Bellevue Transit Center, with routes to be replaced by more service on Stride in blue, and routes to be modified (and likely reduced) for Stride in green

As part of ST3, Sound Transit is planning to run three BRT lines (branded as Stride), two of which will run predominantly on I-405. These are going to be line S1, running from Burien to Bellevue, and line S2, running Lynnwood to Bellevue. Both lines are going to meet at Bellevue Transit Center, where transfers can be made from one Stride line to the other, or to Link or other bus service. Details are vague; Sound Transit has only said that the Stride S1 and S2 lines will serve the existing transit center, but has not said which bus bays Stride will serve. Sound Transit has also not said where buses will layover after arriving in Bellevue, and whether there will be additional BRT stops at the layover points.

Currently, ST Express routes 560 and 535 (which will be replaced by Stride when it opens) stop at Bellevue Transit Center immediately after exiting the freeway. But both routes continue beyond the transit center to their respective layover locations, and in both cases, there is a bus stop there (the 535 also serves multiple bus stops near Bellevue Square on the way to its layover stop). When Stride opens, both routes (which run every 30 minutes at best) will be replaced with much more service, with headways at 10 minutes during peak and 15 minutes off-peak. This fact is significant because it will further squeeze the peak capacity of Bellevue Transit center.

Buses moving westbound within Bellevue TC typically move reasonably smoothly. However, eastbound traffic has a tendency to get jammed. In my experience, aside from the magnitude of outbound peak service, this mostly caused by routes 566 and 567. Pre-COVID at least, route 566 operated with 10-20 minutes between buses, and route 567 operated with around 20 minutes between buses (to line up with Sounder service in Kent). In the afternoon, both routes hit a major choke point at the westbound SR 520 to southbound I-405 ramp. Traffic here gets so bad that travel times in the afternoon from Overlake TC to Bellevue TC are scheduled to be as much as 25 minutes, a large buffer to ensure reliability for service departing Bellevue. However, actual travel times are very volatile. It was fairly common both to see buses arriving in Bellevue 10 minutes late, as well as 10 minutes (or more) early. This means that every so often, you would see a 566, a second 566, and a 567 all arriving at bay 6, and the one in front waiting until its scheduled departure. Since the bay cannot hold all three, every bus behind it (which includes 3 routes with 10+ minute frequent service, among others) are all stuck waiting for the bus in front. This frustrating situation has the potential to get even worse when Stride comes in with a net increase in bus service.

Originally anticipated ST Express service after Stride

Furthermore, per a draft SIP Sound Transit released in 2018, the agency plans on continuing to operate routes 532, 566, and 567 (the first two being modified to serve stops that would be left behind by converting routes 535 and 560 over to Stride) during peak, despite this service being significantly redundant with Stride. This was before Sound Transit starting evolving its options for Woodinville, which include another bus to Bellevue during peak. This means that afternoon capacity issues at Bellevue TC are likely to be worsened by Stride if bus bay assignments are not carefully considered.

The most significant change would be to move the B-Line over to the other side (reversing the direction of the loop through Bellevue TC), which would move the layover from the eastbound platform to the westbound platform. This would help matters because eastbound bus bays could be spaced further apart. But at the same time, westbound capacity would be squeezed, as there would be more bus service and bus bays would have to be spaced closer together to accommodate layover space for the B-Line. Route 250, along with its own layover, might have to be bumped over to the eastbound side, which would undo some (but not all, due the smaller coaches used on the 250) of the capacity gains of moving the B.

A better way might be to solve this problem might be to move the Stride station outside of the main transit center itself, and into new bus bays on 110th Ave NE, in between the existing transit center and Link Light Rail’s Bellevue Downtown Station:

Alternate station concept in Bellevue, moving the stops to 110th Ave NE adjacent to the transit center and Link

Doing this would free up a ton of capacity inside the Bellevue Transit Center, while maintaining a good overall rider experience. While a bit less convenient for bus transfers, this arrangement would be more convenient for Link transfers, as riders would not have to cross the street when switching from Link to Stride, and the reverse crossing would still require minimal walking to reach the train. The drawback with this approach is that it reduces the flexibility in placing the layover space. This would work reasonably well if Sound Transit has Stride buses layover at the current 560 layover area by Safeway, but using the current 535 layover space by the mall would not work very well with these station locations.

Hybrid concept moving only the outbound station, and with possible layover space in front of City Hall

Another possible configuration is to combine the presumed placement of stations inside the transit center with the 110th Ave NE concept, by placing the inbound station at Bellevue Transit Center (most likely at bay 7 or bay 8, and possibly both depending on the line), and the outbound station on 110th Ave NE, at the front door of Bellevue Downtown Station. This, in many ways, is the best of both worlds. Keeping the inbound station inside Bellevue TC is less of a stretch in terms of capacity than the outbound station. Passengers don’t need to queue for inbound buses (unless there is a layover stop, which would likely see little usage), and inbound buses don’t need to wait before departing, so they will be in and out. The outbound stop would get its own space on 110th Ave to load passengers, where it will not disrupt other Bellevue TC service, and passengers will have plenty of open space in front of the Link station to wait for the bus.

