Transit Center in Downtown Bellevue (Photo by the Author)

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, SeattleSouth 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 Mayor John Stokes
Bellevue Mayor John Stokes

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 Council President Hank Margeson
Redmond Council President Hank Margeson

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 Mayor Amy Walen
Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen

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.


Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler
Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler

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 Mayor Denis Law
Renton Mayor Denis Law

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 Mayor Bernie Talmas
Woodinville Mayor Bernie Talmas

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

Bothell Mayor Andy Rheuame
Bothell Mayor Andy Rheuame

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.

76 Replies to “East King County’s ST3 Letters”

  1. I know what Bellevue probably actually said, but your paraphrase ” Bellevue also asks that Sound Transit consider having I-405 run on Bellevue Way…” just sounds hilarious.

    Also, I’m really glad that Redmond has called out bus-rail integration plans and BRT corridors. I can unhesitantly endorse their entire letter.

    1. So Bellevue is willing to put transit lanes on Bellevue Way now? Did they miss an opportunity by forcing Link over to 112th. I guess times change.

      1. Where did you see transit lanes?

        I have both lived near south Bellevue Way and suffer the Bellevue Way slowness on the 550 compared to 405. So I can see both sides, and the stop at BW/104th gets as many riders as the transit center sometimes. But the 550 is a relatively short route compared to 405 BRT so the Bellevue Way deviation is not as potentially annoying as if you’re going from, say, Renton to Kirkland or Renton to Totem Lake (being optimistic about the future urban center).

        Oh, but East Main Station is not on Bellevue Way. So the BRT would essentially have to continue the 550’s current reroute, turning east at Main Street and north at 112th (although the 550 turns at 108th, but the station is at 112th and it’s a hilside in between). So it would miss the BW/4th stop. So what’s the point of routing it on Bellevue Way again? So that people can choose from three Link stations to transfer at? BRT riders are going to downtown Bellevue, and maybe to East Main if the development is good. They won’t be going to South Bellevue P&R because they’ll have left their car in Renton or Totem Lake or somewhere.

  2. If strict subarea equity is enforced in ST3, it seems then that Snohomish County simply cannot have Paine Field.

    Kirkland’s suggestion to have the CKC host “Open BRT” seems pretty sound, but to make it work they’re going to have to irritate folks along Market at least to Juanita by dedicating a pair of lanes. That’s going to raise some temperatures.

    1. With a big enough and long enough package, that may be the strategy
      The wish list for the Eastside is just north of 7 billion, attracting 46,000 daily boardings (23,000 people) each day, or $154,000 spent for each person coming from existing buses or net new riders.
      That should allow Snohomish and Pierce to go nuts too.

      1. It’s still expensive relative to Seattle projects of course, but over 100 years and assuming zero ridership growth that $154k per person is just $4.17.

    2. At current growth and sprawl rates, I wonder how long it will be before the whole Central Puget Sound region will be a subarea of the whole Pacific shore-line west of the Mountains.

      Wonder every time the Cascades passes Vader: Since Star-Wars is deliberately past/future ambiguous it’s hard to know whether Darth’s childhood cabin, or trailer put his school district here.

      Just before Seattle housing costs combined with I-5 traffic conditions to blast Dupont-ization Galaxy-wide at warp-speed.

      Or, if this is the result of the trillion Earth-years long industrial trajectory of the Empire as it turns the entire United States into a subarea of Detroit and Aberdeen.

      In either case, as shown by variety of bar patrons in the first movie, most critical subarea challenge:

      How will the Old Republic assure that massive variety of transit facility toilets have plastic seats, so dreadful inter-subarea war war will never break out over over scarce toilet metal resources in the whole asteroid belt? May the Force always be enough to Flush!


    3. Hells Bells, that’s a bargain. Even the 3.1 Billion for rail going from Totem Lk to Issaquah sounds good.
      I retract my angst.

      1. Even if over 100 years the cost per person seems reasonable, the benefits proposed by Sound Transit are pretty small. 46,000 daily boardings, or slightly less than the 2014 ridership on RapidRide. There is an opportunity cost for spending limited regional transit dollars. Imagine how many more people in this area could be served through a different combination of capital and service improvements for other less expensive transit services.

  3. Why isn’t Redmond demanding a Link station at SR 520 & NE 51st St. which is served by ST 545 today? It’s surrounded by office complexes on 3 out of 4 quadrants. Is the thought that it’s close enough to “Redmond Technology Center” (south of NE 40th) to walk (probably 12-15 minutes in not the best pedestrian environment), or that Microsoft’s shuttle services (available only to their population) will pick up the slack? There’s also a great chunk of developable land just to the west.

    1. More stations toward the ends of Light Rail lines ought to be a no-brainer. The more people who can walk to and from the train the cheaper transit is to provide. Period, end of story.

      1. Why isn’t Redmond demanding a Link station at SR 520 & NE 51st St. which is served by ST 545 today?

        Three stations in less than 2 miles is excessive for a sprawling corporate campus. UW/U District has twice the number of jobs and probably 10X the population but only has two Link stations. The 545 will continue at all existing stops along 520. RR B also provides N/S connectivity. And as you point out the majority of the ridership is Microsoft which provides inter building shuttles.

