I405_BRT_STB2When Sound Transit released studies of I-405 BRT in December, many observers were surprised to observe the “intensive-capital” option produced no more ridership than the minimalist “low-capital” alternative despite a gap of up to $2 billion in capital investments. While some questioned the results, it greatly complicated the case for making a large investment in I-405.

The Eastside cities asked for a hybrid between the low and intensive capital alternatives. The scope, they argued, needs to “provide sufficient access for the line to operate as an efficient BRT facility” including a dedicated transitway with inline flyer stops, an additional station south of I-90, direct access to Tukwila Sounder Station, and an inline station at NE 85th Street in Kirkland.

They may be disappointed by the less ambitious proposal in the draft plan. The capital cost is $735m. Essentially, this buys the December “low-capital” proposal, plus a flyer stop at NE 85th St, and some modifications south of Renton that didn’t appreciably impact the total cost. Ridership estimates, previously pegged at 13-18K, are reduced to just 11-13K. Total travel time end-to-end is 87 minutes, 13 minutes faster than the comparable December estimate, probably because the BRT no longer goes to downtown Renton.

Ten stations are served, of which eight are existing Regional Express stops. One of the new stations is in South Renton, where Sound Transit accepted Renton’s request to relocate the downtown transit center to a more freeway-accessible location at Rainier Avenue South and Grady Way. Renton gives up a deferred project to build HOV ramps at N 8th St. Renton will get the parking garage it sought, though the 700 proposed stalls are fewer than their suggestion of a structure that would accommodate up to 2,000 cars.

Kirkland will have a flyer stop at NE 85th St, along with bus-only lanes between I-405 and 6th St. Those lanes are less complete than the 3rd St to NE 132nd Ave lanes previously suggested, with uncertain impacts to the reliability of connecting Metro service (still unclear in any case). At $305m, the NE 85th Station is by far the most expensive element of the BRT (over 40% of the capital cost of the entire project). Absent the more obvious access to central Kirkland via rail or BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor, the NE 85th stop is the last remaining option to get close to downtown Kirkland. At the eight existing stations, investments are mostly modest, typically comprising facility upgrades such as signage, lighting, shelter, off-board fare payment, and real-time bus arrival. In Totem Lake, a 1,000 stall parking structure is proposed at Kingsgate P&R (for a net addition of 800 spots).

The BRT will run in general-purpose lanes on I-5 and on I-405 north of Brickyard, with some shoulder-running southbound in the Bothell area. After Brickyard, the BRT runs in the HOT lanes to the Renton TC. Because of the newly introduced transit center and cancelled HOV ramp at N 8th St, it is no longer proposed to use HOT lanes south of Renton. Instead, the BRT will run in general purpose lanes on I-405 and SR 518 to Tukwila International Boulevard Link Station, and continue on new BRT-only lanes along SR 518 to Burien.

Just two years ago, the corridor studies for I-405 BRT considered “phased” and “full buildout” options, priced at $900m – $1.7B. Once ambitious goals for I-405 BRT have been gradually worn down by weak ridership projections and competing priorities. Eastside leaders are unimpressed by the design compromises. Bellevue staff characterize it as “only slightly better than current Regional Express (REX) Route 535 bus service in the segment north of Kirkland” and are also concerned about limited stops between Kirkland and Renton. However, many of the investments for a higher-grade BRT would be in Snohomish County, already severely constrained by competing priorities.

Trading off access for speed and reliability, the BRT would skip several off-highway stops served by ST Express today in Renton, Bothell and Alderwood.
Prioritizing speed and reliability, the BRT would not serve several off-highway stops served by ST Express in Renton, Bothell and Alderwood.
The 2014 Corridor Study considered a "trunk-and-branch" service model.
A 2014 Corridor Study considered a “trunk-and-branch” service model.

Relative to current ST Express service, the BRT design optimizes for speed and reliability over access. The BRT will skip several of the stops off the highway that are served by ST Express routes. Plans for connecting local service by Community Transit and Metro are not yet worked out.

In the 2014 corridor study, Sound Transit considered a set of overlapping “trunk-and-branch” routes that would reach into nearby urban areas, increasing ridership by 20-25%, but at some operational cost and reliability penalty. An earlier WSDOT study in 2005 suggested a 55% ridership benefit. The ‘single-route’ model means access from places not immediately adjacent to the highway will be in the hands of local agencies, and could increase reliance on auto-access.

73 Replies to “Reduced Expectations for I-405 BRT”

  1. While the single-route model is somewhat unproductive for light rail, it is significantly more foolish for suburban BRT. One main advantage of BRT is its ability to branch off if the trunk line!

