Where Now For The Water Taxi Expansion?

This dock at the Kirkland Marina, currently used by Argosy Cruises, might be a future foot-ferry port
Might this dock at the Kirkland Marina have a Water Taxi in its future? (Photo by the Author)

On February 8, the King County Council accepted the final report on Water Taxi expansion. The Council vote followed an occasionally contentious review at the TrEE (Transportation, Economy and Environment) Committee the week before. No decision was taken on moving forward with the expansion. That’s a budgetary decision to be taken up, if a request is made, as part of the budget process later this year.

The final report refines analysis presented in the interim report, and accommodates some suggestions by the jurisdictions and stakeholders that might be served. But the key findings haven’t changed greatly. Three routes are being considered:

  • Kenmore (Log Boom Park) to University of Washington (Waterfront Activity Center)
  • Kirkland (Marina Park) to University of Washington (Waterfront Activity Center)
  • Ballard (Shilshole Marina) to Downtown Seattle (Pier 50).

A few modifications are suggested. In Kenmore, the ferry may eventually serve Lake Pointe where development could create an opportunity for shared parking (initial service would be via Log Boom Park with parking at a remote lot served by shuttle bus). In Kirkland, where downtown parking for transit riders would not be available, a circulator shuttle to bring riders to the Marina is examined. Expedia has asked that the ferry from Shilshole Bay stop at Interbay en route to downtown Seattle.

The revisions to the proposal do not improve expected performance. These are low-ridership high-cost services. At launch, off-season ridership would range between 135 and 165 daily riders per route, growing to 285-370 after 10 years. Summer ridership, boosted by recreational users, would grow from about 300 daily riders on each route to just over 500 after 10 years.

Continue reading “Where Now For The Water Taxi Expansion?”

ACTION ALERT: Comment on Tolling at the WSTC

Buses at Canyon Park on I-405
Buses at Canyon Park on I-405. Photo: WhenEliseSings

This Wednesday, February 17, the Washington State Transportation Commission will discuss toll rate options for several tolled highways in the Puget Sound. Among the changes that will be discussed are the recent calls from legislators to end tolling on I-405 on evenings, weekends, and holidays.

If you are in Olympia on Wednesday, you will have an opportunity to comment in person. Discussion of I-405 operations is scheduled for 3PM, with a public comment period at 4.45PM. As usual, the anti-tolling campaign is expected to show. Because they show up, they will appear to ‘represent’ the public unless countered.

Express toll lanes on I-405 have been an undoubted boon for transit users with faster and more reliable travel times. Notwithstanding the concerted campaign against the lanes, the ETL also helped general purpose traffic to move more quickly and more efficiently through the corridor. Sound Transit’s plans for I-405 BRT can not deliver promised results unless speed and reliability are maintained in the HOT lanes at all times that transit is operating.

Bending to political pressure, some legislators have asked to eliminate tolls after 7pm, on weekends and on holidays. Governor Inslee joined in this request at a press conference this afternoon. WSTC is responsible for approving such changes. Their first opportunity to consider the request is at Wednesday’s meeting. Whether or not WSTC accedes to this request, it is unlikely to be the last occasion anti-tolling advocates flex their muscles to reduce the effectiveness of the ETL.

At a minimum, WSTC must carefully review the effect on transit reliability of changing lane operations. Governor Inslee today acknowledged the benefits of tolling to transit users on I-405. Opening the express lanes toll-free to SOVs at “off-peak” times risks having transit and HOV users stuck in traffic. There is traffic after 7pm too. The revenue reduction would also reduce WSDOT’s capacity to invest further in the HOT lanes.

Continue reading “ACTION ALERT: Comment on Tolling at the WSTC”

East King County’s ST3 Letters

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Transit Center in Downtown Bellevue (Photo by the Author)

This summary of ST3 feedback from East King County (including North King other than Seattle) is the fifth in a series of ST3 feedback summaries. See our previous coverage of Pierce County, SeattleSouth King County, and Snohomish County. A future installment will look at other Stakeholder Organizations.

The Eastside’s ST3 input is well coordinated. As happened last July, several Eastside cities signed a joint letter describing shared goals. Cities along the SR 522 corridor also submitted their own joint letter endorsing BRT on SR 522 and NE 145th St. Read together with the cities own letters, there’s an impressive consensus about what an Eastside ST3 package needs to look like.