        Then there’s also the fact that Link will have to start dropping elevation fast after leaving Overlake P&R to get down to Marymoor making a 51st St. station problematic and expensive. My assumption is that Link will be ground level running along the south/east side of 520 and then duck under 520/Avondale using the overpass for the old East Lake Sammamish rail corridor.

      2. The project template is somewhat vague about this, only noting the SE Redmond station is elevated, but the alignment is now elevated through Marymoor Park and crossing SR 520 before dropping back down to at-grade in the old rail corridor. This is mostly due to changes to SR 520 since East Link conceptual engineering was done and the difficulty in going under SR 520.

    2. I don’t believe a station at 51st has ever been seriously contemplated as part of East Link. The big vacant parcel is owned by Microsoft, and other than that there is limited development potential in the immediate vicinity. Redmond already has two Urban Centers/Regional Growth Centers (Downtown Redmond and Overlake) and is unlikely to make any changes to zoning, especially for residential, which would make a station at 51st worthwhile.

  4. Why is the Kirkland leadership so drawn to a plan that severely compromises the environmental and recreational values of the CKC for a transit line with only two stops that are uniquely served by it (and no stop at Google?), both of which are served by Metro 255 today perfectly well using surface streets, that costs about $700 million and has ridership in 2040 projected to be 2500-3000? Even if that ridership is underestimated by half, it’s still terrible.

    For $700 million, wouldn’t it be possible to do some sort of I-405 ramps that did a better job of leveraging the BRT there that they also support? That’s a lot of money. And the trail and greenbelt are huge assets that are hard to put a dollar value on, but they are definitely worth something. Isn’t there enough pavement already in that area? I don’t get it.

    1. I agree. Streetcars might be an appropriate technology through a linear park, but full-size LRT or BRT, especially diesel BRT, are not.

      1. Wouldn’t a hybrid bus make sense? Run some wire and call it a day.

        But the problems with the route of CKC won’t go away. I think it just sounds so exciting and worthwhile to take advantage of an old available route, with the assumption that it will be a great value. The problem is that most of Kirkland is just not very dense. You could take over the Burke Gilman in most areas of Seattle and have a very successful transit line (especially between Ballard and the UW) but that doesn’t happen to be true for the entire route, and it doesn’t appear to be true for this one either.

      2. I think Kirkland would argue that the CKC provides future growth opportunities as the density in the area increases. Traffic on surface streets is just going to get worse, which means that running on surface streets is only a short-term solution without substantial investment in bus-only lanes (for which no room exists). Plus on the CKC you’re at least guaranteed there won’t be any traffic (short of the rare broken down bus) which means ridership will likely be higher than on surface streets just due to public perception.

        Of course, as we know, the actual CKC route is poor for, e.g., actually serving downtown Kirkland. Maybe Kirkland hopes that in ST4 they’ll be able to get a tunnel through DT Kirkland.

      3. Anandakos, I’m new to flickr, but hope this works. If it does, it’s worth a lot of words about most comfortable transit mode for trail area.

        In Stockholm area, these cars, same general size as LINK but more comfortable interior, will handle street and park like this, then hit LINK speed on reserved track same run.

        Since it’ll run street rail, “spur” could loop around through Kirkland Transit Center. Speed there depends on lane treatment, signal pre-empt.


  5. It’s interesting how 520 is popping back up in these letters. Bellevue wants to complete the loop with rail, and Redmond wants bus-rail integration. Was ST too dismissive about this corridor?

    1. I was struck by the language “the loop around Lake Washington”. It wouldn’t be “around”, it would be “over” Lake Washington. The “Loop Around The Lake” has historically referred to lines along SR522 and I-405 down the Eastside, presumably to a connection either with Sounder or Link at Tukwila.

      If this sort of “long distance rail” thing keeps up I hope somebody realizes sooner rather than later that they have chosen the wrong technology! LRT trains are not the proper way to go forty miles. They just aren’t.

      What’s needed is “commuter rail” at those distances; it’s faster and a greater proportion of riders are seated for the longish travel times. Maybe that will happen in forty years. It seems they’re building Link north of Northgate with broad curves; perhaps it can be converted to Commuter Rail which runs in the reversible lanes south of Northgate. That’s of course dependent on the Ship Canal Bridge being able to support it. Heavy rail is heavy.

      1. I agree, wrong technology. Commuter rail makes sense, but hardly anyone build commuter rail from scratch. They add bus service. They build bus based infrastructure (new lanes, new ramps, new stations). We should continue to do the same and just call it a day. It is really silly to think that we need rail capacity for that area.

      2. People traveling in this loop are largely not commuting the whole distance, so please don’t dismiss light rail here. Most are only going part of the way. People who work in Seattle or Bellevue as technicians, bank tellers, secretaries, clerks, “administrative” staff, and people with advanced degrees doing entry-level jobs with mountains of college debt cannot afford to live in Bellevue or Seattle. They can afford Renton, SeaTac, Burien, Kent, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Bothell, and Mill Creek. Most people on this corridor are going 15 to 20 miles, AT MOST, not 40 miles.