    A way that a single-route model makes more sense is if the bus vehicles have something unique about them — double articulation, bus guidance or something like that.

    1. I agree. There are only a handful of places where a significant number of people can walk to the station. The good news is that this will serve downtown Bellevue and the airport, which means a lot of people can walk to their destination. But for many, you are talking about at least a two seat ride. That may be OK, but only if this runs very frequently. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. In the document it says ten minute headways at most. That is fine for a bus without a transfer, but for a system like this, it isn’t very good. You would want to get into the four minute range to not pay a penalty.

      I wonder if the low ridership for the trunk and branch system was due in part to the fact that this only serves park and rides. I don’t see any line that goes through a neighborhood. This means that it really isn’t a very good trunk and branch system. You still have to take a bus before you take the other bus, even if you are headed to the most popular location on the line (downtown Bellevue). So one fewer transfer for someone who drives to the park and ride, but the same number for those who walk to the bus stop (or drive to a different park and ride).

      I have no problem with the major capital improvements. Those make sense to me. But the runs themselves don’t. It seems to me like you could have a series of overlapping bus routes that would accomplish the same thing. In a lot of cases a rider would come out way ahead. For example, the Community Transit 196 goes down 196th in Lynnwood (how’s that for easy to remember). After going to the transit center, it could continue on to Bellevue. From the Bellevue TC it could go to Factoria. It seems to me that something like that would be a lot more popular.

      1. I agree low ridership is because this serves park and rides. Combined you probably have at most 5000 spaces? But basically there’s two competing priorities. One the one hand, you want to provide fast service. On the other hand, if you don’t want to rely on park and rides, you either need to hit the dense areas or have a great bus network from them.

        Problem is, the dense areas are 5-10 minutes from 405. Just in northern East King, that’s DT Bothell, Woodinville, Juanita, DT Kirkland, Houghton/Google area, probably a few more. A bus that zig-zags to get to all of them will be extremely slow (that’s basically the 255). The ERC doesn’t get to most of those. Bus lanes won’t improve speeds that much.

        What if we build up 405 bus service with direct access ramps, then run frequent “local” BRT with dedicated lanes (at least during peak times) from Houghton, through DT Kirkland, up Market, through Juanita, and then to Totem Lake? If you run at 5 minute peak frequency, transfer penalties will be minimized. That provides express service to people who want to live along 405 or drive to a P&R while providing direct, reliable, local BRT Probably not easy, but maybe the only way to deal with this

      2. This is an extremely ill-conceived project. ST Is attempting to shoehorn bus service into their highway centric, capital-focused planning model, only minus the major capital investments. Areas along this corridor would be much better served by overlapping routes serving endpoints that are actual destinations rather than arbitrary points along a 10+ lane highway. It doesn’t offer any opportunities for Metro to truncate service the way that even poor rail projects do because it adds so little value.

      3. Actually, this current map shows the line going to TIBS and not the airport. That would require a transfer.

        Given that hassled, I’d think that Bellevue-to-airport trips will end up on an East Link to Central Link path, making a transfer at the ID/C Station.

      4. ST asked whether it would be better for 405 BRT to go to Sea-Tac or Burien, and more people said Burien. BRT going to the airport would be redundant with Link, while Burien doesn’t have anything more than ST Express which would be deleted with this line.

      5. Mike, that’s exactly why I made the comment that I did. ST is planning this route as if it is on rails and that there can be only one alignment. They don’t have to make anyone choose a specific single alignment with BRT.

      6. I agree, Al, that is the problem. I also agree with David that the density is five to ten minutes away from the freeway. But I wouldn’t send a bus back and forth to those neighborhoods. I would do as I suggest. One route goes along 96th in Lynnwood to Factoria (via Bellevue). Another route goes from Juanita to Renton (via Bellevue). A few dozen of those types of routes and you have a decent network. The end result is a lot fewer transfers.

        It is tricky to determine where to stop along the way. Flyover stops make sense because there is a small time penalty. But there is still a time penalty. Bellevue seems like a “must do”, but there is a bigger time penalty (someone trying to get from Juanita to Renton would object). I could see a bunch of overlapping routes from the north end, all of which stop at 85th. Half of them go on to Bellevue TC, which means that a lot of riders have to transfer, but the transfer penalty is a small one (assuming you could run the buses often enough). There is an obvious balancing act to be made — it would only make sense to do that if you could get enough runs to make such a transfer painless.

        That is really the biggest failure with this. Just about everyone has to transfer with this system, and yet the train BRT only comes by every ten minutes.