Joint Letter of the Eastside Cities

The Eastside cities introduce their priorities by noting how they are “reshaping our regional growth centers and downtowns into dense, mixed-use, urban centers that need frequent and reliable transit service to sustain economic growth and viability. ST3 has the potential to create transit connections within the Eastside, and provide connections between the Eastside and the rest of the region”. The letter goes on to remind the Board that “the Eastside will be making a significant tax investment into the package” and looks forward to seeing commensurate investments back into the Eastside.

The Eastside’s five priorities in ST3 are:

  • E-01: Completing the East Link spine to Downtown Redmond. This is so uncontroversial that no explanation was apparently necessary.
  • E-02: Fully implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on I-405, from Lynnwood to SeaTac. A version of I-405 BRT between the low and intensive capital versions is recommended. The scope needs to “provide sufficient access for the line to operate as an efficient BRT facility”. That means an inline station at NE 85th Street in Kirkland, direct access to Tukwila Sounder Station, at least one additional location south of I-90, and a dedicated transitway with inline flyer stops. The latter implies a significant investment in South Snohomish County where the BRT would otherwise run in mixed traffic north of SR 522.
  • E-03: Light rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah via Bellevue. In an acknowledgment that BRT may have advantages in Kirkland, the joint letter caveats that “this project must provide flexibility and be scalable to meet ridership demand and the needs of the communities served”.
  • E-04: A new transit center in Renton at Rainier Ave S and S Grady Way. This project would replace the downtown transit center.
  • N-09 and N-10: BRT on 145th Street and SR 522 to connect with North Link.

Continue reading “East King County’s ST3 Letters”

CORRECTION: I-405 Tolling

In the February 5 post on I-405 tolling, I described how WSDOT had agreed to changes in I-405 HOT lane operations. Those include toll-free travel for all vehicles on evenings, weekends and holidays.

I should have also mentioned that changes to tolling remain subject to approval by the Washington State Transportation Commission. At this point, the WSTC has not approved the changes described. The WSTC’s first review of the legislators’ request is this Wednesday, February 17.

A Retreat from Tolling on I-405

405 ETL lanes mostly free-flowing while NB general purpose lanes congested along almost the entire corridor
405 ETL lanes mostly free-flowing at the beginning of the PM peak, while NB general purpose lanes remain congested along almost the entire corridor

[UPDATE: The original post failed to note that suggested changes to tolling prices are subject to approval by the Washington State Transportation Commission. The WSTC has not yet met to consider the most recent proposal from the House Democrats].

Under political pressure from Republicans in the Legislature, WSDOT is paring back the express toll lanes on I-405. If approved by the WSTC, the lanes would be open The lanes will be open to all drivers without tolls on evenings and weekends.

In the Senate, SB 6152 passed out of committee on Wednesday. The bill emphasizes that the imposition of tolls is authorized for a two-year period only. The bill would prohibit tolls between 7pm and 5am, on weekends, and on all federal and state holidays. The bill even micromanages lane access, requiring that WSDOT continue to expand the length of the access and exit points to the express toll lanes. Earlier language that would have converted one of the ETL lanes between Bellevue and Bothell to a general purpose lane was dropped.

In the House, companion bill HB 2312 has not gotten out of committee (the deadline is Tuesday). However, House Democrats wrote WSDOT Tuesday evening requesting several of the changes in the Senate Bill. The changes were agreed with WSDOT. WSDOT will should “eliminate tolls during evening non-peak hours, weekends, and holidays, to the extent that such a change will improve commuters’ experience on I-405” (thereby giving WSDOT some flexibility in setting hours of operation). The letter also suggests a long list of operational changes. Most notably, WSDOT is to consider “re-instating” a general purpose lane on NB I-405 between SR 520 and NE 70th St, where an exit lane was converted to general purpose use to make room for the ETL. WSDOT is also to modify the highway north of SR 522 to allow shoulder-running (the implications for ST and CT buses that already run on the shoulder here are unclear). The timing of the changes depends on Federal Highway Administration approval, but WSDOT is to report to the Legislature within six months on the impacts.

I-405 tolling, less than five months after introduction, has become a partisan football. Continue reading “A Retreat from Tolling on I-405”

Renton Proposes a New Transit Center

The proposed location of the new center (in green) is surrounded by auto-oriented land use. Image: Google Maps.