      3. But not that many people are going from Renton to Burien, or Mountlake Terrace to Lynnwood. That is the point. The number of people that are going from one suburb to the other (other than Bellevue or Redmond) is minuscule. The number that are headed to a station (typically by the freeway) is even smaller. But that is what light rail does. It makes everyone wait, while you go from one mid-line location to the other. Northgate to the UW. Roosevelt to Capitol Hill. Everyone headed downtown has to wait for those those folks, but there are enough to justify the wait. That just doesn’t exist with 520 light rail. Not that many people are headed to the 84th or Yarrows street station on 520.

      4. I’m headed to 84th! Build the whole rail line for me! ;)

        Seriously, let’s pour some more money into 520-Montlake-Husky Stadium bus integration. Build another damn bridge if that it what it takes. That’ll do way more for East King than putting in LRT to North Bend.

      5. I would argue that at least on the north Eastside, most suburbs are getting transit-worthy. Apart from Bellevue and Redmond, multiple areas of Kirkland (downtown, Houghton) have substantial jobs. In Bothell, there’s UWB and the densification that’s planned in downtown. All those areas are densifying which means more jobs, which probably means more local apartments, etc…

      6. Commuter rail didn’t need to be built from scratch.

        The old line could have been upgraded incrementally.

        Because the neighbors on the ERC, along with their councils, did not want transit in their backyard, commuter rail was not compared directly to Freeway BRT.

        You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.

      7. Folks,

        My apologies. I was not thinking about the ERC when I said “commuter rail is what’s needed”. I think I mentioned changing Link over to commuter rail at some point north of Northgate. Link is appropriate for Seattle, though given that it’s all underground or in the air except for the stretch south of downtown, HRT would be better.

        But Everett to Seattle with two mile spacing really sounds like commuter rail to me.

      8. I’d note that this loop with a good transfer at UW would be great for the Lynnwood-to-Bellevue commute. That would perhaps be better for Snohomish travelers than a 405 BRT. Of course there is still the issue of travel from Bothell south, but a Totem Lake light rail would serve much of that.

  6. The ridership forecasting comments by Bellevue use polite but coded language to very clearly point to shortcomings in the ST planning process. Is ST not trying to refine their forecasts interactively with their project concepts to improve ridership? This comment and others reveal a skepticism of the ST3 planning process going on behind the scenes.

    1. The ST planning estimates are suspect, to say the least. Some have suggested incompetence, others have suggested corruption. I’m not sure why they would do the latter, expect maybe to justify building something they really want to build, regardless of its efficacy.

    2. It’s too vague to say until Bellevue releases its technical criticisms. Maybe they’re legitimate, maybe not. In any case, I wouldn’t put hopes up that Bellevue’s and Kirkland’s objections to ST’s ridership forecasts directly compare to N 130th Station or 520 Station or elsewhere, because they’re different environments with different ridership patterns.

      ST is also constrained in the measures it can use. It has to go with population numbers by a recognized authority, meaning the PSRC. It can only count zoning that’s current or where the city council has said it’s pretty certain, not speculative upzones like urbanists’ “Chicago everywhere” or “Vancouver station areas” or “125′ in Mt Baker”. Bus ridership is a problem because ST has to guess what Metro might or might not do. The EISs include samples of potential bus routes agreed with Metro (although I’ve only seen these in the Lynnwood Link EIS), but those are just one or two frequent routes, not all the routes that might serve the station. The way to solve all these is for the cities to zone urban-level station areas now, and for Metro to start releasing long-term drafts of potential restructures. Then ST could incorporate that ridership into its models, rather than building the line first and then seeing how much density happens.

      1. I agree. I would think, though, that their numbers are based on growth, not the number of people that currently live there. I keep seeing “X number of people by 2040”. I assume that is based on some very high growth numbers for suburban areas (which made sense 20 years ago, but seem backwards now).

        But the big thing they could do is work with the bus company while figuring out these numbers. That is the part that is most irritating. They could then feature not only a plan that showed much better ridership, but much better service overall. That would require a lot more work, but I would rather “measure twice, cut once”, then be stuck with something that doesn’t quite work because they never really thought about how the bus system was supposed to work with the rail system.

        I know that requires a fair amount of assumptions (the bus service can be cut) but they are making assumptions all the time. I don’t think service levels are guaranteed, for example. In this case they could simply assume the same level of bus service as today, and sit down with the folks and sketch out what a network plan would look like.

      2. @Mike, There are at least two major criticisms out there.

        One is about station access (which technically is a criticism of non-granular regional models). Adding a second station in the same FAZ, or putting the station in a better place, doesn’t get you any more ridership. That seems an obvious model limitation. Nobody in the Eastside cities believes that adding stations on I-405 BRT wouldn’t add at least some ridership. Or that I-405 BRT would peel off so much ridership from the ERC, just by being a little faster on the highway. We all recognize that station access matters, even if it’s hard to model.

