This summary of ST3 feedback from East King County (including North King other than Seattle) is the fifth in a series of ST3 feedback summaries. See our previous coverage of Pierce County, Seattle, South King County, and Snohomish County. A future installment will look at other Stakeholder Organizations.
The Eastside’s ST3 input is well coordinated. As happened last July, several Eastside cities signed a joint letter describing shared goals. Cities along the SR 522 corridor also submitted their own joint letter endorsing BRT on SR 522 and NE 145th St. Read together with the cities own letters, there’s an impressive consensus about what an Eastside ST3 package needs to look like.
Joint Letter of the Eastside Cities
The Eastside cities introduce their priorities by noting how they are “reshaping our regional growth centers and downtowns into dense, mixed-use, urban centers that need frequent and reliable transit service to sustain economic growth and viability. ST3 has the potential to create transit connections within the Eastside, and provide connections between the Eastside and the rest of the region”. The letter goes on to remind the Board that “the Eastside will be making a significant tax investment into the package” and looks forward to seeing commensurate investments back into the Eastside.
The Eastside’s five priorities in ST3 are:
- E-01: Completing the East Link spine to Downtown Redmond. This is so uncontroversial that no explanation was apparently necessary.
- E-02: Fully implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on I-405, from Lynnwood to SeaTac. A version of I-405 BRT between the low and intensive capital versions is recommended. The scope needs to “provide sufficient access for the line to operate as an efficient BRT facility”. That means an inline station at NE 85th Street in Kirkland, direct access to Tukwila Sounder Station, at least one additional location south of I-90, and a dedicated transitway with inline flyer stops. The latter implies a significant investment in South Snohomish County where the BRT would otherwise run in mixed traffic north of SR 522.
- E-03: Light rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah via Bellevue. In an acknowledgment that BRT may have advantages in Kirkland, the joint letter caveats that “this project must provide flexibility and be scalable to meet ridership demand and the needs of the communities served”.
- E-04: A new transit center in Renton at Rainier Ave S and S Grady Way. This project would replace the downtown transit center.
- N-09 and N-10: BRT on 145th Street and SR 522 to connect with North Link.
Bellevue‘s letter opens with an insistent call to maintain subarea equity as defined in ST2 (utilizing revenues for programs that benefit residents and businesses of the subarea generally in proportion to the level of revenues contributed). Sound Transit staff participated in a February 8 Bellevue Council meeting reviewing equity issues, and Bellevue Council members intend to press the issue with other cities.
In ST3, Bellevue is focused on intra-Eastside connections. To that end, they insist I-405 BRT be full BRT, dismissing low-capital I-405 BRT as only slightly better than current Regional Express bus service. Buses should run on dedicated transit way or at least in the ETL without GP lane interactions. Bellevue echoes station suggestions in the joint letter. Bellevue also asks that Sound Transit consider having I-405 BRT run on Bellevue Way, serving South Bellevue, East Main, and Bellevue Downtown stations before returning to the ETL at NE 6th St.
Bellevue endorses rail on the Totem Lake to Issaquah corridor, but joins Kirkland in asking for flexibility for other modes on the Kirkland segment. Sound Transit should allow for the project to be built in phases. Transit on the ERC should be compatible with trail and other walk/bike uses in the area, including a multi-use trail through areas served by transit. An elevated non-motorized crossing of NE 8th St on the ERC to connect Wilburton Station with the redeveloping area to the south is suggested.
Bellevue requests planning for HCT, including rail, on SR 520 to “complete the HCT loop across Lake Washington”.
Bellevue (like other Eastside cities) is skeptical about ridership modeling on the Eastside projects. Bellevue staff are to submit a further technical memo.
Redmond goes into detail on the implementation of the East Link extension from Overlake to downtown Redmond. Generally, the city asks that the stations in downtown and at Southeast Redmond be well-integrated into the urban fabric of their neighborhoods. In SE Redmond, a planned parking facility should include shared parking and street-level retail. Likewise, operations on the tail tracks at the Downtown Redmond terminal station should be minimized. The East Link crossing of SR 520 should construct the missing section of the East Lake Sammamish Trail that connects to the Redmond Central Connector, thus eliminating an important barrier to bike/pedestrian access in the area.
