Trams running though roundabouts can be found throughout Europe. Salt Lake City implemented one in 2003. Now the Phoenix area is getting one.

26 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Light Rail Roundabout”

  1. In downtown Bellevue, at the I-405 on/off ramps at NE 4th street, there are bus zones that clearly used to be a freeway station. Does anyone know the history of this freeway station at NE 4th street and what routes served it? It would probably make sense for the 952, which doesn’t have a DT Bellevue stop, but is the only route that needs to keep to the right side of the freeway near downtown (for the Wilburton freeway station).

    1. I believe the old 280 night owl didn’t go into the Bellevue Transit Center so perhaps it used these, as well? I know it did serve the Wilburton freeway station.

      1. Actually the 280 did STOP at the Smellevue Transit Center, now the 240 ran from Southcenter ,via Renton, Newcastle and then to Smellevue Transit Center, 340 ran from Aurora Village, BTC, Renton, Southcenter and Burien every 30 minutes

    2. See that? People have been complaining Link’s Bellevue Station isn’t located in downtown Bellevue, but AlexKven just said I-405 is in downtown Bellevue.

      Now, to answer your question, the route 342 used to be called the 340. It started at the Shoreline P&R, travelled down I-405, and terminated at the Burien TC. It used to have freeway stops at NE 4th & 405 in Bellevue.

      Now, my answer may be complete bs, but if one say something confidently, it sounds true.

      1. It’s mostly true. The 340 ended at aurora village not shoreline park and ride. It was a long route. The Burien to Renton portion was replaced by the 140 (now f line and 156), and Renton to Bellevue replaces by the st 560 (now also 566).

        Burien to Bellevue was every 30 minutes and aurora village to Burien was every 60 minutes.

      2. Did I make a statement about East Link? Did I imply that no place except I-405 and NE 4th is downtown Bellevue? No, I just said that adding a NE 4th stop to the 952 would add a downtown Bellevue stop, which is factually true, and that more than zero (probably not much more than zero) people would benefit from it. I never argued that it’s a good DT Bellevue stop, but it’s not a DT Bellevue bus, and any DT Bellevue service would just be extra.

      3. If I-405 is in downtown Bellevue, then Bellevue Station is in downtown Bellevue. That’s all I’m saying.

      4. Ugh, this comment section was better without Sam being willfully obtuse all over it.

        Of course a station can be within the physical boundaries of a place and serve it in poorly. Freeway bus stations are often this way; typically they’re justified as a cheap way to provide direct and fast service along the freeway. This justification is weaker when they’re in fact expensive! And it’s weaker when being right next to the freeway isn’t necessary to be direct and fast. East Link’s downtown Bellevue stop will be better than a freeway bus station, and more popular. But for the kind of project East Link is… it should be better than a freeway bus station by a much larger margin.

        Nobody should have to write that paragraph to a frequent commenter on a transit blog, but here we are. Because it’s not Sam I’m writing for; he’s intentionally trolling and his whole schtick depends on being willfully obtuse. It’s less-informed people that might be influenced by his nonsense posts.

      5. I took it as meaning 405 is not in downtown Bellevue. Actually, opinions are divided on whether 405 is the border of downtown, or 116th is, or downtown is gradually expanding to 120th. But there’s another sense in which a freeway stop is not considered a downtown stop, because “going downtown” means getting off the freeway to a more central location. So even a freeway stop on I-5 at Pine Street or Madison Street would not be considered a “downtown stop”, any more than the portals of the 99 tunnel are considered “downtown stops” because they’re not at 3rd & Pine or thereabouts.

    3. “Now, my answer may be complete bs, but if one say something confidently, it sounds true.”

      A Trumpism at its finest. You should copyright that proverb and license it for millions of dollars.

      The fallacy in your statement is that people have not said Bellevue Transit Center is outside downtown, because it’s obviously in it with office towers and City Hall all around. The complaint is that it’s in the periphery of downtown. The center is around 108th, and if you consider the large numbers of people going to Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, the center may be even further west.

    4. In downtown Bellevue, at the I-405 on/off ramps at NE 4th street, there are bus zones that clearly used to be a freeway station. Does anyone know the history of this freeway station at NE 4th street and what routes served it?

      There are a number of these along I-405, usually a bus stop with a short exclusive transit lane at the top of the on-ramp. I believe they mostly fell into disuse when the HOV lane was moved from the right side (where it had easy access to stops on the ramps) to the left side of the freeway.

    5. The whole bus network in Bellevue still feels like too many twists and turns, and too much emphasis of coverage over frequency. The next service shakeup in the area will presumably be when East Link opens. I wonder if anybody has given it any thought? Can the monstrosity of the 249 finally be replaced with something more sensible?