        There are probably some parallels here for how 130th St ridership is modeled.

        The second is specific to the ERC. It is scoped as a closed service, whereas there are obvious advantages to having Metro use the corridor too. Kirkland is estimating 34K ridership in 2040 for routes that could use at least part of the corridor. That’s consistent with the ST number – the model is just incomplete. But a 10x ridership difference dramatically shifts the economics.

      3. Yes, it’s based on growth to the current zoning capacity or in-late-negotiation capacity.

        That should raise a slight alarm with long-term unrealized capacity. Seattle has many areas that are zoned lowrise but are actually still single-family, because the excess capacity is not enough to to make replacing the building worth it. If you have a two-story house and can build a three-story structure, then that’s only one or two more units, vs the cost of keeping the existing building which is zero (until it reaches the point that maintenance requires an overhaul).

      4. It’s true that they don’t get into specifics in this letter. The criticism appears to do with station access and feeder bus operations. However there is nothing to require them to accept the PSRC dated assumptions on not only the transit system but also things like parking costs, HOT lanes, new development potentials and even demographics like the number of people in each unit. The PSRC conformity comes into play when submitting grant applications to FTA. At this stage, ST is at liberty to test 20 or 30 or as many scenarios that they want. Instead they seem to have tested on one transit system design, one parking cost assumption and one land use.

        In fact, ST could have gone back to each city and said, “If you don’t like the numbers, what assumptions would you be willing to change in your city to the point of changing you city’s plans and policies to optimize this investment concept?” It doesn’t appear that they wanted to do this – even though they just spent probably $7-9M to study corridors defined years ago.

  7. When people start talking about BRT, I immediately wonder what they mean. There are several, specific features. One if off board payment and level boarding. This is a really big deal for many BRT lines. That is because many (if not most) gold level BRT lines have lots of stops within a short distance (like most subways). So, for something like Madison BRT, where stops will likely occur every minute, the ability for people to get on and off is a huge deal.

    Another feature is grade separation. The Bellevue mayor said this:

    Buses should run on dedicated transit way or at least in the ETL without GP lane interactions.

    I agree completely. So here is where it gets interesting. In the city, it is tough to mix general service with BRT service. it is tough to share the bus stop. Even if you don’t, the regular bus can block the lane for the BRT bus. So when you have spent all that money on off board payment with level boarding, it makes sense (if possible or practical) to run it exclusively.

    I don’t see this with the I-405 bus service. Off board payment and level boarding is great, but really plays a small factor in the time it takes to get from one place to another. With absolutely no traffic at all, we are talking about several minutes between stops. Then the stops are essentially (I assume) on very large lots (i. e. transit centers). So I don’t see how a regular bus can slow down a BRT bus. Furthermore, from what I can tell, very few people can walk to any of the stations. These are all by the freeway (correct me if I’m wrong here). But if that is the case, then everyone who rides this bus will have taken another bus. This again is a big contrast with something like Madison BRT.

    So what I don’t get is why the focus on BRT? Why not just make the improvements that the Bellevue mayor wants, and then run a bunch of buses everywhere? Run them on the surface streets, where they will pick up lots of people, then travel the corridor to some other surface street location. A set of overlapping bus routes would seem to be a better deal. This would reduce the number of transfers. There would be less reliability with the service, but I don’t see that as a huge deal. Most of the people will need to take a different bus from 405 station, which would have just as much of a reliability problem.

    At the very least I could see open BRT. Maybe that is the plan. It isn’t clear to me. The maps show i-405 with stations by it, but maybe the plan is to have multiple, overlapping buses that simply share I-405 part of the way. Am I missing something?

    1. Run them on the surface streets, where they will pick up lots of people, then travel the corridor to some other surface street location.”

      Aha! BlueStreak service, a famed Seattle innovation. What’s old is new again!

      Setting the snark aside, I agree with you. For commuter operations — and let’s be honest, 99 and 44/100 percent of interest that the East Side has in transit is for commuting — you don’t need niceties that make in-city BRT expensive but desirable. If you don’t advertise the system as “BRT” you don’t have to worry about the inevitable delays that such “express” buses WILL from time to time suffer on the surface street portion of their routes. You just depend on the fact that there are lots of routes running reasonably frequently to provide a satisfactorily consistent headway at the “main stem” stops.

      1. The light rail alternatives in the recent studies were limiting enough. ST also chose to not study single-direction commuter rail using the ERC in their studies, which certainly is what appears to be what is needed to serve the demand from Renton and points south, and Bothell and points north. So we are left with BRT as the non-rail alternative. The tragic thing is that BRT has more flexibility than even light rail, and yet ST presented only two ways to do things — a low investment and a high investment — and not consider multiple route design alternatives.

        It’s like going to a restaurant for breakfast and the menu has two egg dishes and two non-egg dishes — with widely varying prices and no substitutions allowed. Who would want to go to a restaurant like that?

      2. I’m sorry Mike, but you are Absolutely WRONG about that!

        Not only did commuter rail have the same ridership but it cost less than the Freeway BRT option they are going with.