      7. Actually, with the the Bellevue Link Station being so close to the freeway, you may as well have the BRT bus just stop at the I-405 Median, where it crosses 6th St, rather than deviate into the TC It would only be a 1-block walk to hop on Link. Because of the time involved in turning the bus around, once you leave the freeway, detouring the bus into the TC is a minimum penalty of about 10 minutes, just waiting at stoplights, not including the actual loading and unloading of passengers.

      8. Good point, asdf2!

        Here we have a proposal centered on the Bellevue Transit Center in a schematic, but there is no plan or funding available to show how the bus can quickly turn back around to continue on 405. All buses must instead circle around a superblock in congested traffic in Downtown Bellevue to get back on 405.

      9. Good point on Bellevue TC, though the only issue is that there’s a somewhat steep, but short hill between 405 and the TC. Not a problem for most people, but would be annoying if you’re in a wheelchair or similar.

      10. All buses must instead circle around a superblock in congested traffic in Downtown Bellevue to get back on 405.

        All buses are quiet capable of making a U turn in the scramble area at the west end of the TC and getting back on 405 via the HOV direct access ramps. But, given DT Bellevue is 2nd to Seattle as a jobs center and transfer point I don’t see why any routes that serve the TC should be through routes. If there is demand for a Juanita to Kent route (I doubt there is) then just make it a direct route. It couldn’t possibly be more than a couple of peak trips. But given the land use pattern of the eastside there is no way a transit commute is going to be less than an hour no matter how much money you throw at it. There is an unavoidable trade off between cheap land and long commutes.

      11. Even if a route returns back in the direction that it came, it would still need to turn around, Bernie. This basic problem remains.

        As currently presented by ST, this appears as one route, though.

      12. There are no 405 buses that come into Belelvue TC and leave via 405 again. Nor is there any room for them to turn around at the TC. They might technically be able to make the U-turn, but given how many cars, pedestrians, etc… there are at the TC and on 108th Ave, making that turn would be scary to watch. Besides needing to make the U-turn, there’s no room for layovers at Bellevue TC unless a whole bay is dedicated (e.g., RR B)

        As far as I know, all ST routes that “terminate” at Bellevue TC have an additional stop afterwards where they layover. The only through routes switch from the 520 to the 405 at Bellevue, which necessitates going via 8th or 10th Ave anyway (if HOV ramps ever get added between them, I don’t what they’ll do since then they could use the 6th St ramps).

  2. There seems to be a real lack of integrating this corridor for better transfers or some key hubs. SR 520, SR 522, Factoria, Tukwila Sounder, maybe even this new South Renton garage.

    This plan is in need of more time in the oven to explore what it should be. I don’t travel 405 so I can’t add specifics but this doesn’t appear much better than the current system.

    1. Exactly, this is like the opposite of how you’d build a grid-based frequent all-day transit network. It literally bypasses most of the key destinations and connections.

    2. It’s not. I ride the 532/535 from Totem Lake a fair bit and this is basically glorified express bus service. Calling it BRT is a marketing thing to get votes. It’s basically Express bus service with better off peak service and off board fare payment and reducing the few places it exits the freeway to lower rider count stops to get better travel times.

      In Kirkland the council is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The #’s really aren’t there to justify ST spending their “limited” money on the CKC route in ST3 relative to other things, and since they worked poorly (in my view) with ST they had no alternative plan that would contribute long term to making the CKC as LRT or true BRT work right, for example local bus lanes while benefiting the city short term. So now they are going to go three ST packages without Kirkland getting anything that is truly bringing relief to commuters, not good PR.

      And they can’t win politically, they are fighting the vocal minority of anti-transit on the trail folks while being also being aware that the massive street widening and parking garages required to get any robust ridership on an I405 alignment would get even greater local resistance.

      1. When I saw this I thought “It’s the same bus we have now with a different name and a cost of 735 Million dollars”.

        Either make transit better or move the money to areas that need it.

      2. “The #’s really aren’t there to justify ST spending their “limited” money on the CKC route in ST3 relative to other things”

        Relative to what other things? Issaquah LT? There’s no more ridership there than to Kirkland, and Kirkland is even denser than Issaquah. The only reason Issaquah got it and Kirkland did not is because Issaquah has a more agreeable government and Issaquah Link would stop (basically) at the city limits with an I-5 alignment.

      3. Issaquah has a itty bitty better cost per rider # than Kirkland, my view is it also may have lower construction risk. To build on the CKC requires moving a major sewer line amongst other things. The Issaquah line’s routing currently bypasses the major risk for that project which would have been the Mercer Slough’s environmental issues. I still think they should build across there to allow direct service to downtown Seattle but oh well.

        And agreeability may not be the only reason. While I am not sure myself and I think it might just be people in Kirkland making excuses, it is the position of some that Issaquah in some part got their LRT because they have representation on the ST board.

