South Bellevue garage facade and station. Image: Sound Transit

As the Sound Transit 3 news gets worse and worse, Sound Transit 2 continues a stream of good news as the bulk of the projects converge on opening. Today, we found out the South Bellevue parking garage will open in September, which restores the spaces for route 550 and 241 riders, and then some. This may be as much as two years before the Link line itself.

The garage has 1,500 spaces.

This publication is not a big fan of parking garages. But if there’s anywhere in the Link system there ought to be a garage, it’s here: hemmed in by a wetland and a neighborhood that won’t countenance upzoning (also up a steep hill), this station exists because it is on the way to downtown Bellevue, sits at an elbow in the line that allows it to draw from a wide swath of the Eastside, and proximity to two interstates.

74 Replies to “South Bellevue garage to open in September”

  1. Yay!

    I hope someone besides a few of us what an expensive gift this is to Mercer Island residents. It will reduce hundreds of cars driving and parking on Mercer Island — a much bigger benefit than the hassle of a handful of additional buses neede me to carry those same people.

    1. How will it reduce parking on MI? The vast majority of riders are presumably heading to Seattle or Bellevue, not MI.

      1. At which point someone else will park in MI. At best, the MI P&R fills up slightly later in the morning. Any drop in parking at MI will be temporary, as it is the most convenient P&R for east King heading into Seattle.

      2. By being so large, this garage will take more cars before it is filled. A guarantee of more spaces available is a powerful draw away from other places to park, including MI. It will be interesting to see how full the garage gets both later this year and after East Link opens.

      3. Any drop in parking at MI will be temporary, as it is the most convenient P&R for east King heading into Seattle.

        Not really. Unless you can travel in the HOV lanes, you can get to South Bellevue much faster than you can get to Mercer Island. There are no traffic lights from the exit ramp to the station. Mercer Island just involves more driving.

        When parking lots fill up, drivers have two choices: park in the neighborhood, or park at some other parking lot. That first time, someone who drives to Mercer Island will likely just park in the neighborhood (which isn’t easy — there is a lot of parking that requires a permit). But eventually they realize it is faster to just park at the giant parking lot at South Bellevue. So it likely that over time, this will result in fewer off-island riders parking on Mercer Island, as they have a better chance of a park and ride spot at South Bellevue.

  2. Wow. Leave it to the Seattle Transit Blog to publish a feel good story about a parking garage opening (in September!), while ignoring the big TRANSIT news of the week — that Link LRV’s are up and operating on the Northgate Ext in anticipation of an NG Link opening also in September (if not earlier!).

    Ya. Real news. And they’ve even run some 4-car consists. And you don’t have to look far for proof, there are pictures available on the ST website.

    1. I’m pretty sure this is different than what was originally scheduled (which is why ST put out an official announcement). In contrast, the trains running was to be expected — it is nothing special, really. If there is a change in date for the Northgate Link opening, then there will certainly be a post about it.

    2. Now we need the Siemens LRVs up and running. Has anyone got any pictures of those being tested yet?

      1. I’m sure they will be running some of them on the NG Line during the testing phase. Might as well kill 2 birds at one time.

        ST also reports NG Link is on schedule and on budget. Nice.

    3. The South Bellevue Park and Ride will reduce off-Island pressure on Mercer Island’s park and ride while the 550, 554 and other express buses to Seattle continue to run.

      However once East Link opens, the number of commuters who will drive past a park and ride that serves a feeder bus to drive directly to a park and ride served by East Link will increase pressure on S. Bellevue and Mercer Island, certainly if you are commuting to Seattle.

      After all, why drive to the Eastlake park and ride to catch a bus to S. Bellevue to catch a train when you can just drive to S. Bellevue or Mercer Island (although the traffic congestion near the S. Bellevue Park and Ride could be horrendous, although WSDOT is making big changes to 405).

      If the choice comes down to Mercer Island or S. Bellevue’s park and ride I think S. Bellevue will be more popular because it is 1500 stalls, and is next to all the shopping and dining in Bellevue, whereas Mercer Island’s retail and restaurant scene is pretty weak, and the park and ride is 1/3 the size. Plus many people will drive to the S. Bellevue park and ride who work in Bellevue for free parking, although technically they are not “commuters”, at least westbound commuters.

      It will be interesting to see if ridership on the 550 returns when the pandemic ends and the S. Bellevue Park and Ride opens. Right now the 550 and 554 are virtually empty, and for probably various reasons ridership on the 550 dropped 1/3 when it was removed from the transit tunnel and the S. Bellevue Park and Ride closed pre-Covid, although ridership on the 554 dropped 17% even though its park and rides did not close. Of course, it will be difficult to determine whether working from home is affecting ridership on either the 550 or 554 or 218 when the pandemic fades, or just an uneasiness to ride transit after Covid-19.

      More and more I am beginning to think working from home, and a general shift of businesses to Bellevue and the eastside — which will reduce eastside residents commuting into Seattle — will solve most of the issues over transit on the eastside.

      Fewer peak–hour park and ride stalls will be necessary, less commuting to Seattle will mean fewer commuters accessing Mercer Island, more eastside workers means park and rides accessing “feeder” buses that go to Bellevue or other eastside cities where workers will work will mean those park and rides will be popular because it will be a one seat (bus) commute to their eastside job, fewer feeder buses (both due to working from home and commuters driving directly to park and rides serving East Link), and less traffic congestion during peak hours that will make driving more attractive, even if it is just driving to the S. Bellevue Park and Ride to work in Bellevue.

      And even if eastside commuters into Seattle rebound fully I still think commuters not served by East Link will demand some one seat express buses into Seattle, which may be necessary if the S. Bellevue park and ride is overrun by commuters bypassing park and rides serving feeder buses, although my guess is a steep decline in eastsiders commuting into Seattle will be the real story.

      A lot of the angst on the eastside and Mercer Island over capacity, full trains, feeder buses, optimal bus intercept configurations, and so on was based on ST’s estimated 50,000 riders/day on East Link by 2030. That figure now looks to be about twice what actual East Link ridership will be in 2030, and a lot less Seattle — Bellevue — Seattle ridership, or commuting west, on East Link, which means Mercer Island won’t be as popular because why drive to Mercer Island’s park and ride, or take a bus there, if you are not leaving the eastside or Seattle to commute. Mercer Island is only relevant if you are commuting west to east or vice versa.