Additionally, this opens up the possibility of having layover space on 110th Ave NE in front of City Hall. Should this be done, then this will allow buses to take the shortest possible loop to get to the start of the next trip, with the layover on the way. Though that space on its own would be unlikely to be sufficient for peak Stride service, it could still augment rather than replace ST’s planned (or TBD) layover capacity. Operators running late could head straight to the City Hall space, while those with time to spare could go to the main layover space. For off-peak service (which will operate every 15 minutes), the space in front of city hall could be sufficient. With traversal of downtown Bellevue streets being slow, having a small loop like this could save enough time to be able to operate with fewer coaches in service at all (or almost all) times, which would be huge.

This concept is not without its challenges. City leaders might not be so happy about having buses waiting in front of City Hall, after Sound Transit tore up their park for Link. 110th Ave NE would also have to be reconfigured to move general traffic away from the curb (which would probably involve reducing southbound traffic to two lanes, and adding a second right turn lane onto eastbound 6th St.). But larger infrastructure changes are not unprecedented at all for Stride, and such a small, cheap change would benefit both lines at the place that will see the most ridership, so it’s reasonable to hope Sound Transit would at least consider it.

56 Replies to “How will Stride BRT serve Bellevue Transit Center?”

  1. I can see running the 567 from Kent to Bellevue (since avoiding the time sink of Renton saves a lot of time), but continuing the route onto Microsoft is a waste of money. It’s 100% redundant with Link and makes southbound trips unreliable due to unpredictable traffic at the 405/520 interchange.

    The only way a bus from Kent to Microsoft actually saves riders time over a Link transfer is if the bus stays on the freeway, skipping Bellevue Transit Center completely. It does not make sense for Sound Transit to do this, although if there’s demand, Microsoft is free, of course, to run its own private shuttle that does.

    1. I agree completely. I think the 566 should run to S. Bellevue Station and end there. That way, passengers from Auburn, Kent, Renton, and the existing freeway stations (which Stride skips over) have an easy transfer to get to both Bellevue and Overlake on Link. If peak service to Overlake could be traded for all-day service to S. Bellevue, even better.

      The 567 is special because it’s a Sounder connector. Having a one-seat connection from Bellevue to Sounder is desirable and worth significant redundancy. It won’t be frequent either as Sounder isn’t frequent, but will get plenty of ridership (before COVID, morning 567 runs often left Kent full, leaving people to wait for the next one). The I-405 express toll lanes will make the 567 much faster and more reliable as well. It should definitely only run to Bellevue and not Overlake though. Link is always more reliable from BTC to Overlake than a bus, and Overlake gets relatively few riders. The 567 could also add a stop at the NE 44th Stride station since that stop will have direct ETL access, making it almost free to serve.

      1. I wouldn’t send either bus to South Bellevue. It is just about as fast to get to downtown Bellevue, and few will be using that as a way to get to downtown Seattle. I suppose that would be handy for those headed to Factoria or Eastgate, but the number of people going to downtown Bellevue greatly outnumber them. If there are, then an express version of the 240 would make more sense.

        But we are all in agreement that both buses should end at downtown Bellevue.

    2. Yeah, I agree. I can see keeping the 566/567, but there is no way it goes north(east) of downtown Bellevue. There are only about 150 riders who get on or off at the end of the line — and some of those board in downtown Bellevue. Those riders can take Link.

    3. DT Bellevue offers far more transfer options than S. Bellevue. Having a transfer in a lonely P&R is a safety issue whereas a lot of people will walk to their destination from Bellevue TC. There’s also the big advantage of the direct HOV access at NE 6th as opposed to the I-90 to 405 SB ramp which can add 15-20 minutes at times. The advantage gets even greater when the HOT lanes from Bellevue to Renton get built.

  2. Apologies, as I’m not familiar with the area.

    Is having the outbound stop on the streets away from the TC a good idea from a passenger safety/security perspective? Is there some comfort from waiting in the TC where presumably there’ll be more foot traffic and security presence even at odd hours? I think the streets/sidewalks in that area are pretty dead after normal business hours. More eyes usually makes people feel safer. I don’t know how well you achieve that on the street outside the TC.

    Not so much a daytime problem – thinking more late-nights.

    1. It certainly will be dead late at night, even as Bellevue grows into 24/7 work/live/play downtown … its all pure office towers immediately around the TC. But the sight-lines between 108, 110, the TC, and the future Link station are all pretty clean. It will be the same larger space in which there will be people standing around waiting for a bus or train. The TC isn’t off-street, so either way people are waiting on the sidewalk like most other bus stops.

    2. When I have taken the bus home from Bellevue Transit Center at night, I haven’t noticed any security presence. It’s not totally dead at night – there are apartments, bars, and restaurants in the area, which is why I am ever there at night in the first place. Although really, parking is abundant there, and most people drive anyway, so there isn’t a whole lot of foot traffic except right in the middle of peak commute time.

  3. Between all the new office and residential towers, East Link, Stride, the RapidRide K Line, it’s going to get really crazy in and around the BTC in a few years.

  4. I’m not arguing for a transit mall style of transit center, but does almost every route going to Bellevue have to enter or be next to the BTC? In Seattle, it’s not uncommon to enter downtown on a bus or train, then have to walk a couple of blocks catch another bus. Would it really be that horrible if a couple of Bellevue routes dropped their passengers off on NE 8th or NE 4th or 112th, and people had to walk a block or two?

    1. No, but point out a route that would be better if it didn’t deviate to be nearby the TC?

      I suppose there could be a north/south route on Bellevue Way (westside or downtown) or 116th (eastside of downtown) that would be more linear if it did not go to the TC. But there is so little density outside of the Bellevue core that the ridership that is “passing through” Bellevue on a local bus is microscopic, so those routes don’t exist. Nearly every rider is heading to the downtown core or wants to transfer to/from a HCT line.

