’ll need to tunnel, which costs even more.

      While I agree you shouldn’t build transit just to build it, if you do it correctly with city support you can encourage people to build densely around transit.

      1. The best city center on this corridor is Bellevue, which is getting a Link station where to serve that downtown?

        Once that was done it rather screws up what can be done on the entire rest of the corridor.

        If you build UW to SeaTac and forget to serve downtown Seattle what do you get?

      2. The eastside needs better transit, for sure, but they’d get more bang for their buck out of other sorts of improvements. Bellevue-Kirkland transit needs to be better. We’ve got to get arterial transit in and out of downtown Kirkland to the north and south (we’d have to do that even in the presence of a 405 BRT connection there). Of course, long-distance routes from places like Kent and Everett into Bellevue will grow in importance.

        Unfortunately a lot of recent infrastructure improvements have included missteps, from the Tukwila Sounder Station’s bus-thwarting design to the awkward site of South Kirkland P&R.

      3. Living in a dense areas involves sacrifices. Land value is much higher, so you either pay more or […]

        So my non-dense neighborhood should be cheap, right? I wish, “you either pay more or”… your pay even more. Fact is you pay a premium for living in a place where you have your own space. Either close in in property tax or with your time by living in Ellenbach.

        Bellevue-Kirkland transit needs to be better.

        How/why? Transit both to the north and south from DT Kirkland is just fine. The biggest issue is the, 3… no wait… 3 routes in one 255. A bus that goes only to Kirkland TC is not the same as a bus that goes to Evergreen Hospital Medical Center is not the same as a bus that goes to Brickyard P&R. How much do new bus numbers cost? I guess the cost of printing schedules but on the eastside multiple buses are on the same printed schedule already.

        From looking at my ORCA card statement I think Metro already numbers the routes differently; I get charged for riding the 257 even though I’ve never seen that number on a reader board.

        Unfortunately a lot of recent infrastructure improvements have included missteps, … the awkward site of South Kirkland P&R.

        And we had a chance to fix that but instead made it even worse in the name of TOD. Going back a couple of decades we have the Ron Sims TOD P&R at Overlake Village as a model. That screwed up RR-B and ST tried hard to FU East Link (even worse than it is) by going surface across 148th through the Safeway parking lot to try and bail out this type of failure.

    2. Well said. I’ve been calling it the BRT I-405 spine. Just not a very sensible solution. It really boggles the mind to think that Sound Transit has been very successful with their bus service (way more than their rail) and yet they continue to think in grandiose fashion about single, large corridor projects. Their main reason for being is to connect the places too far away for Metro to serve — places not at all well suited for light rail and not well suited for BRT. But places well suited for regular bus service, But despite that obvious mandate and the obvious success, they double down on the major corridor projects. It would be like Steve Jobs saying “Screw the iPhone, let’s build another version of NeXT!”

      1. It really boggles the mind to think that Sound Transit has been very successful with their bus service (way more than their rail) and yet they continue to think in grandiose fashion about single, large corridor projects.

        Not so boggling when you realize that everyone at ST is most concerned about continuing their own employment. I’d venure a guess they mostly drive to work. It’s a for sure that their bosses, elected officials, all drive alone.

  18. Most of the riders will be coming from SOV’s now clogging the 3 GP lanes, therefore:
    [drum roll please]
    WSDOT should pay for most of the BRT stuff from their newest cash cow, Toll Lanes.
    It only seems fair to ‘unclog’ those lanes, so stop freakin’ and call Beacon.

    1. WSDOT should pay for most of the BRT stuff from their newest cash cow, Toll Lanes.

      OK, Mic I’m assuming you’re not a troll advocating for eliminating the toll lanes; although they are working so well I can see why a transit advocate might be worried. YES, WSDOT under promised and over delivered. Tolls on 405 are doing much better than just paying the cost of collection and are dedicated to 405 improvements. Many of those have been funded and they are all HOV/Transit (i.e. no new GP lanes).