      Mercer Island was never anticipated to handle intercept buses or even park and ride traffic from Seattle residents (although we do get some Seattle commuters who don’t have access to a park and ride in Seattle), it was all eastside residents commuting to downtown Seattle. If those commuters now stay on the eastside there really is no reason for them to ever travel to Mercer Island.

      1. However once East Link opens, the number of commuters who will drive past a park and ride that serves a feeder bus to drive directly to a park and ride served by East Link will increase pressure on S. Bellevue and Mercer Island, certainly if you are commuting to Seattle.

        Yes, Eastgate Park and Ride will be a lot less popular. It will essentially be an overflow lot for South Bellevue, and a neighborhood park and ride lot (as all park and ride lots should be).

        I think S. Bellevue will be more popular because it is 1500 stalls, and is next to all the shopping and dining in Bellevue

        Wait, what? There is nothing in South Bellevue. You mean people will park and ride, and then catch to the train to shop in downtown Bellevue? Yeah, sure, but isn’t mall parking free? Last time I worked in downtown Bellevue the parking was free as well. I’m not saying no one will do that — I could see a few. It will be interesting to see how many do that (park and ride to head east, not west, from South Bellevue).

        I still think commuters not served by East Link will demand some one seat express buses into Seattle

        Demand all you want, that doesn’t mean you will get it. I would improve express service on SR 520 long before I would worry about a one-seat ride for a relatively small number of Issaquah and Eastgate riders.

        I am beginning to think working from home, and a general shift of businesses to Bellevue and the eastside

        I get the working from home bit, but what “general shift of businesses to Bellevue and the eastside” are you talking about? I haven’t seen any shift at all. Both sides of the lake are adding office space like crazy. Even if Seattle was flat, and Bellevue was growing like crazy, it would take years for Bellevue to catch up. Do you have anything to support this idea — or this just a hunch?

        Mercer Island was never anticipated to handle intercept buses or even park and ride traffic from Seattle residents

        No, of course not. But Seattle will continue to have the bulk of the jobs in the region (a lot more than Bellevue and Redmond) and most of those people will commute to their job. A lot of those people will be coming from the East Side.

      2. More jobs on the Eastside also means more reverse commuters riding the train to jobs on the Eastside from homes in Seattle. Commutes across Lake Washington have always been much more bidirectional than the I-5 north and south corridors.

      3. when the pandemic ends, all the park-and-rides will again fill early each morning. this will happen before East Link, 2023. in 2023, the parking on Link will fill first; those off Link will feed early (Issaquah, Eastgate, and the Highlands). If ST runs four-car trains on a short headway, there will plenty of capacity in the East. The load will turn over as riders will be oriented to intermediate stops.

    4. It’s just restoring a P&R that was there and has been serving commuters for almost forty years. Sure, it may be larger, but it allows some established and intended usage of the 550 to return. We can worry about its role in East Link and the truncation of the 554 when the agencies publish a definitive service proposal. Right now it’s all in the air. If you have definite opinions on post-East Link buses, you can send it to ST and Metro and your councilmembers. It does little good to keep ruminating about the same issues in a circle, when a concrete proposal and subsequent debate will supercede it and may turn it in a different direction.

      1. Yes, just about every post on this blog is ruminating in a circle about the future, whether ST 3 projects in the N. King Co. subarea or buses on the eastside once East Link opens.

        As can be imagined, considering the litigation between ST and Mercer Island, the issue of future express buses after East Link opens has been extensively communicated to Metro and ST regularly, and over the last few years many traffic studies completed. Then came the pandemic, and acceptance that ST’s predicted ridership on East Link is likely double actual ridership, after ridership on the 550, ST’s former top express bus, plunged 1/3 for reasons not fully known. So now what?

        The actual eastside cities that will add a seat to their commute (basically most areas south of the East Link route) have much more influence than Mercer Island, especially Issaquah. But like Mike, Issaquah is taking a let’s wait and see approach at this time, despite the litigation, and figures express buses can be added later if need be, or feeder buses reconfigured.

        Bellevue wants to designate Mercer Island as the bus intercept, but also doesn’t know how ending express buses to Seattle will affect the S. Bellevue park and ride. Handling 1500 cars over two peak hours in the morning and the evening is going to cause enormous congestion to an area that pre-pandemic had some of the worst congestion, including SE 8th, Bellevue Way, 112th, and 405.

        If Bellevue and Issaquah tell ST begin running express buses to Seattle after East Link opens ST will begin running express buses, and if MI wins the litigation and S. Bellevue must handle some of the buses that is probably what Bellevue will decide. But until around 2023-25 no one has any good idea on what ridership — both East Link and transit intra-eastside — will be, and that is the key.

        Mike is correct there are quite a few moving parts on the eastside when it comes to all transportation. The 405 projects are massive, East Link will open in 2023, who knows what working from home will do to transit ridership or just an unwillingness to ride transit, a 1500 stall park and ride in S. Bellevue will certainly have a huge impact, and so will reconfiguring most bus routes.

        ST and Metro have already signaled some of their bus plans, including the intercept (which was a change from prior policy), and those plans are on hold due to the litigation, and something not often discussed, which is Metro’s limited funds for transit on the eastside, and how to allocate that limited service. If Metro can’t afford decent frequency to serve Northgate Link what will it do in rural east King Co. (and just about all of east King Co. except downtown Bellevue is basically rural).

        As I noted in my earlier post I am feeling more and more optimistic about transportation and transit on the eastside in the future, because I think transit ridership will be much lower than predicted, and there will be less cross bridge transit traffic, which solves most of the issues. Fare box recovery might be lower for East Link, but eastside subarea funding was never an issue anyway. If anything the bigger issue is an antipathy towards transit on the eastside, so few get worked up about it until it happens, so Mike is probably correct. Wait and see, but litigate in the meantime.

      2. Bellevue wants to designate Mercer Island as the bus intercept

        My guess is so does Issaquah. More importantly, so does Metro. Its just a lot faster and more consistent if you can stay in the HOV lanes the whole way. Not only is it easier to serve Mercer Island, but easier to serve Eastgate along the way. You can probably get from the freeway (HOV) station over to the exit ramp to South Bellevue, but it is much easier to just stay in the HOV lane. This isn’t the East Side cities conspiring to send buses out of town, it just makes the most sense. The only city that is even playing that game is Mercer Island, which, for whatever reason, does not want good transit. Most cities would love to have extra buses serving them (e. g. it would make it much easier for Mercer Island residents to get to Issaquah) but Mercer Island leadership seems more interested in placating the drivers.

