RapidRide B (image: Kris Leisten)

King County Metro has begun preliminary design for RapidRide K connecting Totem Lake, Kirkland, Bellevue and Eastgate. Some details emerged in a pair of recent briefings in Kirkland and Bellevue.

RapidRide K routing in Bellevue and Kirkland (image: KC Metro)

The line is anticipated to open in 2025. As mapped in Metro Connects, the long range plan for expanding Metro service, the K Line would replace portions of route 255 from Totem Lake to the South Kirkland Park & Ride, current routes 234 and 235 between South Kirkland and the Bellevue Transit Center, and Route 271 between Bellevue Transit Center and Eastgate.

Planning for RapidRide K has funded by a WSDOT Regional Mobility Grant, and just over half the planned $90 million budget for capital improvements is covered by Metro local funds. The $43 million balance is expected from an FTA Small Starts grant. Metro intends to seek other grant funds and partnership opportunities for capital improvements that could support a more robust service. At the Bellevue Council meeting this week, Metro staff made clear that they will be looking for the cities to bring something to the table, and is not necessarily depending on the uncertain FTA process.

Suburban cities have mostly not provided supporting investments for RapidRide to the extensive degree seen in Seattle. However, Bellevue did contribute significantly to the RapidRide B implementation in 2009. An interlocal agreement committed Bellevue to implement transit signal priority and capital improvements with Metro promising 10,000 additional service hours in Bellevue.

A shorter pathway to the west of Bellevue College makes for much faster travel than the circuitous route to the east (image: KC Metro)

Two route decisions appear in play in Bellevue. One is in downtown, where the route will operate through the transit center and Metro will be looking for the most efficient path.

The other is near Bellevue College area where Metro could greatly speed buses with a more direct route through campus. Today, buses make a slow and very circuitous path through the College. Metro, City of Bellevue and Bellevue College are working on a three party agreement to begin design on a roadway running about one mile along the west edge of campus between SE 24th St and the Eastgate Park & Ride. Each is contributing $100,000 to studying this option though construction remains unfunded. The study will include a land survey and preliminary design and engineering to establish estimated costs for the project so it can be readied for grant applications.

Planning in Kirkland is complicated by the interplay of the future RapidRide and Metro 255. To avoid duplication, the 255 and RapidRide will not follow the same pathway. Awkwardly, Metro 255 has many more riders than the routes being replaced by RapidRide, perhaps making the prospect of RapidRide service unwelcome to riders who prefer their direct Seattle service over better service to Bellevue. With this in mind, there are two major alignment decisions within Kirkland.

Between South Kirkland and Downtown, the options are to serve the current 255 pathway on 108th Ave and 6th St, or to serve the 234/235 pathway along Lake Washington Blvd to Lakeview Blvd and State St. The 108th pathway serves more destinations, but the Lake Washington path is a little faster. The city appears to favor having RapidRide on 108th and shifting 255 to Lake Washington Blvd.

North of downtown, the long range plan indicated RapidRide would serve Market St to NE 124th St. Metro 255 would be truncated so it only operates between downtown Kirkland and UW station. Acknowledging that wouldn’t be well-received, the city favors an alternative RapidRide alignment following Central Way to NE 85th St to 124th Ave NE, and Metro 255 remaining unchanged on Market St.

(Metro briefly considered a third alternative with a Redmond terminus similar to the recently approved Metro 250 route. It was dropped from consideration earlier this summer before serious planning commenced).

Having 255 and RapidRide both serve Totem Lake would consume service hours not anticipated in Metro Connects even if they are on distinct pathways. This complicates the math of finding hours for RapidRide service.

Initial analysis found similar ridership and equity and social justice performance across the Kirkland options for RapidRide. Travel time and an analysis of destinations and activity centers narrowly favor the 108th Ave path south of downtown and the 124th Ave path north of downtown. In each pair of options, most destinations are at the points where they overlap, so the differences in analysis are not so large.