      On another comment thread, Ross suggested that some routes should extend through downtown after passing through the TC, rather than terminating at the TC, to serve trips not within short walk of the TC. But there aren’t any good examples of 2 local routes in Bellevue that would be well served by through-running, which suggests there are not any local routes that would be well served by simply skipping the TC.

      1. A route would be better if it didn’t deviate to a TC if that TC is a congested mess during peak hours. Sending every bus headed to Bellevue through the TC won’t be feasible at some point in the future.

    2. Downtown Seattle is ten times larger than downtown Bellevue, and all buses can’t fit on one street. Most Seattle routes are on 3rd so in-city transfers are there. Most suburban expresses are on 2nd and 4th, which are less likely to transfer to a Seattle route because the biggest destination in Seattle is downtown or Link. And the Link extensions will truncate many of those peak expresses anyway.

      I like the idea of a transit mall in Bellevue, but I’m not sure where, or how the routes would get to it. But if the B and K have a common path between the TC and Old Bellevue, that would be a kind of mini transit mall.

    3. No, but point out a route that would be better if it didn’t deviate to be nearby the TC?

      It is a challenge. The only route combination I can come up with that skips the station would be like so: Have the 241 from Factoria run by South Bellevue Park and Ride and then north on Bellevue Way and just keep going to the freeway and then head to the UW (replacing the west side of the 271). Then have the eastern part of the 271 just end at the transit center. That way, the new 241 would just go on Bellevue Way through downtown Bellevue all they way to 520 (avoiding turns). But now you’ve made many of the transfers a lot harder. Not only to STride, but to buses like the B. You could send those other buses east, but then you have added service hours and have to find layover space. That might be better, but I’m not sure it is worth it.

      In general I’m not a big fan of transit centers. But in this case, they serve as connecting points for these STride buses, and Link. They also serve as layover spots. Sam is right, you can walk a couple blocks, but then what? I really don’t think it is much of a deviation. For example, where would you send the B if there wasn’t a transit center? A couple blocks further I guess (if you could find layover space) but that doesn’t get you much. The 250 is in the same boat. The 271 would run right by the transit center even if it didn’t stop there. Its really only a north-south bus on Bellevue Way that makes sense, and that makes the route isolated. In other words, to create a decent transfer, all the other buses would have to deviate to serve Bellevue Way.

      The problem is that there is nothing east of 100th. The only bus that is currently running is the 271, and that is a legacy route. It doesn’t lend itself to a grid pattern, or even a transit mall, like Seattle. At some point, a frequent bus needs to turn, and it might as well turn close to the transit/Link station.

      As for layover space, that can occur *after* serving the station. The solutions listed here make sense, and I could see something similar for other buses (like the B) if that is really a big problem. I’m not convinced it will be. Why would there be a huge increase in ridership to Bellevue? STride? Maybe, but most of those areas already had good peak service to downtown Bellevue (albeit slower). What they lacked was good off-peak service. Maybe lots of people with take a two seat ride to Redmond, but if that is the case, they can always just add a few express buses to Redmond (saving those riders a seat). Time will tell, but I don’t think this will be a major problem.

  5. For starters, I’d suggest moving the buses out of the BTC that are not reliant on the 6th St HOV ramps. That’s because that eliminates multiple turns. For example, RapidRide B could simply stop on 108th or 110th — as it already passes by Link at Wilburton on NE 8th and the Bellevue Transit Master Plan proposes taking it to Old Bellevue anyway. Making buses make multiple turns Just to use the BTC creates additional delays as they must wait for pedestrians to turn either left or right. Finally, the HOV ramp mainly serves work trips and the BTC is surrounded mostly by office buildings anyway (except for the Bravern which isn’t exactly marketed to transit riders).

    Then I would figure out where layovers should occur. That affects bus operations. After all, Stride routes are pretty long (as are ST routes generally) so layovers are essential for driver breaks and recovery time. ST should pay for the facilities to create the layover point as part of Stride.

  6. Main fact about Bus Rapid Transit isn’t “Branding”, but “Life On The Trail.” Because for every single line, one end to the other, STRIDE and its fellow fireballs need one thing Link takes for granted:

    Not Automobile One on the tracks ahead of the train. And we’re not talking pedestrian-friendly MLK, we’re talking Angle Lake, Bellevue, Northgate, Lynnwood and Everett.

    “HOT” might be more of a friendly nod to performance and desirability than friction between tire-tread and concrete. But it’ll no longer mean buying your single-passenger SOV any speed-killing lane space in front of regional express transit.

    “The 18th Amendment to the Washington State Constitution restricts the expenditure of gas tax and vehicle license fees deposited into the motor vehicle fund to highway purposes.”

    How many single-occupancy vehicle loads will a seated load aboard a two-section “artic” carry, let alone one with two hinges or more? Tell me an increase in lane capacity like that won’t do the Constitution’s job to perfection. They’re not called “Crawling Driveways”. They’re called FREEWAYS!

    Whatever COVID-19’s problematics, she’s leaving our every economic and political horizon in the mood for some long-overdue change. In addition this year’s first-time voters who are inheriting The West Seattle Freeway for a country and their parents still unrecovered from 2008 there’s a silent but determined constituency.