The City of Renton is proposing to relocate its transit center as part of ST3. The new center would be located at Rainier Avenue South and Grady Way, just north of the intersection of I-405 and SR 167. It would replace a smaller downtown transit center, adding much more parking and easing access for park-and-ride commuters from the south and east. However, it is likely to eventually reduce service for Renton’s downtown and developing North Renton neighborhoods.

The new center would be more accessible for buses or drivers approaching from SR 167, and could include 1,500-2,000 parking stalls, potentially the largest transit parking facility in King County (Eastgate has 1,614 stalls). It would be funded, in part, by giving up a deferred ST2 project to build HOV ramps from N 8th St. The property is a disused former auto dealership, and is adjacent to an existing 370-stall Metro park-and-ride. Renton officials perceive potential for transit-oriented development, though that would require a far-reaching overhaul of the area’s current development pattern.

Commuters who drive to buses would prefer a transit facility closer to highways and with more available parking. The current center is perceived as having an adverse effect on downtown. Buses and drivers to the transit center parking add to downtown traffic (Metro leases 150 stalls in a city-owned structure). When the downtown transit center was opened in 2000, the hope was that it would draw commuters to downtown businesses, but few stay long in the area. Now Renton is studying a festival street on S 3rd St, and restoring two-way traffic on S 2nd and S 3rd, making them arguably less suited to commuter bus service.

ST 566 serves downtown Renton and The Landing. How many buses would do so if the transit center were next to I-405? Map: OneBusAway

The downtown transit center is served by two ST Express routes (560, 566), Rapid Ride F, and a dozen other Metro routes. How many of those routes would continue to serve that area? Renton believes it can maintain local Metro service through downtown, but would prefer the primary location for transfers be elsewhere. It’s unlikely Metro or Sound Transit would wish to serve downtown so intensively once the transit center is relocated. Indeed, Metro opposed locating a transit center in downtown when it was first built, not wanting to have buses navigating downtown streets. Many commuters who would rely on the new transit center will view downtown Renton as a detour and will prefer their buses get on the highway as promptly as possible.

Routing buses through downtown Renton supports service to growing mixed use neighborhoods in North Renton such as The Landing. Just last week, construction started on Southport, a large new office complex near Boeing and The Landing. The N 8th St HOV access project was supposed to ease their access from The Landing to I-405. With an expanded transit center south of downtown and easy highway access there, it’s likely that future service will skip downtown and the growing northern neighborhoods.

I-405 BRT is not intended to serve downtown Renton. The recently published templates described local access to the BRT only via the N 8th St HOV ramps. Moving the access point further south would require more out-of-direction travel for riders from downtown/north Renton to Bellevue. The connection would, at least, be frequent as long as Rapid Ride F continues to serve North Renton. Sound Transit staff indicated at the January 7th meeting that the idea is being studied in conjunction with I-405 BRT. The move was endorsed by several Eastside cities in a joint letter to Sound Transit last week. Local comments, responding to the comprehensive coverage by the Renton Reporter, have been mostly positive too, despite concerns for downtown access.

Much current transit access in Renton is oriented around park-and-rides, and the change will be well received by commuters from south and east of I-405. Nevertheless, this looks like a doubling down on Renton’s sprawling current land use. Renton is proposing an enormous investment in parking at the expense of service to the city’s few dense (or, at least, densifying) neighborhoods. Within a ST3 package that looks some decades into the future, one hopes that Renton will thoroughly consider the implications for the city’s development.

ST3: Kirkland-Issaquah Light Rail

E03Map

Not so long ago, prospects for an ST3 investment in rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah seemed remote. There were too many competing priorities within a 15-year ST3 program, making a deferral to ST4 likely, and motivating examination of BRT between Bellevue and Kirkland. In an extended program, it’s suddenly feasible, but the proposed alignment has weak connections to the most important destinations.

The project is a 17.5 mile rail line from Totem Lake to Central Issaquah connecting nine stations. From the north, the line generally follows the Eastside Rail Corridor, briefly interlining with East Link near Wilburton station. This is also a transfer point to East Link trains serving downtown Bellevue or Seattle. Near the historic Wilburton trestle, the line transitions to the east side of I-405 and then to I-90 in Factoria. Beyond Factoria, the line generally follows the I-90 median to a terminus in Central Issaquah.

There are eight new stations, four each on Segment A (Totem Lake – Wilburton) and Segment B (Wilburton – Issaquah).