      4. As an occasional rider of the 535, the question I have had all along is how this is not simply a 535 attached to a slightly modified 560. And along the line, unless I’m missing something, this and other articles really haven’t explained to me why it would take in the range of $700 million to convert those routes into this alleged BRT line.

        Is most of the work on the South end of the line? Is there something big that I’m missing?

  3. It is hard to get excited about this.

    And it is hard to see the utility. It seems more designed to soak-up excess East King subarea dollars than it does to provide real transit service.

  4. So East King’s travel patterns are so diffuse that the best projects ST could come up with are a mediocre 405 BRT, a mediocre Issaquah Link, and a better 522 BRT.) Meanwhile Metro has a many-corridor long-range plan that will substantially improve Eastside circulation. Perhaps ST should just make a large contribution to Metro’s long-range plan on the Eastside. The Rapid and Express routes qualify as regional transit, and the Frequent routes arguably could too. Adding a few more Express routes could compensate for the anticipated ST3 projects (but retaining 522 BRT).

    Community Transit also has a good long-range plan, and the same approach would work there too. Doing both East King and Snohomish this way would also solve two other problems: Snohomish-Eastside trips, and south Bothell/north Bothell integration.

    Of course, vetting Metro’s LRP has just started, so the draft routes shouldn’t be set in stone. The contribution should be for the LRP as it evolves.

    1. I do wonder if the best thing to do is just pay for the capital projects and leave the bus service to Metro. Maybe it is BRT, maybe it isn’t. The key thing here is that you have bus lanes and flyover ramps and other infrastructure.

      This runs on the freeway the whole time, so signal priority isn’t an issue. So the only thing that makes this “BRT” (over an express bus) is off board payment and level boarding. These are nice, but are they even a big deal for this? The amount of time spend at each stop must be minimal compared to the amount of time on the road. This would especially be true if they came up with a set of overlapping routes (as Metro would do) as opposed to a “BRT Curved Spine” (or whatever this is).

      1. Excuse the low clarity on this (screen capture from a low quality video feed). It’s a slide from a Metro presentation at Bellevue City Council this week showing how their LRP responded to Bellevue/Eastside input on ST3.

        It’s a good question how Metro came to be responsible for so many of the connections that the Eastside wanted, and how few of the lines on that map are Sound Transit. Why is Sound Transit so over-invested in Issaquah (Issaquah is more than half the capital budget of all the Eastside projects)? There is a more efficient way to serve an everywhere-to-everywhere travel market, as the Eastside cities seem to have (mostly) understood.

      2. Because different Kirkland factions put contradictory pressure on ST so it withdrew from downtown Kirkland . If it hadn’t the budget wouldn’t be so Issaquah-heavy.

      3. Also, Issaquah’s Mayor (Fred Butler) is on the ST board. I’m sure that doesn’t hurt either.

      4. I agree Mike — different Kirkland factions put contradictory pressure on ST. But shouldn’t the organization do more than ask each city “Hey, what do you want — rail, right?” and actually listen to the various proposals and pick out the most effective one? It should be obvious to everyone who knows how to read a census map (hint — the darker color have more people) that Kirkland’s BRT plans were solid (http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/08191655/CKC_Schematic.png or http://stb-wp.s3.amazonaws.com//srv/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/06222608/CKC_BRT2.png). But no. Too controversial. So Kirkland — or at least most of Kirkland — will get nothing out of ST3. Join the club I guess. Silly Kirkland.

        Organize, come up with a ridiculous idea (good thinking Issaquah) and you too can have a light rail line that costs billions, runs every twenty minutes (if you are lucky) and carries 10,000 people a day (if you are really lucky).

  5. As a resident of the Eastside I can say this plan is horrible. It doesn’t really help intra-Eastside mobility – in fact it HURTS it. With ST 535 I can get to Bothell – this so-called BRT bypasses it. With ST 560 I can get to Renton (not a parking lot in the middle of auto dealerships) or the airport, same thing. This plan eliminates those connections.

    I vote we go back to the drawing board on this one.

  6. This 405 “BRT” is one of the primary reasons I’m planning to vote against ST3. The only useful thing this plan does is increase the frequency of service. That’s nice, but the rest of the upgrades are basically a waste of money. If they wanted to make this useful, then you need to run the whole thing in express lanes (dedicated would be better, but we can get there later) with direct access ramps, do the branch version, add stations in Kirkland, and provide good connections. That means (in the northern half) at 522 and at 520.

    Build good transfer stations at both points – that dramatically expands the network by connecting people along 405 to the 520 routes and the 522 route. It means people can go directly to Seattle or Redmond. Yes East Link will take care of part of that, but 405 BRT -> East Link will take much longer to get to northern Seattle/U District than 405 BRT->520 BRT.