        I should specify here that I’m talking about buses from Issaquah. The 111 and 114, which go on I-405 and I-90 will likely just exit at South Bellevue. In this case it is the opposite — there is no HOV lane once they make that turn, so they might as well exit as soon as possible. Again, this has nothing to do with pressure from Renton or anyone else — it is just geography.

        If Bellevue and Issaquah tell ST begin running express buses to Seattle after East Link opens ST will begin running express buses.

        I doubt it. There just isn’t the money. Once East Link gets built, ST isn’t going to run buses that poach ridership from its train. It just doesn’t make sense.

        For the same reason, Metro isn’t going to run express buses from Issaquah to downtown. Those are just terrible values, with Link right there. The only thing that is close would be maybe Issaquah to First Hill or South Lake Union. That would likely mean just as many buses to Mercer Island though, as of course those buses would stop by the station.

        Keep in mind, the transfer at Mercer Island is about as painless as possible. The train will make a grand total of one stop before reaching downtown. One. Because the buses are out of the tunnel, a train would get to the north end of downtown faster than a direct bus. The 41 is going away after Northgate Link, even though the time penalty to take the train (for those headed downtown) is much bigger. The folks in Issaquah are just going to manage.

      3. “just about every post on this blog is ruminating in a circle about the future”

        Most articles present new information or ideas. Probably half the comments do too. it’s just that there are a few issues we tend to go in circles about. Especially if we’re impatiently waiting five or ten years for something to happen.

      4. DT: no, truncation at Mercer Island is a not a change in policy or planning. since the early 90s, the planning has been to truncate bus service at high capacity transit; now, we know it is Link.

  3. Along with the parking, the station should get pretty decent ridership from the buses. A lot depends on how Metro restructures, but I think it makes sense to have frequent service from Bellevue to Factoria, via Bellevue Way. Moving the 241 to follow the 550 route (and stay on Bellevue Way) would be the first step. Dealing with the cluster of routes around Factoria and Newport is trickier. Hopefully there would be frequent service connecting Factoria with South Bellevue (along with the one seat ride to downtown Bellevue), whether that is achieved with one route or two.

    1. I’ve always liked the idea of sending the 240 from Factoria to South Bellevue, then having it continue on to Bellevue Transit Center along Bellevue Way, replacing service today provided by the 550 bus. The 241 combines with the 240 for Factoria->South Bellevue service and takes over the 271’s Eastgate->Issaquah Tail, but as a weekday-daytime-only extension to free up service hours for other routes. The 271 then switches to the 240 route in South Bellevue and gets a frequency bump, to make up for the 240 no longer parallelling it. The 245, as is, I think is sufficient for Factoria->Eastgate service, but if it isn’t, the 240 could double it up on SE 36th St., serve Eastgate Freeway Station, rather than the Eastgate bus bays, and get to South Bellevue that way.

      1. Yeah, I like that. Basically the 240 and 241 have a combined section that follows the 550 route from downtown Bellevue to South Bellevue, and then on to Factoria. The 240 then heads south, to Newport Hill and Renton, while the 241 follows its current route to Issaquah, then keeps going to Issaquah, on the current 271. That is a good match of service, as the combined areas have plenty of density and destinations, while the split areas do not.

        The 271 then switches to the 240 route in South Bellevue

        That sounds good as well. You do lose a bit of coverage though, on the apartments next to 134th, close to that part of Lake Hills Connector ( That could be mitigated by adding a stop on Richards Road, next to the driveway to the park (with the baseball field). I’m pretty sure you can walk that way (although Google seems skeptical). You also lose a bit of service on part of Eastgate Way, but there is basically nothing there. Overall, that sounds like a good approach.

        The frequency looks good, more or less as it is now. The 271 ends at Eastgate and runs every 15 minutes or so, like the 245. The combined 240/241 section has similar frequency, while each branch gets 30 minutes service. Yeah, sounds good to me.

      2. I think we’re pretty much in agreement. The change does leave a couple of coverage holes, but they’re small enough, not many are affected. There’s one apartment complex on Richards Road and the section of 116th Ave. between Main and 4th. The former could walk to the 271 in under 10 minutes (if there’s anyone there who rides the bus, which there may not be). The latter is a bigger concern because it’s a significant retail destination including REI, Best Buy, Trader Joe’s, and Home Depot. Maybe the 250 could plug the second hole by staying on 116th to 4th and turning west there? That would work, but maybe at the cost of exposing the bus to more traffic getting in and out of downtown Bellevue. Alternatively, some route that today ends at Bellevue Transit Center (241?) could be extended with a small coverage loop.

      3. Oh yeah, I forgot about that section (to the north, close to the downtown Bellevue). I think I would abandon that part of the 240, not the 271. So basically the new 271 would look like this:

        As mentioned before, you lose coverage on part of the 271, but a very tiny piece (and that would be mitigated with a bus stop). You would lose coverage on part of the 240, close to downtown Bellevue. But there is very little there until you get close to East Main, where there will be a Link station. Something like the (infrequent) 246 could add service there (if and when it is restored).

        I would say the only significant drawback (which I didn’t consider until now) was that the new (relatively frequent) 271 goes from downtown Bellevue to Eastgate Park and Ride, but skips Bellevue College. It isn’t too far a walk, but at worst it would simply do a loop through the campus, which really isn’t much different than what the buses do now (this:, instead of this: The loop wouldn’t really matter to the typical rider, unless they are transferring to another bus at Eastgate Park and Ride, or parked there. In both cases they could just walk. It takes roughly the same amount of time from Bellevue College to downtown Bellevue, and only a minute longer to get to Eastgate Park and Ride that way (and again, most of those riders would walk, which would be faster than the current route).

      4. That works too. Or, maybe you just keep the 271 route between Bellevue and Eastgate in place, since Bellevue College is probably a much larger ridership draw than one apartment complex on Richards Road. As I said, the Richards Road place wouldn’t be completely without service. They could still walk to Lake Hills Connector and catch the 271 there.

        It’s a trade-off, but I don’t think it matters that much. Eastgate park and ride to Bellevue College is also not that big of a walk (just more people would be doing it).

      5. Route 240 did connect Factoria and Bellevue via South Bellevue before fall 2011; the shift to Eastgate was a success; many riders want to reach the Eastgate transit network and Bellevue College. The deviation was worthwhile.