      1. asdf2, great question. The larger question is, do milk run bus routes still serve a purpose? Someone write a post on that topic.

      2. I can’t find a good answer to your question.

        You can always study the Bellevue Transit Master Plan from 2014 (and Bellevue is generally proactive in transit route planning):

        then there is the King County Metro visions for 2025 and 2040:

        A quick scan suggests that Route 249 is due to be split into two routes in North Bellevue, but taken together the two lines generally look pretty similar to today. Of course, the current route goes near several future Link stations and I doubt anyone would ride it most of its length so it makes little sense to operate it as a single route in the future. Certainly, some changes will happen and a it will get discussed but I can’t find any indication as to when or how in my quick scan.

      3. I am somewhat skeptical of transit master plans in general, since it is so much cheaper and easier to write a plan that will gather dust than to actually fix anything.

        That said, assuming the Bellevue plan does ultimately end up happening it does look mostly good. There are a few quibbles with it, particularly, I don’t think a forced transfer at South Kirkland P&R to get from Kirkland to Seattle is going to be acceptable.

        They also have a plan in there to fix the circuitous bus routing around Bellevue College, but I haven’t seen any sign since the master plan was published that this will actually happen. Hopefully, the plan wasn’t just a bone to throw to the transit advocates to make us feel happy, without actually doing anything.

      4. I can’t get into Metro’s site to see which route is 249 now, but from your description it may be the one on north Bellevue Way, Northup Way, and perhaps Beaux Arts. When I rode it it was the route on Bellevue-Redmond road, and I can’t keep track of all these changes. But what Metro has been generally doing is taking the lowest-ridership segments from other routes and stringing them together into one coverage route. That has efficiency benefits. Straighten out the core corridor routes, put them on the major commercial/mixed-use streets, and let the remaining coverage routes be twisty if they’re needed at all.

        Bellevue’s Transit Master Plan is excellent and a major step forward. It coincides with Balducci’s general vision for transit on the Eastside, which is a major break from the coverage- and tradition-based goals before it. Metro more or less incorporated it in its countywide plan, and made equivalent plans in the other Easttside cities. And Bellevue is committed to its development of downtown and the Spring District, and wants better bus service to them and in the rest of the city. The issue seems to be money. Seattle voters and city government have made their own investments in Metro operations and RapidRide corridors to achieve more bus service sooner. Bellevue and the other Eastside cities appear unwilling to spend their own money on it or raise local taxes for it; they’re waiting for somebody else to pay for it or a countywide measure to go through. And there has been no urgency in getting that countywide measure on the ballot, even though 2024 is just five years away. Raising city taxes for transit is probably still too toxic in Bellevue. But I think it has the right goals; it just has little willingness to sacrifice for it. So fi things do turn out well, if the countywide measure eventually appears and passes, and if the ecconomy continues going strong so existing-tax revenue remains high, then we might get something like Metro’s TMP by 2024 or 2030 — or at least a few more RapidRide lines, which is the biggest part of the plan.

  2. WSDOT has some excellent videos of how cars are supposed to use SR 99 when the tunnel work is finished. Here are the videos, paused at points relevant to South Lake Union:

    Southbound exit towards downtown:
    Northbound exit towards South Lake Union:
    Southbound entrance from South Lake Union:
    Northbound entrance from South Lake Union:

    There are several things here that are as bad as I feared.

    1) The southbound exit from Aurora to downtown is on the left side of the highway. Holy smoke, you think WSDOT would realize how bad left side exits are. Anyway, it is really bad for buses. It means that a bus has to leave the bus lane, and then change lanes twice. You could move the bus lane, but that would mean losing some of the bus stops along the way. In general it means that you can’t have bus stops close to South Lake Union, north of Harrison. I would say the last possible stop is probably close to where the last stop is now (Prospect). Even if the city spent money improving the pedestrian access in the area (which wouldn’t be too expensive) you couldn’t add bus stops at Mercer or Roy.

    2) This also means that the Link station on Aurora should be at Harrison. The only reason there will be a Link stop on Aurora is to provide a good connection with buses like the E and the 5. It simply won’t work (without spending a bunch of money rebuilding the interchange) to put a station close to Mercer. You could put a station at Republican, but it would likely mean a two block walk at best (

    3) The plan is to focus traffic onto Harrison. If you look at the last two videos, you can see how the general plan is for people to use Harrison as a way to access SR 99 both directions. This will make it very difficult to turn Harrison into a transit throughway. One of the big benefits of the SR 99 project (the biggest from a mobility standpoint) is that a couple of the streets between Denny and Mercer will be able to cross Aurora. Since they don’t right now, it is a perfect opportunity to just “take” them for transit. But not if the plan is to have all of SR 99 traffic focused right there!