    Even though she was manufactured in this country, my Prius is still deprived of her right to vote. But she is programmed to give me a readout on cost and usage statistics. And that “Maintenance Required” warning won’t go off ’til she says so.

    For my the sake of my bank account and her life, she needs more contemplation in her car-port, and I need more time at sixty on the wheels both rubber-tired and steel-flanged. If she counts bus-only lanes as a highway expense, I know better than to argue. Word to all my Reps.

    Mark Dublin

  7. This unpleasant situation should have been studied and resolved much earlier. Stride was developed without studying or finding a solution to stop at the BTC — the key stop for both lines! Overlooking it before the 2016 ST3 vote (even just allocating funds to fix it) was wrong, and we are approaching four years since the vote and at least a year of detailed design for Stride in other locations.

    This is what happens when top board members and management don’t fully understand the needs of bus operations. They appear to want pretty lines on a map with little circles for stops and think that’s enough. It’s like buying lots of pretty furniture for a room that’s too small for everything.

    Kudos to Alex and STB for making it a separate post — but even this post appears to be years overdue. Even so, ST has not yet even admitted that they have a big problem with using the BTC.

    1. So ST should have designed this station before they entered the design phase? I’m baffled by this line of criticism. This is certainly a tricky design solution, but I don’t see any difference (from a project phasing standpoint) than the difficult alignment decisions being worked through all over the WSBLE alignment.

      Using the 6th Ave HOT ramps and serving the TC is the clear and obvious representative alignment as the TC is a planning placeholder for “downtown Bellevue.” Sorting out if Stride will literally serve the TC directly or have a slightly different route through Bellevue is the entire point of the design phase ST is in now.

    2. I’m not saying that AJ. I’m saying that lots of the other Stride stops have been in some design for quite awhile and this one — the most important station — has not. Some were even conceptualized in detail before ST3 and others afterwards — but still this design problem is way overdue to address.

      ST has made a timing mistake here.

      1. Eh. The design of this station is completely independent of the design of the other stations. As Alex says below, any capital improvements will be minor and don’t require the runway of a major project like the entire new TCs at Bothell or Renton, let along a megaproject like the 44th or 85th interchanges. To me, it makes since that this is a lower priority station from project timeline standpoint, since the timeline is organized by the complexity and difficulty of each station, not the ridership.

        I’ve see zero discussion of the Burien TC station, probably because it’s of similar complexity, not because ST doesn’t care about Burien.

      2. It is also not clear whether any of the Sound Transit buses should do anything but serve the transit center and then layover there. Maybe there will be crowding, maybe not. That depends a lot on what Metro does. It may make more sense for Metro to have buses layover somewhere else. The sort of loop suggested by Alex could work for the B or 250, for example.

    3. That may have been necessary if the Bellevue stop was to be some sort of fancy freeway stop, with bridges or tunnels to connect pedestrians to buses or trains. But a BRT stop on a side street doesn’t take years to plan. And direct access to I-405 is already built. So there’s not all that much there to do that’s difficult, even if it’s going to be the highest ridership stop.

      1. “ But a BRT stop on a side street doesn’t take years to plan.“

        The Stride 522 stops are much further along in design. This is not a mere stop either. It’s the busiest stop in the entire Stride network!

        This is a pretty lousy excuse.

      2. Not just ROW acquisition and new BAT lanes, but all that along a state highway from Bothell to the edge of Seattle. The Bellevue TC stop isn’t “a mere stop” in terms of being insignificant; its significance is not in question. But in terms of actual space, it is one stop. Sure it requires more space than most bus stops, but we are not to the point where we’ve exhausted all street space near the transit center or Bellevue Downtown Station. And unless you plan to tunnel, elevate, or tear down a building, that’s all it would be.

      3. This is circular logic, Alex. Show me where ST has declared the capacity of the BTC as more than adequate when planning Stride. They apparently didn’t as far as I can tell. Heck, it wasn’t even clear in the summary ballot description that it would be two separate routes; it was usually presented as one route.

        The BAT lanes on 522 are intended to make buses go faster. The same objective should exist here — and these routes will serve more buses and more riders. The difficulty in routing vehicles costs ST money when buses encounter delays even without riders.

        The fact that ST3 ignored it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem. To say now that it’s too early of a problem to solve only means that the problem was never identified in the first place.

        Why raise the concern in your post in the first place? Because you see it’s a problem, right? You’re still ahead of ST! Plus, you propose solutions that do require redesigning streets — just like 522 does for Stride.

        If it’s still too early, why are solutions problematic even now? No matter what, it’s clear that some streetscape changes are needed besides erecting a shelter and pouring a concrete pad at a stop. Yet, by not planning ahead, this is what is most likely at opening day in 2024.

  8. What STRIDE needs is a Link-style station on as much lid-structure as necessary over I-405 so that not a single bus has to “Break Stride” to serve Downtown Bellevue, as is absolutely mandatory.

    If a mechanical “People-Mover” is necessary for the transfer to Link trains or other bus lines, let nobody claim that’s not a penultimate HIGHWAY use of gas-tax money!

    Mark Dublin

  9. Why not just convert 6th into a transit mall between 110 and 112th, doubling the bus bays in the TC? That would allow Stride to layover within the TC, doing the short loop around the city hall block only when departing. Each stride route only needs space for 2 buses … if a 3rd bus arrives, the 1st bus should depart because Stride will be dispatched on headways, not timetables.