      6. It’s a different situation now. In 2011, you could take the 212 or 554 to Seattle from Eastgate in about the same amount as the 550 from South Bellevue. If the commute was during rush hour, service would be pretty frequent. Fast forward to 2023, that’s no longer the case, since switching buses at Eastgate now adds a connection. Yes, if the 240 doesn’t change, you can still avoid the extra connection by backtracking to East Main St. Station, but the backtrack will take just as much time (on average) as the connection.

        But, even if maintaining the 240’s Eastgate/Bellevue College connection is deemed sufficiently important (e.g. the Hippocratic Oath of Bus Restructures), there is a compromise solution. After heading north down Factoria Blvd., turn the 240 right down SE 36th St., doubling up the 245 for a few blocks. Then, at 142nd, turn left onto I-90 and serve the Eastgate Freeway Station instead of looping into the Eastgate bus bays. From the Freeway Station, head nonstop down I-90 to South Bellevue Station. This option too has a backtrack, but it’s a much smaller backtrack than the 240’s existing routing and half of that is at 60 mph down the freeway, so the actual time added isn’t very much. Belleuve College students are actually served better by the freeway station than by the transit center bus bays, given the topography. And, by combining with the 554, you get double the frequency between Link and Eastgate for that one section.

    2. By opening the garage early, support for better connections between South Bellevue and Factoria will build. That leads to support for improved service when it finally comes in a restructuring as part of the East Link opening.

    3. Eddie, not the issue. The issue is the intensity (number of buses per hour) of a bus intercept on Mercer Island that is the issue. No one agreed to a bus intercept in the early 90’s.

      Of course Mercer Island would serve as an intercept for areas east not served by East Link because a very small percentage of Islanders take transit to these areas.

      Mercer Island agreed to the round about to allow buses to turn around and not have to travel to Seattle. ST and MI agreed to drop offs and pick ups on the south side of North Mercer Way in the 2017 settlement agreement, and no bus layover areas on North Mercer Way. So there is the intensity of your bus intercept. Around 8 rather than 20 buses per peak hour, although MI has indicated it would accept ST’s first offer of 12 buses per peak hour, but no bus layovers.

      The irony is we are all realizing ST’s ridership estimates on East Link were phony, like most of ST’s numbers. Ridership on East Link will be at most half of the predicted 50,000 riders/day in 2030, which was fantastical before working from home.

      In the end the issue will likely be moot. Fortunately for the Eastside subarea, ST’s dishonest ridership estimates and cost predictions simply mean the optimal bus intercept and East Link ridership numbers will never materialize, whereas the N. King Co. subarea can’t afford to run rail to West Seattle or Ballard. Ouch.

  4. Does this mean the southbound 550 gets slowed down again by having to make the two left turns to go into and out of the park and ride? Or does it continue to stay on Bellevue Way?

  5. If I ran T-Mobile, I would want to explore new ways of connecting Factoria and South Bellevue Station. Something that is not simply more transit on roads between the two points.

      1. I think in the age of covid, proposing a new gondola is doa. But, sure, explore everything. Gondolas, or a SeaTac-like underground people mover, or a pedestrian bridge, or a monorail, etc. Look into everything and see if it’s feasible. If not, fine, but at least look into it.

      2. Jet Packs!

        Seriously though, the best that T-Mobile can do is buses, whether relying on Metro, or their own. If they can get decent bus service from South Bellevue to Factoria (and I think they can) they will be fine.

    1. It I ran T-Moble, I would not have located in a transit-inaccessible tower in the park, where it’s a long walk from not very frequent service and has nothing in the immediate vicinity to go to. I would at least have located in the Factoria retail area or somewhere else entirely. Those isolated towers shouldn’t have ben built like that, and companies shouldn’t have rewarded them by locating there. I lived in Somerset just before those towers were built, and every time I saw them after that I thought, I’m glad I don’t have to work there. Amazon is doing it right by locating next to Bellevue Transit Center. The Spring District is a promising new location for company expansion. What’s not good is companies locating along Northup Way/20th or even worse Eastgate. At leat not until those areas become more walkable and have better transit. Although parts of 20th may be OK after East Link starts and the Spring District gets more built out.

      1. What’s wrong with Eastgate? The TC gets great express service and decent all day service. Aside from downtown Kirkland, it will probably have the best transit service in east King for a location that’s not directly served by Link?

        Yes, Bellevue downtown would have been better than Factoria there’s a bit of a chicken & egg issue here. Bellevue’s zoning will allow for solid growth in Factoria, particularly as the malls redevelop, which then makes Factoria a destination worth serving with good transit. Issaquah Link takes a stab at solving the Factoria connection issue, but there are probably better options and future east side restructure will certainly try.

        Rather than channel everything into the East Link corridor, I think it’s good that Bellevue is also looking for growth in other nodes (mostly along I90) to supplement the Bellevue-Redmond Link corridor. If anything, I’d argue that T-Mobile is a key anchor that makes Factoria a 15-minute neighborhood. Factoria already has diverse labor options (corporate, retail, education), K-12 schools, some housing with more to come, ample retail options, medical clinics, even a post office! Great parks nearby (Coal Creek) and a beautiful bike bridge is on its way. It fits the literal definition of a 15-minute neighborhood (looks like it is ~20 minutes on foot north to south)

        Factoria will be difficult to connect to Link and/or our Express bus network, but we will need to figure it out. Given how little land is available for growth in the east side, we cannot for to just look at Factoria and say, “too hard, let’s not try.”

      2. “Yes, Bellevue downtown would have been better than Factoria there’s a bit of a chicken & egg issue here. Bellevue’s zoning will allow for solid growth in Factoria, particularly as the malls redevelop,…”

        I agree with AJ’s points. Just for the record, how long does it take to walk from the T-Mobile offices over to the retail/mall area? I used to go over to that area pretty often when my spouse worked at a business located on SE 36th (sushi at Tokyo for example) and it always seemed like a reasonable walk to me. Perhaps I’m underestimating the walking distances though as we always traveled by car (despite the traffic cluster**** that Factoria Blvd is). Are there currently any redevelopment plans in the works for the Loehmann’s Plaza or Factoria Mall locations?

      3. “What’s wrong with Eastgate? The TC gets great express service and decent all day service.”