    Just to break it down here: An eastbound bus would probably be OK. The traffic is all turning left, which means that you can put the bus lane on the right side of the street, and avoid it. It means a longer light cycle, but not the end of the world. Buses heading west, on the other hand, have to deal with two sets of cars turning right. There are those that will turn right to get onto Aurora heading north, and a block later, there will be cars turning right to get into the tunnel (via 6th). A BAT lane wouldn’t work, as both are likely to get bogged down. You could eliminate the bus stops in the area, and run the bus lane to the left. That would mean that westbound, after Dexter, a regular vehicle has to use the right lane. The bus would change lanes after dropping people off close to Dexter, then go past 6th, where it would then start moving back into the right lane. The problem with that idea is that eventually you want a stop connecting to Link, which means that the Aurora Link stop is on Dexter. That isn’t bad by itself (in fact it is quite good) except that the other stop would be very close to it. None of the plans involve a stop to the east of Westlake, despite the obvious advantages from a coverage standpoint (generally speaking, usually when agencies spend billions digging tunnels in urban areas, they aim for coverage, to pick up enough people to justify the cost). That is a long of saying that unless Sound Transit suddenly comes up with a different plan, the best we can do is put the station at Aurora and Harrison, where the current plans are for a major westbound bottleneck every afternoon.

    A better alternative would be to send regular traffic to Thomas. This would mean that WSDOT’s wonderful videos would have to be updated. Harrison would be bus and local access only — no turns to the north. No turning to Aurora (to go northbound) and no turning to 6th (to then go southbound on the brand new tunnel). The outside lanes both directions would be BAT lanes, but relatively few people would turn right.

    In short, the agencies involved didn’t cooperate. Just a few minutes spent with the head of Metro (which, ultimately is the head of the county), the head of Sound Transit (who was also the head of the county) and WSDOT would have prevented this mess. Everyone dropped the ball, but ultimately, I blame the mayor. It was Murray’s job to shepherd this thing through. You might not like it, but you should at least make sure that this multi-billion dollar tunnel actually does what it is supposed to do: move people and goods in an efficient manner. Yet he failed, miserably. He was probably too busy reminiscing about teenage prostitutes to worry about how thousands upon thousands of his fellow citizens — the ones he was elected to represent — would get around in this city.

    1. The southbound exit has obviously been on the left side for about five years now, since they completed the Mercer rebuild. Did you think it was going to be rebuilt?

      All your objections are correct, but there was NEVER going to be a flyover from the right side of the roadway. Never.

      1. I wasn’t looking at it too closely until it was finished. Previous descriptions were rather vague. I thought it was going to be bad, but figured I was just being pessimistic (one of those “Wait, that can’t be it, why would they do that?”) moments. That is why I said it was as bad as I feared.

        As their never being a flyover lane, it appears you are right, but I’m upset that no one discussed this publicly. Call me crazy, but when building a freeway, I just assume that you put the entrances and exits on the right (as they are now). That particular left side exit is especially bad because it comes right after the right side entrances (at Roy, Valley, etc.). Putting aside the bus issue, this is bound to cause congestion as well as accidents (which in turn cause congestion). Folks will enter at Roy, heading towards the Aurora downtown exit, which means a lot of lane changes just as the highway deals with typical backups and slowdowns, heading into a curvy tunnel. I think there will be a lot of people pissed when this thing finally opens, and they realize what it means from a transportation standpoint. Not just transit riders, but drivers as well.

    2. The 99 project was all about car thoroughput, as the Mercer project was too. And if the number of cars on 99 near downtown continues to decrease (Erica said on Friday on KUOW that it’s below its peak), there won’t be as many cars between the HOV lane and the exit.

    3. It will be interesting to see how this affects traffic. The patterns are going to be wildly different than what we currently see.

      While flexibility for a westbound bus transfer to a link station on Harrison would have been ideal, what bus routes do you anticipate would happen here that couldn’t happen either at the Seattle Center station or Denny/Westlake? It seems to me that this transfer would primarily be for the N-S Aurora Routes.
      IMHO, the Link station ought to be placed under the currently empty lot (that used to be broad st) bound by Mercer, Roy, Dexter and 9th, and also taking the block west of that. Running the Link tunnel under Harrison also means it will have to be quite deep in order to get under the north end of the 99 tunnel – seems like a bad idea. The 99 tunnel has an inside diameter of 52′ so a link tunnel is probably at least 75′ deep to the top.

      FWIW, This design was complete and being built long before Ed Murray was Mayor, I think your anger is misdirected.

  3. I can see people who hate then for whatever reason, having head explosions. I love them. When can we get on in Denver?

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