Segment A serves four stops in the Kirkland area. An added stop at NE 112th St means this is one more than the previous studies, improving access within the southern part of the Totem Lake neighborhood. Other Kirkland stops are at NE 128th St (adjacent to the freeway BRT station), at NE 6th St (southeast of downtown), and at the South Kirkland P&R.

Segment B also serves four stations (after Wilburton); in Factoria, at Eastgate, at Lakemont Blvd, and in Central Issaquah. The Factoria and Lakemont stops are new to this study. The Factoria station, near Richards Rd on the north side of I-90, will improve access along the Eastgate/I-90 corridor which seems too sprawling to be well served via Eastgate alone. While the location isn’t ideal for Factoria riders, it’s perhaps as close to Factoria as the line can get while avoiding the environmental and engineering challenges of Mercer Slough and the I-405 interchange. The added stop at Lakemont would be a park-and-ride facility.

Kirkland may not be impressed by a Kirkland-Bellevue rail segment lacking walkable access to the downtown of either city. Issaquah, on the other hand, intends to concentrate future growth within the Central Issaquah area adjacent to  the planned station. Travel from Issaquah to Seattle via Wilburton may appear circuitous, but no more so than express buses terminating into Bellevue Transit Center.

Continue reading “ST3: Kirkland-Issaquah Light Rail”

ST3: Bus Rapid Transit on I-405

I-405 BRT Corridor Options

There has long been a regional consensus that I-405 Bus Rapid Transit would be a part of the ST3 program. But that general agreement has hidden a fuzziness about the form it would take. The December 4 workshop saw a range of options presented. The studies make a compelling case for a low-cost version of I-405 BRT, but complicate the case for doing much more. The eye-popping conclusion is that a range of investment levels between $340 million and $2.3 billion all produce the same ridership.

Staff presented “low capital” and “intensive capital” representative models. In between are a long list of a la carte options. There are two alternatives for a southern terminus; one at Angle Lake, the other at Burien TC. The “low capital” model leans heavily on existing infrastructure, and is less ambitious than any of the options examined in the previous set of studies in 2014.

Low Capital BRT

Staff analysis helpfully breaks out cost and performance by segment. Segment A, Lynnwood TC to Bellevue TC, is the most productive with up to 10,000 riders, about 60% of all the ridership on the BRT. 10 of the 19 miles are served via general purpose lanes on I-5 and I-405 (other than limited shoulder-running southbound on I-405). Only the portion between Brickyard and Bellevue can be served via HOT lanesSegment B, Bellevue to Renton, runs entirely in HOT lanes, but achieves fewer than 1,500 riders. That would include a deferred project to build HOV direct access ramps at N 8th St in Renton.

Beyond Renton, there is little new investment. Segment C, Renton to Tukwila International Boulevard Link Station, would run in HOT lanes on I-405 and general purpose lanes on SR 518, achieving a respectable 3,500 riders with little cost other than vehicles. From TIBS, the service could continue to Angle Lake via BAT lanes on SR 99 (Segment D1), or to Burien Transit Center via general purpose lanes on SR 518 (Segment D2).

The total capital cost under $350 million is modest for the ridership, mostly because the highway infrastructure is largely existing or funded through WSDOT. 28% of the cost is for parking.ST3_i405BRT_Elements2

Intensive Capital BRT

The ‘intensive capital’ option adds several stations and upgrades others. It eliminates much of the interaction with general purpose lanes via added ramps in the north and BAT lanes in the south.

Continue reading “ST3: Bus Rapid Transit on I-405”

ST3: Kirkland-Bellevue Bus Rapid Transit

At the December 4 Board workshop, Sound Transit staff shared their latest study of Bus Rapid Transit along the Eastside Rail Corridor between Bellevue and Kirkland. The study parameters incorporate many suggestions from the City of Kirkland. Ten miles of mostly at-grade BRT guideway connect nine at-grade stations: three are in the Totem Lake area, two around downtown Kirkland, one at South Kirkland, and three more in Bellevue.

E06_MapThe corridor BRT is well-integrated with regional services. It would connect to I-405 BRT at Kingsgate/NE 128th, to East Link LRT at Wilburton Station, and to regional bus services at the Bellevue Transit Center. An alternative configuration at Wilburton might have an elevated station.

The study acknowledges the need to accommodate the existing trail on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, and a future trail on the Eastside Rail Corridor in Bellevue. It specifies that the rail would be on the east of the corridor with trail uses to the west.