    2. Oh, and “off-board payment” and “level boarding” can be provided at the much less numerous “flyer” stops on the freeway and stations in city downtowns while still allowing people to pay with cash and climb stairs at the neighborhood stops where usually only one or two people will board.

      1. Yeah, I agree. That is why Open BRT is probably the best setup here. I don’t think it is absolutely necessary (like, say, the WSTT) but it makes some sense. I have no idea how costly it is, but it might be worth it. But what I don’t understand is how exactly this is supposed to work. One advantage of BRT is that it can be open BRT, and this seems like the perfect place for it. But if this is essentially a closed BRT system — like light rail running on 405 except with buses — I don’t see it as being that useful. A series of overlapping buses just makes more sense (whether they are open BRT or just express buses). I seem to remember plans like that before, but I don’t see them now (but again, I might be missing something).

    3. Why not make the platforms a fare paid zone?

      Both BRT buses and regular buses should have low floors for platform level boarding. High floor buses are becoming a rarity these days.

      This way, the regular bus routes become effectively BRT when they are operating in the BRT corridor.

      Or, as I showed you earlier, split the service at the platform so you get pre-paid service (in your case BRT rather than light rail) on one side of the platform and regular buses on the other.

    4. I’d agree. Elected officials throw out “BRT” like it is some sort of universal term. I mean, who wouldn’t like “bus rapid transit” using freeways? It’s one of those ideas that sound great, especially for people who don’t ride the bus.

      I remain baffled while everyone ignores that hub problem of the Bellevue Transit Center: ST can’t pull a bus in from 405 into it, and immediately turn it around and head back down 405! Now we see Bellevue recommending using miles of surface streets for 405 BRT rather than revisit the BTC circulation problem. For example, if the BTC was redesigned to load buses on the outside, and tore out the last few feet of the western end of the center platform so that buses could turn around (the radius appears to be there), this problem appears easily solvable — especially since Eastlink fundamentally changes the needed transit structure in Bellevue (because the high-frequency rail trunk means that not all buses on the Eastside have to go to the BTC in the first place).

      It’s one of those “we won’t dare admit we did something that doesn’t work well anymore in a changed transit design and need to solve the resulting problem inexpensively” which leads to “we will proposed a very inconvenient, expensive and ambitious way to get around the problem without acknowledging that we have a problem because of what we designed 30 years ago” situations.

      1. I think you’d have to widen the BTC if you wanted to let buses turn around there, which is probably impossible because that would require expanding the ROW. It’s only about 5 lanes wide at the moment, and I really doubt a bus can do a U-turn in that space. There might be some room towards the east to widen but not on the opposite end. Right now this is not as big an issue because I don’t believe there are many buses that return to 405 (the buses that continue onto 520 can’t use the 6th street ramp anyway).

        I’m guessing the only way to fix this would be to add bus lanes on 108th Ave and either 8th St or an alleyway. A good chunk of the block to the north of BTC is being redeveloped soon (the area where the church is) so that might be a good opportunity to do this.

      2. Isn’t the Link station going to be a block or so away from BTC?

        Maybe kill two birds with one stone here.

      3. Which buses don’t have to go to BTC when East Link does? One comes from Crossroads, one from Bellevue College, one from Factoria, one from Kirkland local, one from Clyde Hill, etc. It doesn’t seem that any of these can go to another station without lengthening the trip or dropping some coverage.

      4. The BTC appears about 75 feet wide – but the sidewalks could be adjusted to give about another 10-15 feet. It seems that 83 feet is needed to turn aa bus 180 degrees and that would be tight.

        The bigger point is that Bellevue is asking for a significant addition to bus travel times rather than a rethinking of its own transit center maneuvering.

        Of course no one will vision the obvious: a bus terminal right above the Link station – even for ST buses. It’s a key issue if a 405 BRT is to be considered and no one will talk about it. A true 405 BRT is going to have to take on this issue, and Bellevue’s solution is much sillier than rethinking BTC would be.

      5. Moving the Bellevue TC farther from DT and closer/on top of 405 is a non-starter. The Link Station is planned for such a stupid location the Kevin Wallace Vision Line would have done the same (or better) for a fraction of the cost. What is the number of people coming from the North that are headed to points south vs the number of people that will be getting off at Bellevue TC? My bet is more people will be getting on at Bellevue TC for the trip south than are looking for a one seat ride. It might be better to think of it as Bellevue Transfer Center.

      6. I think you’d really be pushing it to try turning buses around there. Occasionally? Sure, you could probably get away with it. But turning most buses there is going to lead to problems. Plus, the whole area is basically a pedestrian plaza. My view is that it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

        It would be great if you could combine the Link station and bus terminal. The city hall parking lot is currently there – you could probably reduce it in half and convert the rest to either the Link station (if it goes below ground) or a bus station (with link above it).

    5. How “open” is the 405 BRT line? The CKC BRT investment is appealing because Metro can piggyback on the infrastructure invest and run other lines to 520 or to DT Bellevue, and Kirkland is agitating for this to “count” in favor of a CKC BRT.