    That should also allow for rearranging the overall TC, to do things like flipping the B to the other side, as you recommend.

    1. It’s a steep slope there; Link transitions from underground to elevated without an incline. I doubt the agencies would want bus bays on a slope, and wheelchair riders would find access difficult. Look at the controversy over the G’s stations on Madison/Spring, multiplied by all the routes.

      It would be nice for proximity to Link though. This just shows again how poorly Link is located. An underground station on 110th would have been closer to the bus bays. Link can mitigate the slope with escalators and elevators to a flat platform. A bus transit center can’t do that unless you make a similar platform, which is a much larger project than was contemplated. Buses would have to get from surface streets to the platform; a problem Link doesn’t have. And it would eliminate several GP lanes Bellevue hadn’t been considering. And the city hall parking garage entrance is between 110th and the station, so cars would need at least that part of 6th.

      1. Yes the slope is a challenge. Overcoming that would require either a structure above 112th (or at least as far as the Meydenbauer garage entrance from 110th) or a ditch with an underpass at 110th (putting the BTC below ground) or adding a bus deck above the current transit center (possibly extended over 108th or 110th or the new Bellevue Link station) that has turnaround capability. Those are all ultimate bus transit solutions — but are terribly expensive and disruptive and still may not fit the footprint needed.

        Another option is to utilize the vacant lot next to Bellevue City Hall on 112th. That puts a stop further away from much of Downtown though.

        Utilizing 108th and 110th in some way seem to be better and cheaper.

  10. +1 for Stride on 110th. Good transfers between regional transit lines are vital, and the distance between the station and the bus bays is suboptimal. Transfers between Link and RapidRide are also important, but if we can’t have all four on 110th, the B has several other places to transfer to Link, and the K can go at the nearest bays in the TC. The K won’t layover because it’s continuing to Eastgate, so it won’t need as large a bay as the B. And other routes could share the bay, as occurs on 3rd Avenue.

    I doubt the city would be favorable to a layover in front of city hall. It would be adjacent to either the building or the park. It objected to a surface train every 10 minutes, and I imagine a layover would be seen as similarly disruptive. S1 (Burien) could use the library space the 550 is vacating. S2 (Lynnwood) could layover somewhere near Main Street.

    The B’s layover can be solved by extending it west. It should stop near Bellevue Square, and if Bellevue wants to extend it to Old Bellevue, that would be good too. The B and K should ideally have the same path through Bellevue to give double frequency, as both are likely to be 15 minutes off-peak. The 550’s path is already established and is adjacent to Bellevue Square, the Bellevue park, and the businesses and apartments along Bellevue Way, so that would make the most sense.

    1. I like the idea of STRIDE stopping on 110th as well. The frequency is going to be on Link, not the buses (aside from STRIDE), so those transfers should be prioritized. There’s already buses that stop outside the transit center on 108th (in particular, the 550) and those have to block the great new bike infrastructure that Bellevue has installed, so 110th is preferable for that reason as well.

    2. It seems that 110th by the transit center/ city hall has seen some fairly significant reconfiguration recently. I was busy driving so I don’t remember details well, but the road certainly seemed to have significantly fewer lanes than shown here.

      According to my kids who ride the 550 frequently, the trip to the library from BTC takes about 3 minutes, mostly governed by how long it takes to cross NE 8th. The destination is fairly useful in its own right, and not really too far for ambulatory access to the hospitals an associated clinics. There’s space for three Artics by the library (bus stop plus two layovers). As I drove by last night all were in use. teh front bus was leaving to make room for the an arriving 550.

      1. It definitely is unfortunate how far the library is from the transit center – I made that dash a lot in the pre-COVID19 days to pick up or return books, and I can’t tell you how many times I only missed a bus because I had to wait 3-4 minutes at 8th.

        Even without the 550, the 226 still runs on 10th, but its frequency right now is typical for the Eastside (half-hourly weekdays, hourly weekends). Hopefully that can get a boost somehow, or maybe another route can interline with it to give decent service to the library.

      2. The 250 also goes from BTC to the Bellevue library, for a combined frequency of about 5 minutes (including 550, of course). Without the 550, the combined frequency will probably drop to about 10 minutes (3 buses every half hour), so still not terrible. Difference between walking and riding the bus is more or less in the noise, based on luck with timing the light cycles..

      3. I now go to the library stop and walk on 12th rather than transfer to the B because the transfer time has gone from a few minutes to a full 15 minutes since the 550 was ejected from the tunnel, and 12th Street is flat and has no freeway entrances. Travel time between BTC and the library stop is normal, at least on weekends, so I don’t see a problem there. The 550 will vacate that layover so it makes sense for another route to replace it. And ideally a route that goes through downtown Bellevue and south Bellevue Way. I used to live at SE 3rd & B’Way and work at Wendy’s at NE 10th, so I would have taken that route (and did take the 235 which served it then).

  11. Great blog post. Glad to see something posted on the eastside.

    First, the eastside subarea has more money than it knows what to do with, and ST does what Bellevue wants it to do. So there are few limitations. ST can’t crap on Bellevue like it does other smaller cities. To be honest, Bellevue isn’t all that thrilled with the number of buses coming to it, especially from areas that don’t contain a lot of Bellevue’s office workers or whose final destination isn’t Bellevue. There is a real disconnect between Balducci and the Bellevue council who are very pro-transit — or were pre-Covid — and the ordinary eastside citizen who doesn’t see the benefit. A bus is still a bus.