At Monday’s Bellevue Council meeting, Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak praised the initiative as an opportunity to implement the ‘abundant access’ principles of the Bellevue transit master plan. He also delivered some timely warnings. The Bellevue transit center will be unable to handle every single bus as transit to downtown becomes more frequent, making it more important that transit be prioritized on other nearby streets. Chelminiak also warned about the effect of congestion in Kirkland on RapidRide performance. Many streets there are severely congested, particularly in the evening rush hour. “Working with the City of Kirkland will be really important and perhaps a difficult discussion to have with Kirkland”.

Metro is targeting a preferred alignment by late 2020 so the alignment ordinance can be transmitted to the County Council in January 2021. An FTA Small Starts grant application could then follow in August 2021.

33 Replies to “Planning RapidRide K in Bellevue & Kirkland”

  1. I think there is a good argument for making the new 255 into a RapidRide line, even though it would be quite an unconventional one. Speed and reliability improvements would pair well with truncation and forced transfers at UW Station. It would also mean people on the 255 in Kirkland wouldn’t have to choose between RapidRide improvements and a 1 or 2 seat ride into Seattle (which would become 2 or 3 seats, depending on whether they are going to downtown or UW).

    “The Bellevue transit center will be unable to handle every single bus as transit to downtown becomes more frequent, making it more important that transit be prioritized on other nearby streets.”

    ^^^^ This is a very important point, that often gets overlooked. It’s actually over-capacity right now in peak. It’s fairly common to see a bus that is on time have to wait 7 minutes because its bay is occupied by two other buses, making it 7 minutes late (plus boarding time). The 566 and 567 southbound probably most of the blocking, due to the fact that they have a lot of buffer time (Which is totally necessary due to the traffic variance on 520. On good days, the next 566 gets to BTC before the previous one left. On bad days, they get to BTC 5+ minutes behind schedule).

    I hope that the I-405 Stride lines do not go inside the transit center, but have their stations on 110th Ave NE, right in between Bellevue Downtown Station and the transit center, so that it’s half a block walk to both. This splits the walk between bus-bus transfers and bus-train transfers, and makes both transfers a short enough walk to still be convenient. It also adds 0 buses to the crowded BTC (and is actually negative when you factor buses in BTC that are replaced by Stride).

    1. Converting 255 into a RapidRide doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. My one question is how does it’s schedule fit into South Kirkland P&R which is at capacity. I am assuming that RapidRide would lead to a slightly boost in capacity.

      My other question is how to deal with the traffic and slowdown on 520 now that it has been narrowed to two lanes as you get near the Montlake exit. Not only are there two lane changes necessary, one of these days someone is going to crash into the wall (since the lanes are so narrow). What happens then to the RapidRide (and all the other buses, for that matter), as that will effectively close westbound 520?

      1. Those are tricky scenarios, which will have to be dealt with regardless of whether the 255 is RR or not. The silver lining is that this problem is only most dire in the westbound direction, when the bus is almost to its final destination. If it were in the other direction, then all the unreliability would be in the beginning of the route, and it would screw the reliability of the whole line in the NE-bound direction (see the 8, particularly before the U-Link restructure). Were this the case, it would make no sense to turn the 255 to RR.

        So there will need to be a lot of buffer time at UW, but it would be feasible to have the 255 be a RR line that, within Kirkland, is not much different than existing RR lines from a reliability perspective. So you might think of this as a local-ish RapidRide line, that has an express tail to UW that is unreliable but is the best it can do. Sounds great actually. And it will be even better once the Montlake lid is done (and probably will be anyway once the 255 RapidRide begins if it does).

      2. With Lane Washington Blvd., South Kirkland P&R looks like an especially long detour. I’ll be I could get off the Westbound the bus just before the left turn, jog to yarrow point freeway station, and still have time to catch the same bus I was on originally.

        If the p&r is at capacity, maybe it’s worth having at least a few of the peak hour runs try skipping it. If doing so encourages people to get on the bus further back, rather than drive to the park and ride, all the better.