Redmond’s priorities include more service on ST Regional Express buses, particularly on SR 520 to UW, where Redmond calls out the importance of bus-rail integration. Other corridors where Redmond hopes to see REx service include connections to Eastgate, Overlake and Kirkland. I-405 BRT implementation should include an inline stop at NE 85th St. While often thought of as a Kirkland project, that stop would provide a useful connection for Redmond transit users to/from the north.
Kirkland explains how geographic constraints require both I-405 BRT and transit on the Eastside Rail Corridor. ERC service must connect to downtown, to East Link, and to other activity centers. “Service along the CKC should also respond to community concerns about potential impacts to ensure that the CKC remains a safe, attractive, world-class regional corridor for transit, pedestrians and bicyclists”.
Sound Transit should combine the rail and BRT projects on the corridor (E-03 and E-06), and fund construction of rail. Recognizing limitations of the light rail options studied, the combined project scope must include flexibility to construct BRT. “The optimal mode choice for this segment should be determined after further analysis and input from Kirkland”.
Expanding on impacts to the CKC, Kirkland asks that any transit include a trail that preserves accessibility including safe east/west crossings. The transit should be east of the center line whenever possible to maximize space for non-transit uses.
BRT on I-405 should include stops at NE 85th and NE 112th. The NE 85th stop should connect to downtown Kirkland via transit-only lanes.
Kirkland comments at length on the modeling in the project templates. With respect to the ERC, ridership estimates assumed Sound Transit would operate just one BRT line on the corridor (at a frequency lower than even the studied rail service). The City prefers the corridor serve multiple overlapping lines, observing that corresponding Metro routes already carry several times more riders than the BRT projection. Regional models miss a lot of shorter-distance ridership. If rail is built, the guideway should be constructed to flexibly allow for use by bus and rail.
The letter from Issaquah is characteristically brief, describing how the Central Issaquah Plan will transform Issaquah’s commercial core into an urban area requiring rapid transit. Issaquah’s application for a regional growth center designation was recently approved by the PSRC.
Issaquah’s goal in ST3 is, of course, light rail to Bellevue and Totem Lake. The city also seeks enhanced ST Express service from Issaquah along the I-90 corridor to Mercer Island and Bellevue.
Renton describes changes to the I-405 BRT options necessary to accommodate a suggested new transit center. These include direct access ramps from I-405 and BAT lanes on Talbot Road S and on S Grady Way. With these changes, the BRT route would travel from I-405 to Tukwila Sounder Station on arterials.
The formerly planned direct access ramps at N 8th were originally planned to facilitate redevelopment of the Boeing and Kenworth plants into a mixed use community. With manufacturing now planned to continue indefinitely, Renton does not see those ramps as necessary to mobility in North Renton. On the other hand, a regional transit center would support redevelopment and TOD opportunities in South Renton where office redevelopment is expected. The Metro park-and-ride in that area is full indicating latent demand for more parking.
Woodinville describes how several projects that enjoy broad support are not planned to reach the city. Transit on the ERC would end 3.5 miles south at Totem Lake. BRT on SR 522 would end 1.5 miles west at UW Bothell. Woodinville argues that extensions could be accomplished at a small incremental cost increase, and notes how Sound Transit’s easement on the ERC extends to Woodinville.
The Eastside joint letter, which Woodinville did not sign, endorses both projects without suggesting that either be extended to Woodinville. Woodinville’s hostility to growth may have cost them the support of other Eastside cities for substantial transit investments.
North Lake Washington Cities
As Zach reviewed recently, the cities around the north end of Lake Washington have taken a unified position in favor of two BRT projects, N-09 and N-10, that would extend BRT generally along SR 522 from the Link station at NE 145th, and a planning project, P-08, to study future light rail.
Bothell, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Shoreline, and Woodinville penned a joint letter reiterating this request (which was also supported in the joint letter of the other Eastside cities). They point out that BRT on SR 522 is cost-effective, that SR 522 already carries 20% of cross-lake traffic, and hint that it should be timed to connect to light rail coming to NE 145th St in 2023.
Bothell, having participated in both joint letters, also wrote with several suggestions for improved connections within their city. Bothell straddles King and Snohomish County, and is potentially served by BRT on SR 522 and I-405, so inter-agency coordination is particularly critical. Through the I-405 BRT program, Bothell hopes to see connections between Community Transit Swift service and King County Metro service.