      Will E-02 similarly help the greater bus network? Are the direct access ramps & flyover stops going to help many other routes? I don’t know the Eastside well enough to answer that question myself.

      1. Eastside north-south transit will not be great even with 405 BRT, because few houses or businesses are near freeway stops, and many areas are too low-density (i.e., single-family only) to support frequent feeders to the stops.

        Lynnwood: good access to Link, potential businesses and apartments when Lynnwood’s downtown plan is built.
        Between Lynnwood and Bothell: I don’t know.
        Bothell: Station near UW Bothell, possibly a significant walk, downtown Bothell further.
        160th: some apartments.
        132nd-124th: big fabulous Totem Lake promised.
        116th: some apartments.
        85th: transfer to bus for downtown Kirkland or Redmond. How frequent is the bus? How long the walk to the bus stop?
        70th: long walk to Google. medium walk to Houghton plaza (smallish shopping center)
        Bellevue TC: lots of businesses and housing within walking distance. East Link., Direct access ramps promised.
        East Main: edge of downtown Bellevue. Promised multistory offices/hotels on 3 corners. 4-block hill up to Main Street businesses, “old Bellevue”, and Bellevue High School.
        South Bellevue: P&R, single-family houses, slough trail.
        Coal Creek (SE 43rd): Long walk to Factoria. Sparse houses.
        Newcastle/Kennydale (SE 60th-104th): Sparse houses. Few neighborhood roads go through to 405.
        North Renton: no stations I gather.
        Renton new TC: Cachement stations for most of Renton, but only a few businesses are within walking distance.
        Tukwila Sounder: Tukwila promises it will be within waking distance of Southcenter mall & TC, with a new urban village and pedestrian railroad bridge in between.

      2. To add onto your summary:

        Between Lynnwood and Bothell: Only Canyon Park I believe – a P&R and very spread out commercial area. Some apartments supposedly, but I’ve never found them on a map. This is the second of Bothell’s development zones I believe, after downtown

        195th St/Bothell: Connection to 522, which is frequent. UW Bothell is building up so will probably need more service

        160th St: several apartment/condo complexes (3 stories at most) right around and a bit of commercial, plus P&R. Bothell considers this another development zone and it is zoned for higher density, but I don’t think redevelopment will happen for some time. Otherwise SFHs, but a decent number within walking distance.

        128th St: Totem Lake promised, but it’s off to the side and down a steep hill (and I don’t think it will be very dense). Evergreen hospital. Mostly SFH but a bunch of apartment complexes perhaps 10 minutes walk away (on 124th St mostly)

        85th St: The bus stop there currently is right next to the 405 ramps, but it’s minor. A rebuilt interchange should have a decent stop. No service to Redmond from here I believe – most service is from Houghton or DT Kirkland. That would probably change if this was actually built out. Also you’d get frequent service to DT Kirkland. East of the interchange there’s strip malls, Costco, auto dealerships – not very walkable.

        70th St: buses to redmond right now (15 min frequency).

        Bellevue TC: Downtown Bellevue – dense area, many jobs, etc… Direct access ramps to 6th St which is 2 lights away from the TC. street level improvements should probably be made around the area, but it could be worse.

      3. 85th St: No service to Redmond from here I believe – most service is from Houghton or DT Kirkland.

        I believe the only bus from DT Kirkland to DT Redmond is the 248 and it uses NE 85th. From Houghton the only bus going east on Old Redmond Rd. is the 245 which turns South on 148th and goes to Overlake, Crossroads and Eastgate. The only viable commute to DT Redmond from the north uses 405 to 520. 85th also has the 235 which connects Bellevue TC, S. Kirkland P&R, Kirkland TC and Totem Lake. About every third 255 NB in the morning deadheads from Kirkland TC to Totem Lake TC to begin a trip back into Seattle. That should be a regular revenue route. The 255 needs to be three different route numbers because it goes to three very different places.

        Rose Hill is developing quite rapidly. The downside of that is it is already heavily congested and doing anything about it is nigh on impossible. From Kirkland TC to 405 is no problem but from 405 to 132nd takes multiple cycles of multiple lights a large portion of the day. The Totem Lake Mall property was tied up in the courts for years. It now has a single deep pocket developer in charge and they have already started booting out existing business with permits in hand to break ground on the redevelopment. What projects are actually on the books surrounding Lynnwood Link? My guess is more people will be continuing their journey from there to jobs on the eastside via 405 Express buses than walking to their home or job from the TC.

      4. Mike & Dave – very thorough responses! Thank you.

        But that wasn’t what I meant by my question – you walked through what would be served within walking distance of the BRT stops, but I was curious what others *Routes* could be served. For example, a CKC bus-line also helps buses going from Juanita to Bellevue, or from Bothell to UW over 520, etc.

      5. Between Lynnwood and Bothell: there are several large apartment buildings on the Bothell-Everett Highway as I wrote about last week. I don’t know how far away 405 is from there. You’d have to take a bus to them (Swift 2). Several of the apartment buildings and house developments are pleasingly dense (like New Holly houses and the Othello Station apartments), but the complexes are unwalkable to get between and single-use.