      3. @asdf2 — The 234/235 do that now, and I agree, it is a flaw. I would still send them send them on NE 38th Place, but not go the park and ride. So basically this: https://goo.gl/maps/smkUGRmzDwYW3nV87, instead of this: https://goo.gl/maps/uqhsxDHgf91Q25qL8.

        As far as the capacity of the park and ride, I think it is largely irrelevant, other than to say that it is worth the detour. It would be crazy to spend money making it bigger; there are much better ways to spend transit money (build smaller park and rides, improve service, etc.).

        As far as 520 to UW goes, that should be much better once the 520 work is done. At that point a bus will be able to get from 520 to the Montlake bridge in its own lane.

      4. That sounds like a reasonable compromise. Not as fast as just getting on the freeway at Bellevue Way, but definitely an improvement.

        One problem with having some trips completely skip the p&r is that it forces uneven headways either at the p&r, or at KTC. Your proposal avoids that.

      5. “If the p&r is at capacity, maybe it’s worth having at least a few of the peak hour runs try skipping it. If doing so encourages people to get on the bus further back, rather than drive to the park and ride, all the better.”

        The street I live on is routinely filled with cars of people who drive to catch a 255 and get on before the Park and Ride (and to get a seat). Half of the time both sides of the street are full and turning onto 108th can be dangerous since you can’t what’s coming at you. If anything, maybe find a way to utilize the Everest Field parking lots as a mini park and ride. Amazon used to use them for their busses, and since the fields are mainly used on the weekends, this seems like a way to mitigate crowding at SK P&R.

    2. The Bellevue Transit Center situation will eventually need to be addressed and the facility concept itself may have to be redesigned.

      1. Having no turn-around for buses creates extra travel for both STRide lines and keeps them from operating as one route.

      2. The location across 110th means every person transferring to and from Link has to cross the street. That’s going to add delay for lots of pedestrians and lots of riders on a bus.

      3. Once Link opens, the area will get lots more drop-offs and pick-ups.

      4. Once Link opens and development happens around the five mixed-use stations in Central Bellevue (which includes the Spring District), the need for everything to come into the BTC will diminish as the destinations become strewn further.

      BTC is wholly appropriate for a low-frequency, suburban situation. Downtown Bellevue has now spread and densified to a point where a “transit mall” corridor (north-south?) would seem to be more useful, especially with several Link stations there. The high-frequency of Link makes connecting at any station a more reasonable option.

      For example, if the intersecting Link station for this project was South Bellevue and Bellevue Way was high-frequency transit, this line could be more productive. Similarly, intersecting Link at South Main and using Bellevue Way north of Main to reach Kirkland could be a great way to serve western parts of Downtown Bellevue.

      As to what remains at the BTC, I think it’s greatest asset is the access to 405 — so prioritizing routes that use 405 to use the BTC seems to hold the greatest value.

      Perhaps the 2014 Transit Master Plan needs to be revisited. 2014 is prior to ST3 projects Stride and Kirkland-Issaquah Link.

      1. “BTC is wholly appropriate for a low-frequency, suburban situation. Downtown Bellevue has now spread and densified to a point where a “transit mall” corridor (north-south?) would seem to be more useful, especially with several Link stations there.”

        Interesting idea. Before this article I didn’t realize Bellevue TC was in danger of reaching capacity. Although the lines of fifty people boarding the 535 and 550 are impressive. Especially for a suburb. You don’t see that many people boarding a bus simultaneously even in Seattle for the most part.

        Where would the transit mall be? 108th? How would that affect north-south and east-west routes? I’d need to know where the routes would enter and exit it and where the stops would be to determine whether it would be adequate. But it would be nice to see Bellevue “growing up” and getting something similar to Third Avenue or Portland’s or Vancouver’s transit malls.

    3. Everyone is going to hate what I’m going to say but King County Metro just needs to redesign possibly enlarge the Bellevue Transit Center

  2. As someone who lives off of 108th, having Rapid Ride replace the 255 removes one seat access to UW and two seat access to Seattle (after the March restructure). Personally, I would rather have this on the 255 then be forced to transfer on the eastside onto Link.