        The walk from the P&R to the office buildings. I haven’t walked to the buildings but it looks like a long distance. I used to walk across the freeway on the footbridge from Somerset to the McDonald’s northeast of 148th & I-90 (if it’s still there; it had a water wheel in front), and even just the part of that a commuter to those office buildings would walk seems like a long distance.

        Bellevue intends Factoria to be the next large urban village after the Spring District and Overlake Village. It’s just been lacadasical at getting it going. It will probably happen when developers think the Spring District and 130th are built out and there are few opportunities left. Then they’ll start looking elsewhere and land on Factoria.

      4. A trip from T-Mobile to Katsu Burger is less than 10 minutes, but walking from T-Mobile all the way to Target is probably 15~20 minutes.

        The Marketplace at Factoria (i.e. the main mall) has a master development plan with the city of Bellevue. I believe Phase 1 is dropping an 331 apartment building into one of the surface lots; I can’t find the master plan itself but googling some news articles suggests, “mix of uses including up to 685 apartment units, a 150-room hotel, two office buildings totaling 175,000 square feet and roughly 30% more retail space.”

        RE: Eastgate; I meant the area west of 148th, most importantly the college, but the office parcels immediately around the TC are zoned for high rises. The TOD zoning is there, it’s just a matter of the market moving in (likely once Bel-Red is built out, as Mike suggests).

        Yes, the offices east of 148th aren’t within good walking distance, but the McDonald’s off 156th is a full mile from the TC; that would be a long walk even without the freeway interchange. Ideally, there should be another freeway station at roughly 160th to serve all those offices between 148st and 161st, to be served by all the express buses shuttling between Issaquah and Bellevue. With vast surface lots, plenty of room for denser redevelopment and a more granular street grid.

      5. BTW, I didn’t mean something just for T-Mobile. I meant something connecting Factoria and South Bellevue Station. I think T-Mobile could get the ball rolling in the same way Microsoft funded the Redmond Technology Station Pedestrian Bridge, but the City of Redmond owns it, and anyone can use it. It will be covered, btw. Pre-covid, roads between Factoria and S. Bellevue at rush hour could be sea of brake lights. That’s why I believe another connection should be explored.

      6. A super nice bike bridge is coming to Factoria already, fully funded. I’m not sure what other public infrastructure there is to install that doesn’t modify I90. I think it’s mostly a question of KCM routing and where there is opportunity to create bus priority.

        There already is HOV priority getting on to I90 from Factoria. Exiting I90 into Bellevue Way there is not, and I don’t see how to create that without a major capital investment.

      7. Just for the record, T-Mobile did not build those buildings. They were built for Attachmate. I only know because I used to work there. At the time they were the biggest privately owned company in Washington. I left the job because transit options to it sucked. It was horrible. I used to go back and forth between spending a huge amount of time on the bus, or getting stuck in traffic (which I simply hated). Even though I really liked the job, I quit.

        I agree with Mike. The whole Eastgate/Factoria area is terrible for transit and terrible for walking around. I’m a fast walker. I walk up mountains for fun, and have no qualms about walking a ways if it is worth it. The problem is, nothing in Factoria is worth it. At no point do you feel like they built it for you, the pedestrian. A typical walk to a “nearby” restaurant takes about ten minutes, and involves walking along busy streets or through parking lots (or both) — It is simply a hostile environment for pedestrians.

        Eastlake is no different. Let’s say you work at what is now a Samsung Laboratory, and wanted to walk to Bellevue College, the largest community college in Washington. Even though it seems close, you have to do this: This is by no means unique. To get to the apartments that are literally adjacent to the college, you have to go around ( The college — which should really drive everything in the area — is as cutoff from the surrounding as everything else. All of this makes walking miserable in the area.

        As is the case with transit. Ever wonder why the 240 doesn’t just swing by the college on its way between downtown Bellevue and Eastgate Park and Ride? Because it can’t. 26th does not go through, it curves north, becoming Kamber Road. 139th comes tantalizingly close. But once you get here:, you can’t get to Snoqualmie River Road, or even 142nd Place. It is like a maze, and we are the rats (Where’s my cheese, man?). Oh, and then there are the freeways, which don’t exactly help, creating their own set of obstacles.

        In contrast, downtown Bellevue is a veritable paradise. Major streets go through, enabling transit. When streets don’t go through, they allow pedestrian egress. Not only is it a straightforward walk from the transit center to Bellevue Way (and the arts museum) ( but it is actually pleasant! Even in the middle of December you have people making that walk ( This means that a walk from a skyscraper to the park, or one of the dozens of restaurants in the areas is actually … what’s the word …. fun! Yes, it is actually enjoyable.

        About ten years after working in Factoria I took a job in downtown Bellevue. At the time, my wife thought I was crazy. She couldn’t believe that I would put myself through such a miserable commute (and mostly she didn’t want to hear me whine about it). But of course, it wasn’t that bad. And more than anything, I actually enjoyed my time in downtown Bellevue — not as much as downtown Seattle, or Fremont — but way more than Factoria. It doesn’t have great bones, but it is about as good as you can possibly imagine a post-war suburban city can create.

      8. I lived ten years east of Crossroads, several months in mid Somerset, and a few years along Bellevue Way both north and south, and my parents lived along Bellevue Way for several years after that after I moved to Seattle. RossB is right. East of Crossroads and Somerset are darkest suburbia. Downtown Bellevue is a relative paradise in comparison. Eastgate is just awful. Factoria is only somewhat better. if I were to compare Bellevue’s commercial districts, including the Spring District (both then and now), Overlake Village, Crossroads, and Eastgate — Eastgate is by far the worst. I can’t think of any Eastside or near-south commercial area as bad except Bear Creek, Southcenter, and Totem Lake. Even downtown Renton — which looks like a bomb hit it and is encircled by highways — is more walkable and pleasant.

      9. Your example of Samsung Labs to Bellevue College shows just how the parking lot has become an important tool for pedestrian mobility. If you look closely, it is possible to cut through multiple parking lots to the Eastgate park and ride, where you can go up the path shown on the map. It’s not necessary to detour south to Eastgate Way and back north again.

        The other example with the condos directly adjacent to Bellevue College is a different story. There, you have no choice but to either go around or climb the fence. I’m guessing the condo association built the fence on purpose to deter students from parking in front of their homes to walk to the college, and didn’t bother to think that it also adversely affects the walkability for their own residents. At the very least, they could have put in a gate in the fence and given residents keys.