    Second is the fact the rail line runs along 112th, which is convenient for buses on 405 but a long uphill walk from the TC. Bellevue’s blocks are looooong, and monotonous. The ultimate plan is for a system of electric, driverless shuttles to bridge the transit centers and town center. Although there is density in downtown Bellevue, especially condos, this is about bringing people to Bellevue, not from it.

    The S. Bellevue station is considered too far from Bellevue’s TC to walk (at least for an eastsider). In fact in the past many eastside residents who worked in Bellevue but did not want to pay for parking would drive to the park and ride on S. Bellevue to catch the bus to Bellevue because it was one of the larger park and rides.

    What drives eastside mobility is 405, which is simply over capacity. Before Covid-19 it was a parking lot beginning at 2:30pm in both directions. You just can’t get to Bellevue, or through it, and the transit center is at the heart of the congestion (and S. Bellevue on Bellevue Way is hardly better). Supposedly WSDOT is beginning phase II of its 405 lane redesign from SE 8th to the I-5 interchange it claims will relieve congestion during rush hour, but I have my doubts. Many times 405 has been widened to accommodate greater capacity, but the feeder highways like 167 cause congestion.

    Then you have the catch-22. Most eastsiders would prefer to drive since they have to drive to a park and ride to access transit anyway, but the cost of parking and congestion force them onto transit. If the 405 redesign is successful, or traffic is reduced post Covid-19, especially on 405 and 520, eastsiders will drive rather than take transit (assuming transit is seen as safe).

    The fundamental fact about transit on the eastside is first/last mile access is almost always by car because of the topography and distance to any kind of bus stop or rail line. All these riders from north or south of Bellevue have to drive to the park and ride to catch a train or bus, and the park and rides are oversubscribed. Transit capacity begins with first mile access.

    Add to that fact East Link serves a tiny portion of the eastside, commuters from areas such as Issaquah, North Bend, Snoqualmie, The Plateau, and areas south of I-90 towards Renton will want to drive and park at a station with a rail line rather than drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to the rail station, and S. Bellevue and Bellevue’s main transit center are going to be zoos. S. Bellevue alone has a 1500 car garage, WHICH IS STILL INADEQUATE JUST LIKE EASTGATE.

    Bellevue and the eastside are laid out for cars, but there are too many cars. East Link was a political compromise. It should have run along 405 where the eastside population centers are, rather than try and connect Seattle and Bellevue (which is what Microsoft wanted at the time). ST and Metro are trying to superimpose a transit system on an area they never have truly understood, and was laid out for cars, when cars are still the preferred mode of transportation and first/last mile access to transit, and density is at best spotty if it exists at all. Would you consider Bellevue Way dense?

    After all, what normal eastsider is going to take a bus from Bothell to Bellevue to catch light rail to Seattle when the same commuter can drive across 520, which has little congestion due to the toll, and write it off as a business deduction? Or take an express bus directly to Seattle. It is still a bus, when a lot of eastsiders who voted for ST 3 were thinking they would be driving to a train to take them directly to Bellevue or Seattle, which of course is why the line should have crossed the lake on 520.

    My guess is Bellevue thinks all those bus riders and rail riders stopping at its two main stations are coming to Bellevue, not transferring to go someplace else, which will affect what it wants to do to accommodate all those buses. This just how eastsiders think. They like to commuter or go in a straight line directly to their destination, probably because it is so car centric.

    A very Seattle solution for a very unSeattle like region. ST and others envisioned a future east King Co. with the same density as Seattle, but that will never happen. East Link won’t even access Bellevue’s best restaurants and retail without a long walk, and Uber in around $10 one way from nearby eastside areas.

    1. A lid or other elevated structure, like for instance a plaza past Meydenbauer Center, could contain a Stride stop that would look and function exactly as if the buses were high-speed trains. No need to leave I-405 at all, let alone add one more bus to Bellevue.

      No reason that at least one excellent restaurant owner might not either relocate to the plaza, or at least set up another dining venue. Could be an elegant and classy destination for scenic rides literally as long the region. Peoplemovers also come in a variety of forms, including covered moving sidewalks.

      But I’d be careful about declarations of what people from anywhere, including Bellevue, will or won’t do across the ages. My years at Lake Washington Technical College, even before it started offering funeral industry training, introduced me to more young people than I could’ve imagined fresh from Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria.

      One very strong sense I’m getting from people I’m meeting who have just turned voting age, which is the same whether their polling place is a polling place, a drop-box, a mail-box, or the floor of the Washington State Legislature.

      What they’ve got in common is a patience-destroying bellyfull of programs, apps, discussions, programs, political parties, and agencies that for their whole lives they’ve never seen work. Since the Crash of 2008, few of their families have experienced anything they’re nostalgic to have back.

      Wait a minute. Come to think of it, before the rents cleared the tower at Cape Kennedy, my late wife and I were seriously in process to open a Scandinavian espresso cafe and bakery in Ballard, in tribute to her heritage.

      No reason that when Ballard Link gets finalized, the new National Nordic Museum, where she used to teach, won’t point patrons to their cross-lake Link ride to my Location on the Lid . A quick walk or sidewalk-ride from that ugly archway that says “Downtown Bellevue Subway.” If my reviews hold good, maybe I can donate some art to fix it.