    ST seems to think in terms of routes, not a network. That is unfortunate.

    1. We could make the 535 and 560 more frequent, add David Lawson’s Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake express route, and build the south Renton access ramp if the transit center relocation goes through, and call it a day.

      1. Increasing frequency would be good, but I think direct access ramps would also help quite a bit since current 535 buses are extremely unreliable north of 522. And adding a transfer station at 522 would vastly expand the usefulness of 405 BRT. It means all day frequent express service to Seattle and Redmond which is not something that exists right now.

    2. ST seems to think in terms of routes, not a network. That is unfortunate.

      Well said. From start to finish, that is their problem.

      Even their routes aren’t that good. Neither the most popular (the 7, the E, the 48) nor the very popular, but obviously constrained by horrible traffic (the 44, the 8) receive the investment they deserve. Instead we put money into the CT 277 and 280 (except without the Gold Bar and Granite Falls part — maybe that is coming next).

    3. A “good transfer station” at 405 and 520 would probably cost a half billion, mostly in road rework costs. There really isn’t enough room for platforms within the envelope of either freeway, and 520 just got rebuilt.

      This is not to say it’s not a wonderful idea. It certainly is, but it will cost an arm, a leg and perhaps a head.

      1. I definitely didn’t say it would be cheap :) But my guess is that it would serve more people and allow better resource usage than Issaquah LRT. Doesn’t WSDOT want to put HOV-HOV ramps in place anyway? A complete reworking of that intersection is probably necessary at some point. It’s slow most times of the day in every direction.

        The big question will be whether it’s worth putting in a transfer station given East Link is coming. But as long as the 520 routes keep operating, I’m guessing it will still be worthwhile. That station could also be used to transfer to the ERC given how close it is (500 feet or so).

      2. The big question will be whether it’s worth putting in a transfer station [at 405/520]

        The answer is no. It would have made sense to move the S. Kirkland P&R to the WSDOT facility along long the 520 ROW but once again effective transit on the eastside was kneecapped by Taxpayer Originated Development. A true transfer from buses going east/west to north/south is virtually impossible. The best you can do is create a transfer along 405 and 520 to local routes. Bellevue TC does that to the south of the interchange. Overlake TC does that to the east. S. Kirkland should have been west and replaced at least one of the gold plated flyer stops. Houghton P&R along Old Redmond Rd is the obvious choice to the north once the direct access ramps and center HOV lanes are completed to Overlake.

      3. “The answer is no….A true transfer from buses going east/west to north/south is virtually impossible”

        Why not? Widen the bridge (both east-west and north-south) and create an Evergreen point-like station both along 405 and 520 with elevators/stairs between them. Add a tunnel from the lower station to Northup Rd/the ERC. Not cheap, but it would dramatically improve the network for people on the Eastside. 520 already has extremely frequent service – the 545 runs every 15 minutes for the whole day and the 541/542/545 combine to have service every 3-4 minutes during peak.

        Yes you can route people via S. Kirkland or Bellevue or Overlake or Yarrow Point. But those are all at least 10 minute deviations each way. There are no express Bothell/Kirkland to Redmond buses and only peak service to Seattle. Same from Bellevue to Redmond or Seattle (via 520). A transfer station there simplifies and enriches the network greatly. Because now all the local branches to 405 BRT that have been discussed will go to not only Bellevue, but with single transfer to Seattle or Redmond.

  7. This is why I have no desire for ST to do a large BRT project into West Seattle.

    1. Fair enough. So do you think they should be trusted to do a light rail project when they make (and have made) exactly the same mistakes?

  8. Yet another in a long list of examples of why, despite theoretically being capable of delivering reliability comparable to rail, in practice BRT rarely does. The temptation to cut corners to the point where the BRT becomes just another bus that gets stuck in traffic is typically too big to resist.

    1. Unfortunately I agree. In theory BRT could be used instead of light rail in most places, but buses are vulnerable in ways trains aren’t. Local politicians could try to move stops around, the state could take away the HOV lanes, and it’s a lot easier to cut bus lines than train lines.

    2. Your challenge, though, is you’re suggesting a 37-mile rail line with not much more than 10k riders due to compromised access. That would never happen. So what do you do as an alternative?

      1. How about, for starters, designing a system that will make buses run as rapidly as they can. Starting with an end to end transit-way guaranteeing nothing in their way but a headwind.

        Then present the plan, costs and all, and make any opposition explain exactly how much lost time and efficiency they’re willing to inflict. And why,

        As a breed, these ridership forecasts call to mind worried discussions about how not to nominate somebody “un-electable.” Which you need to run them for office to determine.