      10. I agree Factoria and Eastgate lack good bones, but thoughtful redevelopment can mitigate much of that. Given the destinations already there (Bellevue College, etc.) and potential for future growth, it’s important that Bellevue and KCM ensure both neighborhoods become more transit & pedestrian oriented.

        Kirkland is doing something similar with Totem Lake. Between major public investment, like a big Eastrail bridge, and denser redevelopment, it seems to be making a solid step forward.

    2. It will have an A+ bike connection to South Bellevue station, so some good bike parking at the office probably helps.

      Running a company shuttle to Link is probably the easiest option. Perhaps T-Mobile can pay to use one of the many bus stops in the station’s bus loop? The shuttle’s travel time should be comparable to Starbuck HQ’s shuttle to the ID.

      1. That’s exactly what I think too, AJ — once East Link opens. Large companies or building campus owners will find that one or two shuttles with a small staff will more than serve the need for frequency. Maybe a shuttle will idle at one point during the day and can be hailed via cell phone. Shared bicycling would also seem to become popular as the distance is fairly short to Factoria. Hearty users may even walk. With a garage this large, taking a few spaces for shuttles or bike sharing seem non-controversial.

        The early opening of the garage ignites an interest in implementing last-mile access so it can be fully rolled out when Link begins revenue operations in the next two years.

  6. No need to apologize for anything transit-wise or on any other conceivable subject, Martin. This afternoon, the entity entitled The United States of America still belongs firmly to the category of The Republic for Which Our Flag Stands.

    Meaning that in a hundred years any given parking structure can be multiply-redesigned into anything from rocket-assisted lunar golf to an interplanetary cathedral. So to everybody participating in any direction, one way or another, rest assured your effort will count for something.

    Mark Dublin

  7. And also, for what it’s worth, it made my day just now to hear the radio put Senator Maria Cantwell and Sound Transit in the same sentence. Just a feeling, that’s all. But either way, my day is made.

    Mark Dublin

  8. I hate to sound like a broken record, but is upzoning that area really so impossible? It stands out as the lowest density along East Link.

    1. What’s the upzoning situation in the Montlake neighborhood? Around SODO and Stadium stations? How’s Rainier Beach Station neighborhood coming along? It’s been open for 11 years. Is south of the station still desolate? But, you want to reserve your anger for an area near a line that won’t be open for a couple more years, not the one that’s been open for more than a decade?

    2. As long as it generates 2000-2500 boardings a weekday, I’m not bothered by having low density surrounding the station. If the lot fills, a handful of people carpool or get dropped off by drivers or shuttles from Factoria or buses, it will be possible to attain that..

      I think station types should vary if any line is to be successful. They can’t all be primarily high-density residential. Some need to be in office districts, commercial districts, hospital districts, university districts — and occasionally a huge park and ride district. It’s when every station in a corridor is focused on a huge garage that I get concerned.

  9. What area? From Mercer Island to the S. Bellevue Park and Ride East Link is wetland, with a residential neighborhood on the west side of Bellevue Way. The area directly surrounding the S. Bellevue Park and Ride is upzoned, especially along the east side of 112th, including hotels and the Bellevue Athletic Club. To the south I think there is a furniture store bordering I-90.

    If you are talking about west of 112th no, I doubt that neighborhood will be upzoned. Bellevue has made it clear it will upzone its commercial areas to the moon (with very large requirements for onsite parking), in exchange for preserving its single family neighborhoods, and even the areas where Bellevue has upzoned multi-family housing the housing is brand new and very expensive.

    If anything Bellevue will concentrate on the zoning for the Spring District, but again that looks like it will be very expensive commercial office and residential, nothing affordable.

    Not to sound like a broken record, but Bellevue’s upzones — at least to date — have very little to do with affordable housing, even if TOD. The S. Bellevue Park and Ride is about cars and drivers. Upzones for housing would make more sense at the main station on 112th, and across the street on 116th and uptown towards Bellevue Way, and those areas are already upzoned, and will not be affordable. The reality is the way Bellevue upzones property — go big or go home — pretty much rules out affordable housing because the new height limits guarantee redevelopment and new construction, although someone did post Redmond might do some mild upzones along East Link, that if new also won’t be affordable. Don’t look for East Link to create affordable housing on the eastside. That was never its goal.

    1. Urbanists used to claim that density should occur in urban areas so green space can be preserved elsewhere, but now that they want the US population to be a billion people, I guess the wetlands are needed for apartments?

      1. No one is talking about upzoning the wetlands. They are asking for upzoning to the west of the station. Literally across the street from the station there are very big lots with only one house on them (or in one case, an empty lot). No other station is like that. No other station has the potential for increased walk-up ridership that could be easily achieved.

        You can change the zoning around Stadium, for example, and it won’t change a thing (the railroad tracks and big overpasses aren’t going anywhere). This station is nothing but a parking lot, which is also unusual. The UW Station is across the street from a major hospital and a major university. In the same lot is clinic, and a stadium. SoDo is surrounded by industrial employment — not high density, but much higher than the population density surrounding South Bellevue. Rainier Beach was upzoned, and has seen plenty of development.

        No is asking for a miracle. No is saying that it should be like Capitol Hill. There are natural barriers that make it difficult to get a substantial number of walk up riders, no matter what you do. But to have nothing but big, sometimes empty single family lots literally across the street from the station is a huge waste.

    2. One person is not all urbanists. And that one person supports Vancouver/Toronto/German style density, which could accommodate a billion people in the current residential footprint. A billion people is three times the current population. Seattle could double its population and still not be denser than San Francisco. It could triple its population and still not be as dense as Toronto or Paris. When you can replace one house with six aparments/condos, or two houses with 4-5 rowhouses, you don’t have to knock down many houses to get a major increase in population. The problem is we make the most space-consuming type of unit off-limits, on 70% of the land. That forces growth to be squeezed into the remaining 30% of the land. That is a kind of urban growth boundary, but it preserves blank lawns and side yards instead of forests or agricultural land. So an ever-shrinking percent of people get those houses and everybody else can eat worms, including their own children when they grow up.