      Mark Dublin

    2. In many ways, I prefer downtown Kirkland for getting around without a car than downtown Bellevue. True, Bellevue has more transit options, and will have Link in three years. But, as long as your essential needs can be served via walking (and there’s plenty of shopping options for that), the transit is sufficient to get to all the important places, with decent buses to downtown Bellevue, downtown Redmond, and the U-district, with a Link connection to downtown Seattle.

      Where downtown Kirkland significantly beats downtown Bellevue is that local the streets are much more walk/bike friendly for all those short-distance trips that don’t require getting on a bus. No Bellevue superblocks. No 5-minute waits for a walk signal to cross the street. Plus, access the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail. Compare with downtown Bellevue, where you can’t walk anywhere without having to wait for long stoplights every single block.

      1. DT Kirkland is like Mayberry compared to Kirkland. The tiny spaghetti streets are literally from horse and buggy days. It is a great place to walk around with it’s waterfront restaurants, parks and marina but the lack of access is why there will never be anything like the transit options Bellevue enjoys. And it’s why Kirkland is looking to Totem Lake for future expansion.

      2. I get the point, but the fact remains that increased car capacity inherently makes an area less walkable, and if push comes to shove, it is worth it giving up something in transit options in exchange for better walkability, as along as what transit remains is good enough to handle your most common trips outside of walking distance.

        Sure, downtown Kirkland isn’t getting light rail, but it’s got buses and actually quite a bit better bus service than Totem Lake has.

      3. Meh, Totem Lake has better commuter service but it’s in no way (yet) walkable. DT Kirkland has a lot more character than any other eastside city. It’s waterfront is a jewel. DT Kirkland is “quaint” but pretty much done. It’s ideal for people that can both live and work there. DT Redmond & Bellevue sold their sole. But future Kirkland development is centered on Totem Lake in the area of the old mall. It’s mind boggling what they’ve built there in the last few years. What they are missing is employment other than the hospital and related practices.

      4. Make sense – neighborhoods like Ballard, Columbia City, or the Junction are all more pleasant than Downtown Seattle. The hope is that neighborhoods like Totem Lake or the Spring District grow & age into something comparable to those neighborhoods, while downtown Bellevue will feel like Seattle’s CBD.

        I think it’s fair to note that Bellevue will be better served by HCT (rail & bus) to move massive amounts of people in & out of the CBD, but that creates a trade off away from tighter street grids that make for a more pleasant pedestrian environment.

      5. It is a great place to walk around with it’s waterfront restaurants, parks and marina but the lack of access is why there will never be anything like the transit options Bellevue enjoys.

        That’s not the problem, zoning is. As Bernie wrote, DT Kirkland has a lot more character than any other East Side city. It has more potential for growth, but it is restricted by zoning, which in turn makes it tough to serve with transit. To be clear, there is some growth, but nothing like Totem Lake. I hesitate to use the term “downtown”, because it is really central Kirkland I’m talking about, which extends beyond the CBD. If that area was allowed to grow like Ballard (with a mix of old buildings and new development in every direction) it would have transit like Ballard. Of course if it had skyscrapers like downtown Bellevue, then transit would grow as well.

    3. To be honest, Bellevue isn’t all that thrilled with the number of buses coming to it, especially from areas that don’t contain a lot of Bellevue’s office workers or whose final destination isn’t Bellevue.

      You’ve made that claim several times, and not presented any evidence to support your case. You’ve stated it like it is well known (the way that Mercer Island’s opposition to transit infrastructure is well known). Please cite something — an article, a study — to support what appears to me like a baseless claim.

      Add to that fact East Link serves a tiny portion of the eastside, commuters from areas such as Issaquah, North Bend, Snoqualmie, The Plateau, and areas south of I-90 towards Renton will want to drive and park at a station with a rail line rather than drive to a park and ride to catch a bus to the rail station, and S. Bellevue and Bellevue’s main transit center are going to be zoos.

      Right, and a lot of them would rather just drive right to their destination, even if it is downtown Seattle. But at the end of the day, they take transit. Because riding the bus beats the hell out of dealing with an expensive, full parking lot, or bumper to bumper traffic. What else is new.

      After all, what normal eastsider is going to take a bus from Bothell to Bellevue to catch light rail to Seattle when the same commuter can drive across 520, which has little congestion due to the toll, and write it off as a business deduction?

      Wait, Bothell? Why on earth would you go from Bellevue to Bothell to then catch Link? If you are in Bothell, you catch the other STride to 145th, then get to Seattle in a lot less time. That isn’t why the S1 stops in Bothell. It stops so that people can get to Bellevue, and people can get to Bothell (especially UW Bothell). There will be people who take another bus (to parts of Kenmore and Bothell) but that is the main reason it makes that stop. Bellevue will be the most popular stop, and it has nothing to do with the Link station.

      East Link was a political compromise. It should have run along 405 where the eastside population centers are, rather than try and connect Seattle and Bellevue (which is what Microsoft wanted at the time).

      Hold on. Let me get this straight. You would have built a multi-billion dollar light rail station next to the freeway — an approach that studies have shown leads to failure — before you ran a line from the biggest destination in the state, to the second biggest (or at worst third)? Seriously? The STride buses will be just as fast, which begs the question — how many people do you think the I-405 train would carry? Twenty thousand? Fifty Thousand? One Hundred Thousand — a number that justifies the enormous extra expense of rail? Come on Dan, get real. The buses are the way to go for that corridor, because it is a secondary corridor (and there is already a freeway there).