        I wonder what ridership projections were for I-5 and I-90? I suspect that for the Interstate system’s first designers, ridership would be guaranteed by a sergeant yelling orders to get that tank on that trailer and go get California back.

        Thereby motivating a system with much higher ridership than originally planned, though unfortunately also delivering worse damage to our cities than all those fighter-bombers with red circles on them and the pilots yelling “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

        Speaking of which, Chief of the State Police says using shoulders for transit lanes is a kamikaze mission. I should commit hara-kiri for surviving my first shake-up, but have to respect an officer with those powers of observation.


      2. A dedicated bus lane on 405 is not going to happen anytime soon. Look at how upset people were over just tolls. In any case, it’s really not needed. Yes, there can be slow downs. But the buses barely run in the ETLs north of 522 anyway and that’s where most of the delays are. And right now there are way too few buses on 405. Even at peak, there are probably 15 buses an hour max if you include the 520->405 buses (which would require a dedicated busway ramp from 520. Otherwise, maybe 7 buses an hour at most. Not enough demand to justify a dedicated lane.

    3. What are you talking about? This looks exactly like most ST light rail plans, which is why it is such a stupid idea. Ten minute headways along a series of stations next to the freeway. If that doesn’t scream ST light rail, I don’t know what does. Given a bit more money, you can bet your ass they would run rail along the exact same corridor, with even worse headways.

      This is Sound Transit. It epitomizes everything about their dysfunctional planning department. Forced transfers in the middle of nowhere for suburban riders who have absolutely no interest in midway stops. The idiotic presumption that laying rail or an infrequent BRT line along a freeway makes transit just as effective as a freeway makes automobile travel. Congratulations Renton, you “have” light rail BRT. Absolutely useless for most of your citizens, extremely expensive, not at all frequent — aren’t you happy?

    4. David, I think buses have some inbuilt problems for rapid transit. Even with right of way reserved as much as for rail rapid transit.

      Since buses can’t be coupled without complicating them so much they lose any cost advantage, required following distance for safety can stretch a four bus platoon to about a third of a mile at 60mph. They also require a heavier structure to operate on.

      A re-purposed freeway has no trouble carrying trains. But not the other way around. I do think ST3 should consider following the DSTT example of grading and curving a right of way for rail, but also paving and structuring it for buses.

      Definitely more expensive. But a remedy for what I think is ST3’s worst problem for voters: having to wait decades without the high speed transit they’re paying for. I always thought that at least the MLK section of the Central LINK trackway should have been paved for buses, since it’s already paved for plain ugliness.

      A joint-use trackway from Lander through the Beacon Hill tunnel would have been a valuable permanent weather and traffic-proof bus route between the CBD and Rainier Valley. Though extra structure would only have been worth it in a climate with a lot more snow.

      So while I think this treatment will give people more express transit faster, I’m skeptical how many sections we’ll be able to do it.

      Good “visual” for bus/rail decision: walk the Kirkland trail from Google to South Kirkland Park and Ride. Where extension south will make railroad history for figuring out. You’ll see an actual railroad. But look at horizontal measurements and think what size machines it can handle.

      Also: lesson from cities in Europe is that pedestrians are a lot more comfortable close-range with streetcars than with buses. You’ll always know how close you can stand to the side of the car.


      Mark Dublin

  9. 405 BRT is a good illustration of the Themes Jarrett Walker emphasizes over and over again on Human Transit. The destinations on the eastside don’t really follow the “Be on the Way” principle, so serving them requires either a time-sucking deviation, or splitting the line, dividing frequency into multiple parts.

    Speaking of which, he also talks at length about how seemingly fast routes that only run once an hour or twice an hour are difficult to use, which is one the biggest problems with the I-405 corridor routes today.

    That said, for all its flaws, express buses down I-405 has to happen in some form, if for no other reason than that the travel times going all the way from Bellevue to Renton or Bothell down surface streets – especially along buses with circuitous routing and stops every hundred feet is just not acceptable. Even if a transfer is required on one end, it still beats riding the 235 all the way from Bellevue to Totem Lake (or at least should, provided that any effort at all is made to coordinate schedules at transfer points). Even if it’s necessary to ride Lyft/Uber for a mile or two at one end of the trip, it’s still way cheaper than riding Lyft/Uber or renting a car for the entire trip.

    I totally agree that I-405 BRT, as proposed, is not real BRT, but just glorified ST Express bus service. In fact, I would argue that other than minor roadway improvements (e.g. peak-hour bus lanes on shoulders), simply running the existing bus routes more frequently might be the best use of new transit investment in the corridor. Although, I still think a downtown Kirkland->downtown Bellevue express bus should be given a chance, at least during peak hours.