      1. The science of moving the most number of vehicles past a point is pretty straight forward, knowing the sweet spot is a full lane flowing somewhere around 45 mph. The new toll lanes are outperforming the GP lanes, which where veh/hr/lane are less.
        Time will tell how many vehicles TOTAL are making it past the screenlines, and what the occupancy rate is, but I suspect the number won’t live up to some hype being dished up about the success of the program.
        Now, there’s no doubt that TOTAL revenues are way up from before (zero) and the vendors are being well paid for there efforts. How much that adds to NET revenue picture is also less clear, but this is certainly better than hwy167 HOT lanes which have yet to make any significant profit. Those lanes are also enjoyed by those that can afford them.
        I wonder what the picture on 405 would look like today with a 4th GP lane, and painting 3+ on the HOV signs.

      2. “The science of moving the most number of vehicles past a point is pretty straight forward”

        The whole pro-transit message is that DOTs need to stop focusing on moving the most VEHICLES and instead focus on moving the most PEOPLE. A bus has 50-100 people so it should be weighted as 50-100 cars. So the point is to keep the HOT/HOV lane moving at 45 mph for the buses. Car thoroughput in the HOT and other lanes can be focused around that.

      3. No disagreement on that which is why I said most vehicles AND occupancy rate (total people).
        The best of all worlds is to have full buses AND full cars/vans moving the most bodies past a point for the least cost to the taxpayer – regardless how you collect that money. I don’t hear that conversation coming from either side of the debate.

      4. OK, Mic I’m assuming you’re not a troll advocating for eliminating the toll lanes… Tolls on 405 are doing much better than just paying the cost of collection

        No disagreement on that which is why I said most vehicles AND occupancy rate (total people).
        The best of all worlds is to have full buses AND full cars/vans moving the most bodies past a point for the least cost to the taxpayer

        A couple of points about tolling. First off it’s essential to the functioning of the 405 HOV lanes because north of 522 it’s a single lane. The tolls are the only mechanism that allows regulating the volume of traffic on that part of the highway. A 3+ one size fits all doesn’t work. You’d be under utilizing capacity a large portion of the time because of the radical difference between the two sections.

        Second, charging for use starts to drive home the message that roads are not free. I’d never get elected as transportation czar but I think all of the lanes should be tolled! And it should be a variable toll to push people that have the choice to drive during off peak times. I know that’s not a sentiment shared by most of my fellow Red-publicans but it’s intellectually honest if you really believe in market rate efficiency and pay your own way. A side benefit is that it helps save the whales er a shell fish. Mmmm, maybe if I ran on the red wine, oysters and cigars platform I could get the party nomination… Nah, I hate guns.

  19. Why are the travel times so long? There’s no way a bus running along it’s own freeway lane should average under 25 MPH even with lots of stops. And the less “intensive” options with very few stops should not be averaging under 30 MPH.

    1. Try riding the 512 from downtown to Everett, and you’ll get a good idea why. The acceleration and deceleration time for each stop is greater when the bus is going faster. When the bus is crowded and people are standing, it can sometimes take a good 2 miles for a 60-foot articulated bus to get up to freeway speeds from a dead stop (yes, the cumulative weight of all those passengers is enough to have a substantive impact on the rate at which the bus is capable of accelerating). Most of the larger buses are not capable of sustaining 60 mph up a hill, usually topping out around 45-50 mph, depending on the steepness of the hill.

      Then, many of the stops involve twists and turns and/or stop signs and stoplights, on top of the time actually necessary to load and unload passengers. For instance, the stops Lynnwood TC and Ash Way P&R cost a minimum of about 5 minutes each, even if zero passengers (which is never actually the case) were to get on or off the bus.

      Put it all together and the result is an average speed of 25 mph.

  20. Wait a minute, so these buses would continue to share HOV lanes with cars? When I read “405 BRT” I assumed that meant that the buses would finally get their own lanes rather than sharing lanes with cars. You know, like BRT in other cities.

    1. The ETLs are “guaranteed” to operate at at least 45 mph. While there are slow downs on occasion, they’re usually not too bad (unless there’s a accident or similar in the left GP lane or in one of the ETLs). If enough buses start running, then reserving one lane for buses should be discussed, but for now it’s fine I think.

      1. So were the original HOV lanes when built … until the Dept never had the spine to convert them to 3+, except for 520. Just sayin’
        I suppose spine destiny only works for rail.

      2. That’s not good. If they had their own lanes they could go 60+ MPH at all times. And with no cars sharing the lanes there would be much less risk of an accident blocking the lane.

        If other regions can do it why can’t this one.