      My guess is Bellevue thinks all those bus riders and rail riders stopping at its two main stations are coming to Bellevue, not transferring to go someplace else …

      Yes, and they will probably be right. Downtown Bellevue is the urban center of the East Side. Without a doubt there will be people headed off to Redmond. But if you take a bus to downtown Bellevue, chances are that is your destination. Of course it is. If you fly to New York City, chances are you trying to get to the Big Apple, not visit the Hamptons.

      East Link won’t even access Bellevue’s best restaurants and retail without a long walk, and Uber in around $10 one way from nearby eastside areas.

      As the kids like to say, whatevs.

  12. When the 550 is replaced by Link that frees up a whole lot of capacity at BTC. Most people on RR-B will use Hospital Station if they are transferring to/from Link. But a lot of people using RR-B are going to DT Bellevue and the TC makes for a very convenient way to loop back and presumably will soon have frequent service to Totem Lake.

    1. Good point. I don’t think it is clear that there will be a huge increase in buses going to Bellevue. The 566/567 will continue, but those buses complement the S1. There should be roughly the same number of buses coming from the south end of 405 during rush hour, regardless of the combination. Maybe a small increase (because the buses will be faster) but not a huge one. It is also highly likely that the 566/557 will be truncated at Bellevue Transit Center. That means that outbound (heading south), they could easily be managed.

      I expect the 241 to use Bellevue Way, and run more frequently (especially during rush hour). But the 550 ran every five minutes, and there is no way it runs that often. Overall I think there will be a net increase in buses during rush hour, but not a huge one. I think Metro will manage just fine.

      1. There might be an increase as EKC gets more RR routes and the region gets more transit in general as it grows, but that probably is years after the East Link restructure and launch of Stride.

      2. Minor correction, the 550 used to be scheduled every 7 minutes (not 5) during rush hour, at least WB in the afternoon (I think mornings were similar but I never took it).

        Also, a minor tongue-in-cheek correction… Pretty sure few buses ever “ran” at rush hour on Bellevue Way. Crawled, most likely :) Back in high school we were jokingly referring to such speeds in terms of “sloth-equivalents”, I think Bellevue Way buses would count as “half-sloth”.

      3. Minor correction, the 550 used to be scheduled every 7 minutes (not 5) during rush hour, at least WB in the afternoon (I think mornings were similar but I never took it).

        On page 135 of the 2020 Service Implementation Plan ( it shows the average ridership of each run of the 550. Essentially, this is the old schedule. Eastbound, the bus run every five minutes from 16:40 to 17:35. I used that as the time, since that is the peak of rush hour.

        Westbound afternoon seemed to reach a high of every 10 minutes. This brings up a couple of important points. The year I’m looking at (service in 2019) was not necessarily the time when the buses ran most frequently. Because of construction, there was a drop in crowding, and thus a drop in frequency.

        The second point is that there were lots of buses, in service, going both directions. But they weren’t running at the same time — there were still more buses to deal with the traditional commute (to Seattle in the morning, from Seattle in the evening). This creates additional headaches, and that problem will likely go away (for that route). I don’t expect revamped 241 to run every 5 minutes, nor do I expect it to be unbalanced. It could probably run every ten minutes during rush hour — both directions — and function just fine. I expect people to be getting on and off the bus at the station (to get from the apartments on Bellevue Way to downtown Seattle, or to get from Seattle to the offices in Factoria). The main thing is, I don’t expect it to be anywhere near as frequent as the 550.

      4. Thank you for the details – yeah, was thinking 7 minutes afternoon WB but from a few years ago when I rode it more often.

        I think that unfortunately even 15 minutes would probably suffice in terms of actual usage. Even with the 550 as frequent as it was, traveling between BTC and South Bellevue P&R seemed to not get much ridership. There was certainly some – I think on the order of 5-7 people per run, basically? So assuming 10 minute frequency (instead of 5) that would get us to that threshold of about 10 people per bus to make it feasible. But between the lack of funds and the commitment towards more funding for underserved minority areas, I would not be surprised to see the 241 (or equivalent) running down Bellevue Way to get only 15 minute headways and do “fine enough” for the region. If the B gets extended to old Bellevue/Main St. then I would expect the headway to be down to 30 minutes, same as the current 241, just running in the Bellevue Way valley instead of along 108th at the top of the hill.

      5. Yeah, lack of funds is the big issue. I used to commute to Factoria (a long time ago, before T-Mobile was there). I live in the north end, so either way it sucked. Either I drove through traffic hell (twice) or had an extremely long commute. Looking at the schedule of the 241, it would still be really long. So much so that I might just endure the drive.

        Looking at the stop data, Bellevue Way does pretty well. They don’t list it per bus, but over 1,000 riders a day used those stops. It was about a ten to one ratio towards Seattle — very few were taking the bus from the neighborhood to downtown Bellevue. As a reverse commuter, that explains why you hardly saw anyone (they were all doing a traditional commute).

        That might — and I want to emphasize might — mean that a southbound morning 241 could fill up by the time it reaches South Bellevue, where almost all of those riders get off. Then the bus could fill up with riders headed to Factoria, now that they have a decent way of getting there. That could justify higher frequencies (like 10 minutes) although I’m not sure Metro will be able to afford it. An increase to 15 minutes is a huge improvement, but it would still be pretty nasty, especially for those whose first trip involves getting to Link. People will have to get used to three seat rides — if that last seat involves a long wait in a big parking lot, people might find other options.

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