      6. David – Your summary isn’t quite correct with respect to 85th and 70th. 85th has thirty-minute service (the 248) between downtown Redmond and downtown Kirkland; it’s surrounded by strip-mall development. 70th has fifteen-minute service (the 245) between downtown Kirkland and Overlake; it’s surrounded by single-family houses with Northwest University maybe a fifteen-minute walk away. Between the two, maybe ten minutes from each, there’s Lake Washington High School.

      7. The half-hourly 248 runs on 85th from downtown Kirkland to downtown Redmond and beyond. Done right, a station here would be incredible for the community, even if there were no 405 BRT. The amazing thing is that has been zero talk of a P&R here, so all access would be by feeder bus, walk and bike. Safe all-ages-and abilities bike access, good sidewalks and frequent transit in bus lanes on 85th are necessary to make the station work, and none
        yet exist or are even being talked about. Along with the accompanying densification of housing and retail (huge empty parking lots mean the corridor is ripe for retrofitting), all of this would make 85th a real place for people rather than the car sewer it is now. 405 BRT not even necessary, except as catalyst for the change.

      8. AJ: I don’t have particular suggestions for other routes; other people do better at that. The existing routes don’t matter because they should be reorganized. If 85th Station is a transfer point, then Kirkland-85th-Redmond should be RapidRide.

        Then Factoria needs something, but to Bellevue TC, South Bellevue, or Coal Creek? There’s ridership demand to Bellevue TC, but the shortest ride to the BRT line may be to Coal Creek, especially for people coming from Renton and the south. Should the same route go from the BRT to Factoria and then Eastgate/Bellevue College, or should they be separate routes? If it’s the same route, should it go north into the college to shorten the walking distance? Or continue east for Issaquah service? Or south to Somerset Hill?

      9. If 85th Station is a transfer point, then Kirkland-85th-Redmond should be RapidRide.

        That would be the shortest and slowest RapidRide route ever. There is nothing and because of terrain will always be nothing from NE 132nd down into Redmond. In fact it would probably generate more ridership if the 248 jogged over on 140th to Old Redmond Rd (60 Oh 1 Village) before descending into Redmond. Same thing on the other side from 405 over the CKC down to 6th Street; the roadway is far above the property on either side.. If 405 bus improvements are part of ST3 it makes more sense to provide direct access ramps at 85th. And really it could be a “half diamond” with access to/from the north so Express buses can go directly to Kirkland and Redmond Transit Centers. There’s very little to be gained over existing routes between Kirkland TC and Bellevue TC or UW by using 405. The problem is DT Kirkland is on Lake Washington and just doesn’t have good access to anywhere; not even the CKC. Of course that’s also what makes DT Kirkland it’s own little urban oasis.

      10. Oops – yes, i forgot the 248. My definite mistake.

        @Michelle: I’m quite skeptical of your comment that a station at 85th would revolutionize that particular area. 85th is an arterial at 30-40 mph and will remain one without completely changing Kirkland traffic flow. There will still be on-ramps and off-ramps and access from DT Kirkland will still require climbing up the hill. Add in a bus lane and you’re looking at 7-8 lanes under that bridge (two GP + one bus + 0.5-1 turn in each direction). I really doubt you could make that area attractive for “safe all-ages-and abilities bike access” without substantial traffic changes (e.g., 20 mph speed limit, 1 GP lane, etc…). I wouldn’t even apply that label to the 405 crossing at 116th St, and that’s a much smaller road with ramps from only one direction.

      11. How wish someone with legitimacy would just look into elevating the 405 northbound lanes from Renton to Bellevue, putting double-deck HOT lanes (one for each direction) in the middle to add road capacity, and then putting light rail under those northbound lanes. Having the road at different elevations would even allow for easier direct access ramps and the light rail stations would be more protected from awful freeway noise. If we’re spending billions on 405, we need to pay the money to do it right for everyone.

      12. I’d like to add that reliable, fast, E-W service really needs to be added in the Kirkland/Redmond area. Mike mentioned making that corridor into a rapidride, and above that I think a bus-only lane with signal priority is needed for routes to both Redmond and Overlake.

        At the moment, there is no good way to commute from anywhere west or northwest of Redmond/Overlake to there – your options are either to get to the Kirkland TC using local routes (long if you’re not in Kirkland), use the 342 (which runs 3 times a day or so) to get to 70th and then the 245 (to Overlake at least), or take a bus to Yarrow Point and change to a 542/545 (which either requires the peak-only 311 crawling through 520 traffic or a long trip through Kirkland on the 255).

      13. If BRT goes down 405 and not CKC, there will definitely be bus service from downtown Kirkland to 85th – that’s the whole point of why Kirkland is lobbying hard for a flyover station at 85th! A Metro RR between Kirkland & Redmond downtown along 85th & Redmond Way seems very logical assuming both an 85th freeway station & the Link station in Redmond. The route would serve a number of stops in Kirkland & Redmond’s commercial cores, plus Kirkland has re-development goals for the Rose Hill area – there are enough large parking lots there for some nice brownfield TOD, no?