      3. No. There shouldn’t be a wait to “discuss” giving buses their own freeway lanes. It should be done now. It’s the only way to ensure they can always run fast.

      4. I don’t think the ST buses can go 60 mph the whole way even if they wanted to, particularly not up hills (part of 405). They are routinely passed by every car in the ETLs.

        But in any case, the number of times the ETLs are below 45 mph is very low. Personally, I’m fine with 45mph speeds. And closing one lane to cars will make a lot of people angry, so if bus service isn’t affected much, I would hesitate to try it.

        Plus, the area where there is a lot of traffic (north of SR522), there’s only one lane anyway.

      5. “And closing one lane to cars will make a lot of people angry”

        Those people can take the bus. I’ve no sympathy for them.

  21. Downtown Kirkland gets close attention. The NE 85th flyer stop is estimated at up to $260 million, lower than the 2014 study because the station footprint has been reduced and parking eliminated. But there is another $105 million for bus lanes to downtown Kirkland and on 85th St,

    NE 85th is a real challenge. They can’t build anything like Totem Lake because 405 goes over 85th instead of it being an overpass. Totem Lake provides both a flyer stop and direct HOV center access although currently no routes use the ramps for local service. NE 85th however is begging for direct HOV access to reach both DT Kirkland and Redmond. Unfortunately it’s impossible or at least highly impractical to try and do both at NE 85th.

    So, my question is which would be preferable; routes that exit 405 and serve DT Redmond and Kirkland or an elaborate transfer station in the middle of a giant freeway cloverleaf. My gut feeling is that direct access, if the money is there to add direct service would be preferable. Obviously Kirkland routes to Seattle would be the first priority so exit NB and entrance SB could be done first. When it’s bidirectional a route from Bellevue to Lynnwood that detours to DT Kirkland could be added and a route from Lynnwood to DT Redmond. I don’t see the need for dedicated bus lanes between 405 and DT Kirkland. The other direction, getting through Rose Hill is a serious bottleneck.

    Much easier/cheaper to construct would be a flyer stop at Houghton P&R. I know it’s not ripe for high density development but there are a number of apartments within walking distance and along Old Redmond Rd. It is a whopping big parking lot which would allow building a mixed use structure above underground parking. I doubt the old dump can ever be developed and just south of there is Bridle Trails State Park. To the north there’s Lake WA HS and a cemetery surrounded by single family residential. So the potential is limited with it’s biggest asset, a P&R, going largely unused which is a shame because bus connections between Houghton (Google, NW College, etc.), Redmond and Rose Hill are pretty decent by eastside standards.

    1. What if you dump the cloverleaf currently used for the 85th St interchange and add traffic lights instead (single ramp for each direction). That frees up a ton of space both around the interchange and on 405 itself. Then move all the 405 lanes over by one (utilizing the current “exit” lanes for the cloverleaf) creating space in the middle for a HOT direct access ramp. Then if you really want to get fancy, put BRT on 85th St between Kirkland and Redmond, and give people the option of transferring from 405 buses to those.

      1. What if you dump the cloverleaf currently used for the 85th St interchange and add traffic lights instead (single ramp for each direction)

        Yes, the cloverleaf takes up a huge amount of space and no longer functions as intended. The purpose of the cloverleaf was to allow cars to enter/exit the freeway without slowing down. Most of the traffic entering the freeway is now controlled by singles as they are metered ramps whenever there is a high volume of traffic, which is pretty much most of the time. Exiting the “merge” is becoming all but impossible. A single-point urban interchange really needs to replace the cloverleaf. And if that’s done then at the very minimum center HOV access should be done. The 405 bridges would have to be replaced which makes construction staging a challenge but it also would open the whole area to being pedestrian accessible; I wouldn’t use the word friendly. With this approach there could be a flyer stop either as part of the initial build or added at a later date. I would think both Kirkland and Redmond would be on board with this.

      2. Bernie, a good idea, but my experience with SPUI’s and 99th and 78th here in Vantucky is that they are very pedestrian unfriendly. It often takes three “straight” through cycles to cross all the branches. A standard diamond with double left and double right turn lanes can carry the same volume of exiting cars with less disruption to pedestrians. It does generally mean that you can’t have simultaneous left turns into the on-ramps because of the width of the freeway structure. There has to be a single direction four-way cycle.

