The junction of the I-405 and SR522 Stride BRT lines will be frustratingly close to the University of Washington – Bothell (UWB) and Cascadia College joint campus, close enough for a tempting diversion but too far to actually be convenient.
Universities are good all-day transit demand generators, but too many campuses in the area were placed with only cars in mind. One of these is UWB, which lies just off an arterial and across a swamp from I-405. BRT, always constrained by where the major roadways are, can never be efficient for both through riders and those with business on campus.
SR522 buses must take a detour to provide front-door service to campus, though a half-mile walk from Beardslee Blvd isn’t insurmountable for most. For I-405 buses, the nearest interchange is almost a full mile away.
Although last-mile transfers are irritating, the two frequent lines could work together to deliver people from I-405. However, the baseline BRT plan sends only half of the SR522 buses on from UWB to Woodinville, meaning that the connection will typically involve 20 minute headways — totally unacceptable for this kind of transfer. Beyond the University trips, these two frequent lines are tantalizingly close to not actually connect.
Worse yet, WSDOT’s plan for express toll lanes here is totally independent of the transit plan, and therefore provides no way for people to exit I-405 at 195th St while buses remain in the ETL. This amplifies the tradeoff between travel times and connectivity.
ST is pondering three schemes to fix some of these problems:
- Extending all SR522 buses to the 195th Freeway stop. This adds a few hundred riders per day beyond the other options.
- Abandoning the Beardslee routing to have both bus lines approach UWB from the South. I-405 through routers would sit through a 6 minute detour.
- Divert I-405 buses deep into central Bothell to provide a four-block transfer to the frequent SR522 buses, which would provide a connection to UWB. The I-405 Line suffers a 10-minute detour, but directly serves downtown Bothell.
These are all “interim” solutions; Sound Transit staff recommend the first, with longer-term negotiations to make it work with the coming Express Toll Lanes.
Bothell’s city council had a mixed, not particularly useful reaction to these tradeoffs. UW Bothell itself believes the second option would interfere with its parking and a planned maintenance facility
When evaluating these tradeoffs, it’s useful to remember the value judgments the ST board made at I-405 Stride’s birth. There were two planning concepts with roughly similar ridership estimates. The less expensive one mostly stayed on I-405, winning riders by providing a fast option for long-haul commuters. The more expensive one deviated from the highway to serve downtowns, therefore less attractive to those commuters but also enabling all-day, spontaneous transit trips between activity centers. The board opted to put the first line on the ballot.
In light of that decision, downtown Bothell would be an odd exception to this pattern. Why serve Bothell while skipping Kirkland, Renton, and Tukwila?
Sound Transit’s recommendation is the correct one. High frequency and a good bus pathway produce a good transfer. This matters not only for UWB students and staff, but everyone seeking to travel between points on these two corridors.