      When I was in a suburb of Düsseldorf, I looked for but couldno’t find even one single-family house. It was all lowrise, and any one-story buildings were commercial. The same in St Petersburg and Moscow. So it is possible to have a 100% multifamily city and fit a lot of people into a small space. For a less extreme alternative, and more palpable to Americans, Chicago’s North Side is a model. Most buildings are 3-10 stories, but there are still scattered single-family houses and blocks of rowhouses. If Seattle allowed multifamily everywere, there would still be a higher percentage of houses than in Chicago, because the market would get saturated before that point. We could even upzone only the area inside the ring of urban villages, and leave Magnolia and the Lake Washington shore and outer Laurelhurst and western West Seattle alone. The point is the current urban village islands are way too small, so we need to allow them to spread and merge with neighboring ones.

      1. @Mike Orr – I definitely see a lack of diversity in modern American housing types, and Europe is a great place to see different thinking over the last 200 years.

        Developers here seem locked on to only four types: (1) SFH. As big as possible on as large a lot as possible. Rarely less than 4,000 sqft floorplan in Bellevue today; (2) Town homes. Always with minimal yard, and built as cheap as possible because buyers are presumed to be priced out of #1; (3) Low-rise condos. Rarely more than 2 bedrooms, and hence a poor fit for many families. Built cheap because shoppers are presumed to be priced out of all other 3 options, and will “move up” when they can afford to; (4) High-rise condos. High quality but high price – targeted at those who can afford a SFH, but want the urban lifestyle. Relatively few exist.

        Three quick examples of housing I rarely see in the Seattle area:

        1. High quality row home on 30ft x 100ft lot. A lot of 19th century British suburbs were built on this model, and many are still standing, and desirable. That’s plenty of backyard for many people. This would be 2-3 times the density of existing Bellevue SFH.

        2. A large condo with 3 or 4 bedrooms that a family would want to live in for 30 years. No expensive amenities like gym or dog lounge, just spacious one-floor living that’s walking distance from stuff. I’ve seen this in several European cities of various sizes.

        3. Any type of housing without off-street parking. Apparently it’s illegal to build a home without somewhere for the residents to park, even if it’s directly on top of a light rail station? If you truly want to wear the badge of Transit Oriented Development, you need to have the confidence that certain parts of your city can support (some) car-less residents

      2. Tony77: In many major cities in the Eastern US and Europe the rowhouses have enough square footages and flexibility to be divided into several units. One unit filling one of those rowhouses can be split into four, combined into two then split into three units total over its current age of at least 150 years.

        Many American cities don’t zone or permit for this flexibility. Not only are many areas restricted to having one unit in perpetuity (maybe with an accessory unit now permitted but with heavy conditions), but the multi-family buildings are treated like a completely different building type in design, permitting and market financing and underwriting.

        Rather than just dictate more specific types of housing, I think we need to think about how to enable any building with housing to be adapted to different configurations throughout its life.

      3. @Al S, Adapt and Re-use are important principles, but they’re not the only tool that matters. Bellevue has ~1,000 acres of one-story warehouses and light industrial surrounded by parking lots that will provide the majority of the city’s new housing over the next decade. Very little of what’s there today will be a candidate for re-use.

        And densifying SFH housing with ADUs is a good way to add lower-cost housing, but it’s not a housing type suited to families. Most SFH constructed in Bellevue in the last 50 years was only designed to last 30 years, and there is a steady stream of teardowns. A 1960’s ranch home on a quarter acre is going to be torn down. Rather than replace it with a single 4,000 sqft SFH with a 500 sqft rentable ADU, there is demand from families for three or four smaller homes on that lot. I don’t want to prescribe housing types, but rather highlight that there are paths to increasing both density and quality if zoning enables it and developers see a market.

      4. I see ADU’s as very practical for a family if they can afford it. They can be used for grandparents needing assistance, for adult children, for caregivers as elderly age in place, and for other housing solutions that a family may face. I’ve seen lots of recent new home videos from Las Vegas where “casitas” are often a feature of new construction homes.

        In much of the world, housing extended families together is actually pretty common. Discouraging it is actually kind of culturally discriminating to these familial housing concepts.

      5. @Al S – ADU’s are not suited to most families because they don’t add capacity to house additional families. The ADU cases you’re describing suit a single extended family, and in most cases don’t even require a legal ADU: nothing stops a home owner converting their basement into a MIL today.

      6. I agree with just about all of your points, except this one:

        Rarely more than 2 bedrooms, and hence a poor fit for many families

        I know it is a quibble, but I would say “some” families, not “many”. A family of four can do well with a 2 bedroom. Just put the kids in one room, and the parents in the other (pretty much the standard). It is only when you have three or more kids that things get tight. My guess is that there aren’t that many families in Washington who have 3 or more kids. Bigger families tend to go along with religiosity and low education — neither are common around here. This would explain why they just don’t build too many 3 bedroom apartments.

        I did raise a couple kids in a one bedroom apartment. I put them in one bedroom, and slept in the living room (treating it essentially like a studio). I’m sure this is common as well. That apartment was close to a park, which is another consideration, and fairly common with a lot of apartment complexes (either they are close to a park, or have their own playground area).

    3. It’s going to take a couple decades to build out the space around Bellevue’s 4-and-a-half light rail stations marked for transit-oriented development (East Main only gets half a point for the east side of 112th!) By the time that’s complete, Bellevue is going to feel quite different from today. Surely when there’s nowhere else left to build near a light rail station, we’ll then be looking at changing SFH land use to the west of the P&R, and to the west of East Main. But it’s hard to imagine it happening until then.

      1. But why not both? Infill development in south Bellevue is a completely different market than high & midrise development along the rest of East Link. It’s mostly about princple, as South Bellevue TOD isn’t very important – even with am up zone, most of the those homes are going to remain unchanged, but more generous zoning should allow a handful of additional housing units where there is the occasional redevelopment.

        East Main should get credit for 0.75! It also serves downtown to the north.

      2. @AJ – OK, I’ll grant 75% :)

        Two reasons why not both: first I think there’s value in focusing on the higher priority areas first, so they get built out as fast as possible. Even with the 5 stations being developed around now, there’s some sequencing: Spring District is well underway to being transformed. Downtown is now moving along too. East Main has been rezoned, but concrete plans that use the rezone (i.e. south of Main St) haven’t quite surfaced yet. BelRed has a bunch of projects in the works, but there’s not much to see on the ground yet. Wilburton hasn’t even finished its rezone and it’s hard to see what’s blocking it. It’s possible the city has its hands full.