        I think that’s why DOT’s like SPUI’s; it allows the through cycle for the roadway being crossed to be longer because the lefts onto the freeway can be simultaneous.

        But I don’t know how ANY configuration of such a big interchange is going to also allow for center lane access. That’s putting a lot of complication right where left turns have to happen. It would be better to build a freeway level flyer station like Evergreen Way and have buses stop between the on- and off-ramps along each side.

      3. It would be better to build a freeway level flyer station like Evergreen Way and have buses stop between the on- and off-ramps along each side.

        What station is that? Is it South Everett Freeway Station?

      4. I assume Anandakos means Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point stations on SR 520. However, I think it’s worth studying a way to make both a stop and HOT access at 85th. First, I think ETL access there would be useful for people in Kirkland (and perhaps increase revenue for WSDOT + get them to cover part/all the cost). Second, it would allow express buses to Kirkland, which are probably a good idea. For most other intersections it wouldn’t be worth it, but I’m sure the WSDOT engineers can come up with something safe and efficient. You could perhaps limit it somehow, or do both a flyer stop at the level of 405 and ramps just to the south (enter to SB, exit from NB). Or perhaps have fly-over or fly-under ramps from the HOT lanes.

      5. I assume Anandakos means Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point stations on SR 520.

        Both of those the road crossing the freeway is on an overpass, plus they are only 2 lane minor roads. NE85th is a completely different animal. It’s four lanes wide and a major arterial that leads to Redmond and Kirkland. Plus 405 there is three GP lanes and 2 HOV/HOT lanes vs 520’s 2 GP and 1 HOV lane. Thinking about this some more the only way I see to make a freeway level flyer stop work is to have special buses with left/drivers side doors. You don’t want the buses to have to change lanes between Totem Lake and NE 85th plus if you did you’d need four elevators to service the station and that’s getting pretty ridiculous. I still think there would be a way to have direct center access with a single point interchange although it might require a dedicated signal phase. I don’t like the double diamond, especially with two lanes because the right turning cars exiting and entering don’t typically stop. It would be better than the current cloverleaf but not much.

        With a single point interchange and direct center lane access you could forgo the flyer stop if there was say a frequent route between DT Kirkland and Woodinville; or even just a Kirkland to Totem Lake TC circulator (which would do what the CKC BRT fiasco was trying to accomplish for a lot less). Transfers to 405 buses north could take place at Totem Lake. Going to Seattle there would have to be another bus or slog it out on the existing routes. Realistically the existing routes are 8-10 minutes DT Kirkland to S. Kirkland P&R and there is the 255/234/235 so that’s pretty well covered. With East Link maybe a bus from Kirkland TC to Bellevue TC would make sense.

        Either way, single point or double diamond the cloverleaf needs to go not just because it takes up so much real estate and is impassible by bikes and pedestrians but because it doesn’t work for shit with today’s volume of traffic. NE 85th needs a signalized interchange and Kirkland needs to lose at the very least the signal directly east of 405.

        Here’s a link to a document CA did with some good info, intersection-guide-bicycles-pedestrians

  22. “Engineer” has a good point. I’ve often wondered why the reportedly most-congested corridor in the state, I-405 from Bellevue to Renton, always gets excluded from having a light rail line proposed for it. Are the legislators in that area not interested? Not favored? Not on the requisite boards? Finally, in the ST-3 discussions, I heard this reason: a previous ST board decided to not add light rail on I-405.

    My reaction to that was/is this: (1) conditions change, and “forever decisions” as it sounded was made in the case of the segment noted, need to be revisited, too, as the congestion there keeps getting worse; (2) ST-3 has a proposed project that does add light rail along I-405, that from Totem Lake to Bellevue and then on to Issaquah, the latter where the mayor happens to serve on the ST board; (3) A light rail connection between at least Renton (and ideally Southcenter and Tukwila International Station) and South Bellevue would not only connect Boeing facilities in Renton and Bellevue, but would open up light rail connections to north to Everett from the east side of the south end as well. The region should be striving to have light rail to the Lynnwood station along or near I-405, working southeast from there as funds allow, such as to UW-Bothell in the first segment.