    That said, I would also appreciate easier access to the Bellevue, especially considering 225 will run along Lake Washington, not 108th. Although I think this is a lower priority then access to Seattle and UW.

  3. From Eastgate to BTC the K Line duplicates the 271? And can the BTC accommodate more 60 footers during peak periods? Too many logjams as it is.

    1. It could be part of a broader restructure where the 271 is truncated to Bellevue TC and gets a frequency boost, while the Issaquah tail is loves to a separate route that has a route 246-style level of service.

      There is no need for a one seat ride between the u district and Bellevue college, when the two seat ride option of Link to 554 is faster.

    2. Metro’s 2025 plan has:
      – Bellevue TC -BC: The K as specified.
      – UW-Bellevue TC: a Local route.
      – BC-Issaquah: a Local route.
      – Express routes on: Redmond-Sammammish-Issaquah-Mercer Island, North Bend-Mercer Island. (These should combine for 15-minute service Issaquah-Mercer Island if the maximum express options are implemented. I’m assuming both will stop at BC.)

      Metro’s 2040 plan seems to upgrade the BC-Issaquah Local to Frequent and leave the UW-Bellevue TC Local as is, although it’s hard to tell with so many map lines and sometimes the clicks not working.

    1. And for something where “rapid” still means at least a half hour between Totem Lake and downtown Kirkland.

      1. Not clear in the deck, or in the meeting discussion. But that seems to be total time over some longer trip (TL-Bellevue?) if that particular segment chosen in north Kirkland.

        Not possible that it would actually take 32 minutes from TL to downtown Kirkland in any scenario. The 235 takes about half that right now.

  4. This is all a bit confusing to me because you have the current routes, and then the routes that have been approved and will be adopted very soon. Here is a map of the future routes: https://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/transportation/metro/programs-projects/north-eastside-mobility/map-proposed-north-eastside-restructure.pdf. It doesn’t have timings on it. Here is a document for that: https://www.kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/transportation/metro/programs-projects/north-eastside-mobility/map-key-benefits-by-corridor.pdf. Even though it is a bit confusing, I’ll use those bus routes for my ideas on this.

    Between Bellevue and South Kirkland, this replaces the 250. I would continue that until Kirkland Transit Center (KTC). That means the RapidRide would go via Lakeview Drive to KTC. The 250 would be truncated at KTC as well (and just go between Redmond and KTC).

    At that point, I would be temped to just end the RapidRide, since no one wants to touch the 255. But there is value in service Totem Lake. I wouldn’t overlap service, but go with 124th, even if it means running a relatively inferior route.

    There would be significant truncations. The 250 gets truncated in Kirkland. The 239 gets truncated in Totem Lake (it would run between Bothell and Totem Lake). That could set off a series of changes. The 250 could turn north at KTC, and then replace the 230. Except instead of going past UW Bothell, it would end there, like the 239. The 239, meanwhile, takes over this northern section. That means the 230 would be gone. The bus routes are reasonably long, and no more looping than the plan that will be adopted in 2020.

    This is more expensive than replacing (parts of) the 255, but mainly because the 255 runs more often than 250 and 239. If we can’t afford to send the RapidRide to Totem Lake — and want to preserve 255 service to Juanita and Totem Lake — then ending the RapidRide in Kirkland is a reasonable thing to do. Eventually you will have a station at 85th. Hopefully, you will have an all day express bus serving the stations on 405 and 522 and ending at the UW. At that point, someone on the 255 corridor between Totem Lake and KTC may be better off ignoring the 255, but instead take a bus to either the Totem Lake or 85th freeway station. That might mean more transfers, but a lot faster trip. At that point, you would have few through riders on the 255 (e. g. folks going from Juanita to the UW) and you could have the RapidRide take over that section.

  5. Why is fixing the buses through Bellevue College unfunded, when it would pay for itself via service hours saved, in only a few years?

    1. Because it’s a roadway, and building roadways is funded differently than transit service.

      We would want the service hours saved to be re-invested in bus service.