        Second, none of these five have required a SFH neighborhood to be rezoned. That would be politically expensive when (a) the majority of city voters are SFH owners who fear change, and (b) they can point to 1,000+ acres of undeveloped land east of downtown and demand the city build there first. Once you have 60,000 additional residents living in multifamily housing between East Main and BelRed, that conversation will go a little differently.

      3. Yeah this political calculus isn’t hard: you’ve got two obsolete malls and a vast crescent of underutilized light industrial/commercial district from Overlake down to the old auto row that’s ripe for redevelopment.

        Plenty of housing capacity without picking a fight with existing homeowners and likely ending up with a reactionary majority on the city council as a result.

      4. I would agree with Al S.’s post above if Seattle had maintained the requirement that the property owner live in one of the units (main or DADU/ADU), or not allowed up to three units and up to 13 total unrelated tenants.

        That zoning has nothing to do with housing an elderly relative or extended families in an accessory unit. It has to do with large trusts of absentee landlords who no longer have to live in any one of the legal dwellings, and increased the price of single family homes in Seattle because the upzone increased the investment value of the underlying property, and because the properties became more attractive as investment vehicles. It is hardly surprising Seattle is now over 50% rental. For some reason progressives never ask who owns all that property if over 50% rent.

        Before the DADU/ADU craze Mercer Island was considered to have the model ADU permitting program: almost no permit for the ADU itself (although just like any dwelling it must meet the building codes, which became much stricter and more expensive with the state requirement that all cities adopt the international building codes effective Feb. 1, 2021. The legislature had extended that to July 1, 2021 but Inslee vetoed that extension. Look for this change plus the relaxation on warranties on new condo construction to convert a lot of older multi-family housing throughout the region into new, expensive owned condo developments, which is good or bad depending on your view on gentrification).

        Mercer Island allows some additional gross floor area to lot area ratio (GFAR) for smaller lots for a DADU, and does not require additional onsite parking for a DADU/ADU even though we have no intra-Island transit to speak of. Mercer Island also limits DADU’s to between 220 sf and 900 sf to try and keep them affordable, which is the one requirement the Master Builder’s Assoc. wants raised, to in effect create two houses for each lot, both equally unaffordable.

        But Mercer Island — as do most of the eastside cities– requires the property owner live onsite in one of the units, to prevent residential family neighborhoods from becoming absentee rental neighborhoods with absentee landlords, and prohibits rentals of less than 30 days (as does Seattle except any individual can own up to two Airbnb units in Seattle whereas Mercer Island prohibits all short term rentals).

        Like Seattle’s more expensive residential neighborhoods DADU/ADA’s on Mercer Island are not that popular because they consume yard space and most families don’t want a stranger living next to them (around 238 licensed DADU/ADU’s out of 7000 residential lots), modern houses are large enough to house grandma or the nanny in the main house, and they are very expensive to rent, even older ADU’s in older houses.

        Here is a little secret: the reason expensive cities like DADU/ADU’s in theory is because even if never built they count towards housing requirements, and they are rarely built because that is not why the property owner moved to that city. The other secret is in Seattle DADU/ADU’s have nothing to do with affordable housing or housing a relative, but about creating investment property.

        To think Seattle’s upzoning or DADU/ADA laws have anything to do with extended families or housing an elderly parent is naïve. It had to do with property investors, which is why property prices and rents continue to escalate, although the city promises that in 20 or 30 years when enough new construction ages under the new zoning housing will be affordable, although my guess is residential neighborhood character will have changed. Whether for the better or the worse is a matter of taste. It isn’t as if current Seattle homeowners can’t sell their houses for a substantial price, based now on the investment value of the property, and move somewhere else.

      5. @Daniel — You have it backwards. Upzoning does not increase the cost of housing. The cost of housing — like everything else in this economy — is based on supply and demand. Upzoning increases the supply, as more property can hold more places to live. This increased supply reduces the cost — all other things being equal. But of course, all other things aren’t equal, there is more demand than ever.

        To be clear, the price of *property* can go up, but that is largely meaningless. You don’t live on the lot, you live in a structure. So a lot that has four houses, for example, means more places to live than a lot that holds one. In a lot that has been upzoned, it means that the land value goes up, but the structure value goes down — again, all other things being equal. This is how big cities — like the biggest city in the world — manage to have affordable housing. If they were like Seattle (and had one house per lot) then a place like Tokyo would be much more expensive, given the much higher demand for housing in Tokyo. It is really kind of crazy that a typical home in Tokyo is cheaper than a similar house in Seattle, but that is the power of zoning.

        It is a pretty simple concept. People say it is “economics 101”, but it is an idea that is a lot simpler than that. Your average middle school kid can understand it. I think people get confused when discussing housing because they forget about demand, or for that matter, the cost of development (which largely just sets a bottom price point).

  10. Dare I ask this: How about a gondola or cable tram across Mercer Slough to Factoria? A guided rubber-tired driverless tram may even fit onto an existing I-90 bridge by shifting the lanes. Conceptually, the creation of a virtual “sideways elevator” to an even denser Factoria could increase the functionality of this station.

    It’s a bit different than merely having longer Metro routes for the connection. The wait for a leaving vehicle would be minimal — and a waiting vehicle may sit with doors opened for riders with some of the technologies.

    1. I don’t think there is the demand for any major transit infrastructure on a route that can be covered in about three minutes by a bus. I can think of dozens of similar gondolas to build if that was the idea. For example, Westlake to Belltown, or up First Hill, or to Yesler Terrace. All of those would get more riders for a similar investment. It only makes sense to build a gondola if there is a major obstacle in the way — in this case it is the opposite, they are connected via a freeway (

      Gondolas are cheap compared to building a rail line, but so is bus service.


      Ross I think this is a good if dense article on whether upzoning really creates affordable housing, and why it isn’t econ 101 (or is). If you take a city with high incomes, high income gaps, and population growth, affordable housing is unlikely, and most cities in the U.S. that meet that definition are not affordable, especially up and down the coasts, even TOD, or according to the article especially TOD.

      All I know is housing in Seattle, and now Tacoma, is rising dramatically during a pandemic, and has been sky high on the eastside for a while but still took a big jump, and something more than population is driving these huge increases in housing costs (except ironically in higher end downtown apartments and condos). My guess is investors are driving the increases, and until property values show a risk of declines — after the upzones — owners won’t sell, so prices will stay high. If over 50% of Seattle residents rent then someone owns that 50%, and I wish someone would find who owns all that rental property.

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