    1. BRT is a buzzword. In this case, I can assume it does mean some level of infrastructure improvements (bus lanes, bus ramps, flyover stations, etc.). But express buses — any buses — can take advantage of the same thing.

      Since this obviously does not pass the ITDP BRT definition on many levels, I assume what differentiates this run is off board payment and level boarding. Fair enough. If this makes a lot of stops, the savings could be significant. But on runs like this, I don’t think it matters.

      Now compare it with what Kirkland wanted (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/11/16/kirklands-brt-design/). Dozens of stops on each bus line, with a network that enables multiple transfers. With the proper treatment, that could easily fit the definition of BRT.

      That, plus a combination of express buses would make a lot more sense. ST has made a living screwing up light rail design, now they want to expand into BRT. It is like Yugo making pickup trucks.

      1. Yugo/Zastava DID make pickup trucks! That’s what scares me about ST and this BRT thing! ;-)

    2. The destinations on the eastside don’t really follow the “Be on the Way” principle, so serving them requires either a time-sucking deviation, or splitting the line, dividing frequency into multiple parts.

      That’s a fact that can’t be altered even with all of ST’s pot of gold. You must come to the realization that ST capital spending will never create a frequent transit network on the eastside that allows a car free lifestyle everywhere. There are pockets where that can work; DT Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Crossroads for example. And new areas will develop; Bel-Red, Totem Lake, maybe Issaquah. But at the root of ST capital spending for the next generation the goal is to increase peak capacity along the I-405 corridor. That’s it… REALLY! 405 BRT or whatever you want to brand it is the only viable alternative to WSDOT building more lanes which is a huge waste of money and blight. It’s also the only thing that will “sell” to the suburban voting block.

      1. Then maybe ST3 should be a “Roads and Transit” referendum.

        Roads for the Eastside sub-area… hell, while we’re at it, let’s gold plate the “Mother of All Bike Trails”….

        and Transit for the other sub-areas.

  10. Using far-reliminary ridership projections to justify cutting back future quality looks like an excuse for being cheap and lazy. In other words, either determine to build something that will attract more ridership. As befits a very long-term regional transit project.

    Or just forget about this whole part of the project. And leave I-405 service just where it is now. Nobody in favor of ST3 should in any way accept this approach. It’s much too early in the game to give up and build something lame. Which also gives a bad name to ST3 itself, Crud is contagious.

    But plain bad habits do a lot more damage than either conspiracies or crud. To take a leaf from Tinkerbell, every time somebody really thinks that for ST3’s purposes Sound Transit and King County Metro are separate agencies, a lug-bolt falls off a bus-wheel and a train wheel gets a flat spot.

    When current regional transit effort began 30 years ago, I don’t think anybody ever imagined in their worst nightmare that the whole system would not be under one CEO and Board of Directors.

    Added to a list of reasons to vote no that includes huge cost and eons-long delivery, an iota of inter-agency conflict could leave the camel pinned under a spilled truckload of grooved rail when Medic One gets there.

    Remembering the damage done to the DSTT project by top-level attention diverted to “Governenance”, I don’t want any formal effort at all to either combine the two agencies or eliminate either one.

    But if ST and Metro personnel can’t at least play a united workforce under single leadership on TV, viewers who vote will be justified in ripping the cable box out of the wall.

    Mark Dublin

  11. >>Given that hassled, I’d think that Bellevue-to-airport trips will end up on an East Link to Central Link path, making a transfer at the ID/C Station.”

    If I was going from Bellevue to the airport I would just use the existing Sound Transit bus route. It would be a hell of a lot faster than LINK, and a hell of a lot faster than this new BRT line plus a transfer.

    1. Until EastLINK opens, CC, we really can’t know. But do us a favor and on two Friday rush-hours of your choice, do a stop-watch check first on the 560, and then the 550 to IDS to LINK to the Airport.

      A real pro would also watch weather forecasts. Nobody knows exactly why, but every-time our buses start getting shoved off the bridges by Mastodons, it seems to be a Friday pm rush. Fridays just used to be longer during the ice-age.

      Test results probably skewed by the fact that the only ice age animals that can climb up to intercept trains between Rainier Beach and Tukwila are giant sloths. Which are slower than LINK, but would still leave the 560 with huge hairy footprints across the snow on the roof on their way to the thorn trees of Renton.

      Looking forward to posting, especially the video with diddly cartoon music- just to show you can do that with buses as well as streetcars.