        For Bothell, it looks like they will put a station at the NE 195th St exit. That would link nicely with the 522 BRT that N King County is lobbying hard for … it would exit 522 just before downtown Bothell, have a stop or two in downtown, a stop serving UW Bothell, a stop interfacing with the 405 BRT (another fancy flyover station?), and then a turnaround stop or two serving the business park there, which is quite large. That’s not in the current proposal, but an extension like that seems like a slam dunk if both proposals are in ST3.

        And then there is whatever they are going to do in Tukwila, which is currently a spaghetti of proposals so I won’t comment on it now.

        That’s really about it – Factoria / Eastgate need something, but I don’t see how 405 is going to serve that area. Sounds like the N 8th direct access ramps in Renton area going away, and HOV direct access ramps from 405 to SR 167 are in the cards from WSDOT, not Sound Transit.

      14. If BRT goes down 405 and not CKC, there will definitely be bus service from downtown Kirkland to 85th – that’s the whole point of why Kirkland is lobbying hard for a flyover station at 85th! A Metro RR between Kirkland & Redmond downtown along 85th & Redmond Way seems very logical

        None of that makes any sense at all. It takes all of 3-4 minutes on the 248 or the 235 to get from Kirkland TC to 120th Ave NE. How does that justify a RR line? And the idea that you’d spend hundreds of millions on the CKC to get from 405 to DT Kirkland is shear lunacy.

        This isn’t that hard folks. The cloverleaf at NE 85th needs to be changed. It really needs to be changed regardless of whether or not transit is invited to the party. The decision is direct access ramps or flyer stop. Unlike Totem Lake you really can’t have both. Buses on 85th is an entirely separate issue. If it’s a flyer stop nothing needs to be done for DT Kirkland but increase frequency..There’s already two routes making that trip and since a single shuttle could make the loop in 10-12 minutes at peak that’s not a big ask. Redmond is more of a problem but it doesn’t matter what color you paint the bus it’s not going to get there any faster. And there’s nothing worth stopping for past 132nd except a really really bad transfer to RR B at 148th which you could get on at Redmond TC anyway.

      15. Bernie: what would be faster than 85th to get from 405 to downtown Kirkland and Redmond? If the 85th station is a substitute for a downtown Kirkland station and Redmond also needs reasonable access to the BRT (and if taking East Link to Bellevue is not sufficient for Redmond-Kirkland-or-north-trips), then switching to a regular bus that meanders on Old Redmond Road is not sufficient.

      16. Bernie: what would be faster than 85th to get from 405 to downtown Kirkland and Redmond?

        From 405 to Kirkland TC is not a problem. Waiting for a transfer pretty much kills it. RR is not viable since this is peak only demand, really, it is. So a bus coming from the north to serve DT Kirkland should just go there. 405 to Redmond TC is a slog over Rose Hill and it’s not going to get better. You could run peak only 248 routes that shuttle between a freeway stop and DT Redmond but if there’s sufficient demand then just run the Express route to Redmond TC down 85th. However, Rose Hill is already so bad that there’s little if any time savings vs continuing to 520. And since I’d venture a guess that the majority of the ridership from the North is trying to get to Microsoft continuing to do this probably make the most sense. The other option which might be faster for Redmond and requires almost zero infrastructure money is for an ST Express to exit at Totem Lake and take NE 124th east to Willows. While Willows does get congested there actually is room there to add a bus lane. And of course one of the main reasons it gets congested is the large employment base along Willows. A busway on the Woodinville spur could be built; except Paul Allen would likely block it since it runs too close to his golf course.

      17. Downtown Bothell is pretty slow when I took the 372 and 105 last week. Not traffic-jam slow, but with the narrow downtown streets not 35mph without stopping every block either. I look forward to seeing what ST and Kirkland propose for these transit bottlenecks, and I hope it’s not nothing.

  8. I question E-03 due to its cost-benefit. Amongst all of the proposed light rail extensions, the capital cost per rider is considerably higher for the Issaquah/Totem Lake line, more than double any of the Everett extensions, more than triple the Everett via I-5 option. Closer to home, it’s double what the extension of E-Link to Redmond is. It’s also projected to have triple the operating and maintenance costs of the extension to Redmond (which I support).

    There must be one heck of a constituency there pressing a line that is only estimated to serve 12,000-15,000 riders, at the low end of all of the light rail proposals. I fail to see the rationale for a one-seat ride between Issaquah and Kirkland other than the mayor of Issaquah being a high-ranking Sound Transit board member.

    It’s too bad that the South Bellevue to Renton segment wasn’t chosen for a light rail line, and preferably to extend that all of the way to the Tukwila International Station. That, which would cover the most-congested part of I-405, I could enthusiastically support, as I’d expect the ridership to be substantially more for a line of a similar distance. I’d even support Issaquah to Renton,,,or Lynnwood to Bellevue. However, ST staff reported that a previous agreement forbade putting light rail on I-405. Huh? But it’s okay for them to add a segment up to Kirkland? Something doesn’t add up here.

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