  6. I’m glad to see that Downtown Bellevue routing isn’t yet fixed. I could see using Main and 10th or 12th be better to get across 405 because freeway traffic isn’t being managed like at 4th and 8th (long waits at signals).

    1. +1. I support 10th St, like the current 234/235, since that gives you both a stop at the hospital and a stop near the downtown library.

    2. At Bellevue Transit Center, perhaps the K line can be made to go straight north/south on 110th, and stop on 110th, rather than going into the current bus bays. Straightens the route, and helps mitigate a capacity crunch and the regular bus bays.

  7. Does anybody remember “The Cross Kirkland Connector?” Right now it’s part of a hiking-and-biking coverted railroad track that could theoretically connect Bellevue Transit Center and Totem Lake.

    Would recommend a walk, or bike ride, along that trail while the pretty fall weather lasts. I don’t think militant homeowners have anything to worry about anymore. Serious line-haul probably could never be made to fit.

    But if somebody wanted to donate a museum streetcar line integrated into the existing trail, might be something that a lot of visitors would fly into Sea-Tac and take LINK to Kirkland for a ride on. Go check it out and see what you think.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Thanks, Mike. Last I looked a year or two back, looked like a rail spur past some warehouses. My little hike-and-bike assist would have to end where trail comes by South Kirkland park and ride.

        Think my plan was to have a reserved-lane trolleybus down Bellevue Way to Bellevue Transit Center. Sorry. Not my grandfather’s Cross Kirkland Connector anymore. Because it’s not Grand-dad’s Cross Kirkland.

        Curious what others think: with the onset of battery buses, are we going to hang bus trolleywire anyplace with a shallower grade than James Street between Third and Ninth?

        Mark Dublin

  8. Does anyone think that this is a long route, North Kirkland to SE Bellevue? I have a feeling it will be prone to extensive delays. I’m surprised the route isn’t Totem Lake-BTC only, though I still believe there should be frequent service between BTC and the college.

    1. It worries me less than a Lynnwood-Burien Stride, which Al S suggested above. We can’t trust WSDOT to keep the HOT/HOV lanes moving at 35 mph minimum, and a slowdown in either half would cause exponential delays the longer the line is.

      1. Mike, something you might have noticed that’s giving me lot of cause for concern: not just the number of region-strangling accidents every day, but involving how many drivers who are professional truckers.

        Might have mentioned this before, but drawing on my own time behind a very large steering wheel, I think that a lot of rules and laws about time on duty have got to be tightened ’til they squeak louder.

        Incidentally, this is the kind of subject I’m going to ask for first-hand opinions and information about. Because I think the relay of this information from intensively first-hand sources is one of the major benefits Seattle Transit Blog can give our region.

        Mark Dublin

      2. By a strange coincidence I’ve been watching some YouTube videos of Americans in Germany and Germans in the US, mostly Kelly Does Her Thing and a few Deana and Phil. The latter has an episode on A German’s impression of the US. At 1:48 he says German trucks are limited to 60 mph and stay in the right lane, while in the US they drive “just like cars” and all over the place and overtaking cars on both sides. That dovetails with your impression.

  9. Reading this is painful. As in it’s painfully obvious the politicians “planning” this have never relied on public transportation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are going into “planning” routes that will never exist.

  10. Oh so ST is like… Oh we are going to lose money so we might cut RapidLine in South King.. Ok now let’s make one in already light rail heavy Bellevue. Stupid politics based organization.

    1. East King and South King are separate Metro subareas. Metro is currently planning RapidRide I on Renton-Kent-Auburn (see “Preferred Concept” links). Its official website says it’s scheduled to open in 2023. I haven’t heard anything about not meeting that, or about downgrading the existing F. Metro’s long-range plan has two more RapidRides in south King County, on Kent-Des Moines Road and S 320th Street. Metro is currently flush due the booming economy and has been adding incremental service the past couple years, so it must have enough saved up for the I. Additional regular buses are being held up by the lack of space in the existing bus bases, but that will also be alleviated in the 2020s.

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