    2. I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I’ve taken the from Bellevue to the airport before and the streets of Renton are a huge time sink, plus the fact that hourly frequency (half hourly if your flight leaves on a weekday during the daytime hours) really sucks. Today’s 560 also serves freeway stations at Newport Hills and Kennydale, and, during heavy traffic, the time penalty of serving these lightly-used bus stops is more than it appears. These stops essentially force the 560 to slog it out in the general-purpose lanes most of the way between Bellevue and Renton, while the 566, which skips these stops, gets to use the HOV lane on the left.

      For better or worse, the proposed new route, even exiting the freeway and looping through South Renton P&R, would still spend considerably less time on the streets of Renton than today’s 560. All in all, I think, even with the Link connection, a trip from Bellevue to the airport would still be faster than today. And, of course, the frequency upgrade would help immensely.

      The tradeoff, of course, is that for somebody who lives in the landing and wants to go to Bellevue, or someone who lives in Bellevue and wants to go to Fry’s, the trip would actually get a whole lot worse – slogging it out all the way on the 240 would take an hour, and taking the BRT to South Renton and backtracking on the F-line would be at least 45 minutes, including the transfer penalty. A faster version of the 240 that stayed on Coal Creek Parkway and didn’t zig-zag so much would help in this regard immensely.

      1. From 2017 until the I90 bridge gets HOV lanes at all times, my guess is that a 520 route would be the most reliable way to get to the airport from Bellevue/Redmond). You’ll have HOV3+ lanes over the bridge, frequent service, and once you get to Link. I think Google claimed an extra 10 minutes for the trip vs 550 + Link from Bellevue TC, but probably more reliable than 560 or 550 and much more frequent than 560.

  12. $305 million for a single stop at NE 85th/I-405 that serves nothing but a giant cloverleaf?!?!?

    1. theoretically Kirkland would get a shuttle from Kirkland TC to the cloverleaf with frequency matching that of 405 BRT, though it’s technically not funded yet. The project does include bus lanes on 85th St though.

      1. There’s nothing specific in the Metro LRP about connecting service from downtown Kirkland to the I-405 BRT, but there is a Kirkland-Redmond Metro 248 which goes under the overpass. Low-frequency today, but the LRP has it upgraded to RapidRide by 2040.

        Then again, there’s also a direct RapidRide from downtown Kirkland to Bellevue coming online by 2025 per the LRP. The I-405 stop will look good to a rider starting from Rose Hill. For downtown Kirkland, it’s not clear the faster highway speeds would overcome the advantages of taking the direct route once the transfer penalty is factored in. My rough calculation last year had it close to a tie.

      2. This is what the ST Board wrote to Kirkland re connecting service last month:

        “we are also focused on opportunities to create strong connections for Kirkland residents to the new BRT stations on 1-405, and to move passengers east and west between Totem Lake, downtown Kirkland and downtown Redmond. This will involve joint discussions with King County Metro about creating service that is the right scale, frequency and reliability for the needs of Kirkland residents, workers and businesses.”

        I think that means TBD?

      3. theoretically Kirkland would get a shuttle from Kirkland TC to the cloverleaf

        I’m more convinced than ever that a flyer stop at NE 85th is a terrible idea and what needs to be done instead is an entire rebuild that replaces the cloverleaf with a single point interchange and direct HOV access. 405/85th is not a transfer point. It doesn’t have multiple frequent routes and it’s not even a P&R or reasonable location for one. Direct access ramps are the only way to reasonably serve DT Kirkland which is a destination and important eastside transfer node.

        The Rose Hill/Redmond side is more problematic. Old Redmond Rd. is a better transit corridor which to me says put the flyer stop there; that is one that doesn’t require buses to exit the HOV lanes. When the 405 to 520 direct HOV access is completed this will be crucial.

  13. Perhaps I’m asking about something that’s already been answered but why is BRT even on the table? There’s already a rail corridor. Density is not heavy between Renton and Bellevue but the amount of people who travel that route is substantial. There’s a 566 every 10 minutes it seems during rush hour.

    1. That was decided back in 1999-2001 with the I-405 Corridor Program study by WSDOT.

      Back then, the City of Renton and the Kennydale Neighorhood Association made sure any analysis of the Eastside Rail Corridor was not included in the Cost/Benefit analysis.

      The reason is simple, the trail neighbors don’t want anything mechanized in the ERC.

      1. That was quite some time ago. I’m sure the people there didn’t change much but I think Kennydale was unincorporated back then. Maybe the fact that it’s part of Renton now could be a leverage point. I agree with many that the current draft plan is not BRT.

      2. The more fundamental problem may just be ridership. The December I-405 study had just 1,500 riders between Renton and Bellevue. It may be less now as end-to-end ridership numbers are lower. In that environment, engineering and neighbor challenges become just one more excuse to politely walk away. If the HOT lanes weren’t happening anyway, would they get anything at all?

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