    1. “I’ve often wondered why the reportedly most-congested corridor in the state, I-405 from Bellevue to Renton, always gets excluded from having a light rail line proposed for it. Are the legislators in that area not interested? Not favored? Not on the requisite boards? Finally, in the ST-3 discussions, I heard this reason: a previous ST board decided to not add light rail on I-405.”

      They thought about it.

      In 1992, the PSRC had done a study on using the Woodinville Sub (ERC) for a commuter train, which essentially replaced Metro’s Rte 340 (which is not around anymore, and if I remember right, it started at the Aurora Village Transit Center, looped around the lake and ended in Burien) between the South Kirkland P&R and downtown Renton, To the extent that the train would replace the bus in the areas the track was parallel. Low cost, low ridership, – potential, but it was just a look-see type report.

      During the I-405 Corridor Program study in 1999-2001, Light rail from Lynnwood to Tukwila was looked at, and the route basically drew the lines between the denser population areas, which meant that it couldn’t follow the ERC through Bellevue and Factoria, since way back when they originally built the Woodinville Sub they were intending to go to the downtown Bellevue area, but the pilings kept disappearing into the muck at around where the ROW crosses I-90. That’s why it diverts to the east.

      However, since Bellevue was beginning it’s auto oriented sprawl, and the population/business/education centers were spread out on the opposite sides of the RR ROW (Factoria and Bellevue CC), the I-405 study concluded it would have to build new elevated structures to ‘chase the density’ as it were.
      However, the ERC between Bellevue and Totem Lake were assumed to be the light rail alignment for that segment at the time.
      Then from Totem Lake, it would follow 405 in the median to Lynnwood.
      It costed out at $4.5 Billion.

      That study started to look deeper into (as the original commuter rail study in 1992 suggested), expanding the scope to where it connected with Sounder at Tukwila and ended in Woodinville (the boundary of the I-405 Corridor).
      No cost estimate because at that time BNSF was using the whole corridor, and they weren’t selling.
      Since the Kennydale Neighborhood Association and the City of Renton submitted letters to the I-405 Corridor Program’s Executive Committee saying “Please do not consider the use of the [ERC] any more”, it was never moved to the Cost/Benefit stage. (I have copies of those letters)

      The problem with light rail was that the ridership numbers weren’t high enough – within the 30 year time frame – to justify that cost.

      Bus Rapid Transit was budgeted about $1.8 Billion.

      Coupled with the original plans of 4 new GP lanes, the BRT solution provided the most congestion relief (within that 30 year horizon) for the money.

      Both the Light Rail/2GP lane Alternative, and the 6 GP lane w/minor bus improvements Alternative cost too much. However, their benefits increased after the 30 year horizon. (they actually had close to the same C/B ratio, both negative, however)

      4 new lanes fit (for the most part, except for the Kennydale hill), within the current 405 ROW.
      Going for 6 lanes meant buying up properties which is why it was too expensive, also.

      When ST/PSRC came up with their ‘Gold Plated’ commuter rail (as some have called it) study in 2009, it had a cost of $1.6 Billion.
      Since transit ridership is based on a percentage of people moving between population centers, in the segments where BRT and Commuter rail are close, the ridership numbers are roughly the same. Except that commuter rail doesn’t have a way to get to Lynnwood.

      (A spur could come off at Woodinville and follow the Burke-Gilman trail to Bothell Landing. The current trail in Bothell is the Sammamish River trail, which diverges around Blyth Park and is the through route. The RR ROW is right next to Riverside Drive (E and W). )

      You choose BRT because you are okay with a slightly higher cost, and value the Lynnwood/Woodinville travel segment, and have a bus fetish.

      You chose Commuter rail because you think that the value lies in intercepting the potential riders from outside of the corridor boundaries, have a rail fetish, like it because it’s cheaper, and you don’t care about Lynnwood/Woodinville riders.

      You choose Light Rail because you care about those Lynnwood/Woodinville riders, think that there is more value in the long range investment (have the pre-requisite rail fetish) and have money to burn.

      So, yes..
      It’s all political !

  23. If no net ridership is gained by making the improvements in the capital-intensive version, then I think we’ve run hard against the hard-headed 45% of people who would literally NEVER get out of their cars, no matter how nice, convenient, or fast you made mass transit.

    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/commuters-traffic-stinks-but-wed-rather-drive-alone/

    Total failure of imagination and a predictable output of the car-only-car-always culture of most of the suburbs.

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