Continue reading “ST3: Kirkland-Bellevue Bus Rapid Transit”

Kirkland’s BRT Design

CKC_BRT2
Kirkland’s preferred option for BRT on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor

Last August, Sound Transit selected a Project Priority List to proceed to the next level of study for the ST3 ballot measure. Since then, the agency has been working with other stakeholders to evaluate potential projects. The City of Kirkland, having successfully advocated for a Bus Rapid Transit option on the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC), has worked with consultants to develop a more comprehensive vision for that service. The first details of their work were shared at a City Council meeting last week. The City is also working with agencies on light rail and I-405 BRT options.

Kirkland is balancing several policy goals. The City is pro-transit, and understands that BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor offers far better connections to Kirkland’s growing neighborhoods than the alternatives. But the corridor is also a well-loved place to walk and bike. With rails being removed to the north and south of Kirkland, the ERC is shortly anticipated to be a high demand bike corridor with the highest demand through urban neighborhoods in Kirkland and Bellevue. Walk and bike uses would benefit in obvious ways from integration with accessible transit. To these ends, Kirkland is eager to see a transit infrastructure that mostly hugs the eastern side of the corridor, maximizing the space available to trail users and preserving views to the west. Sound Transit originally anticipated transit would follow the legacy rail-bed down the center of the corridor, more closely encroaching on the trail which would be correspondingly pushed toward the edge of the corridor.

The Cross-Kirkland Corridor Master Plan envisions trails and transit uses sharing the right-of-way.
The Cross-Kirkland Corridor Master Plan has walk, bike, and transit uses sharing the right-of-way.

Kirkland bought a 5 3/4 mile section of the Eastside Rail Corridor in April 2012, known locally as the Cross-Kirkland Corridor (CKC). In 2014, the City removed tracks and built a crushed-gravel interim trail along the former rail-bed. The City’s master plan for the Corridor envisions the interim trail eventually being replaced by paved permanent trails alongside transit, with a primary trail mostly following the center of the corridor, and a lower-speed pedestrian-only trail on busier segments. Sound Transit retains an easement on the Corridor for high-capacity transit, as do some other utilities. However, it is unclear whether Sound Transit (as easement holder) or the City (as corridor owner) governs the placement of transit within the corridor. In September, Kirkland contracted with consultants on pre-design of compatible transit infrastructure, seeking to demonstrate to both Sound Transit and other stakeholders that a balanced design is possible.

What they came up with was an engineering design that increased the space for trails at what appears to be reasonable capital cost. Preliminary concept design also looked at pinch points on the corridor in Kirkland and Bellevue. They developed engineering concept solutions through all of the tight areas that do not adversely impact the trail.

Continue reading “Kirkland’s BRT Design”

King County Explores New Water Taxi Routes

Water Taxis in West Seattle, photo by Zack Heistand

King County is considering adding more water taxi routes. Last week, the County Council’s TrEE Committee (Transportation, Economy and Environment) reviewed an interim report looking into expansion of the service.

The interim report screened 36 potential routes serving 17 terminal locations on Lake Washington and the King County shore of Puget Sound. Just three of these met criteria for travel time and operational cost recovery. The routes were:

* Kenmore (Log Boom Park) to University of Washington (Waterfront Activity Center)
* Kirkland (Marina Park) to University of Washington (Waterfront Activity Center)
* Ballard (Shilshole Marina) to Downtown Seattle (Pier 50).

The screening criteria are forgiving. Water taxis were considered time-competitive where the round trip differential compared to available transit was less than forty minutes. Seven routes meeting that threshold were evaluated for ridership and operating costs. Those projected to achieve less than 10% farebox recovery at startup, or 25% recovery at maturity (ten years after startup) were then eliminated, leaving three routes for further consideration.

Potential routes identified for further study.

Will riders favor water taxis over other transit modes with better travel times? The round-trip time penalties for water taxi are 21 minutes for Kirkland-UW, 26 minutes for Kenmore-UW, and 29 minutes for Ballard-Downtown Seattle. The report argues that riders might prefer “the enhanced experience of riding a water taxi, a guaranteed seat, on-board restrooms, and great scenic views”.  A water taxi might also have less variable travel times. In contrast, the current West Seattle-Downtown service has travel times similar to surface transit. Vashon is only accessible by ferry, and the water taxi (22 minutes) is nearly three times faster than Metro Route 118 via the Washington State Ferries (63 minutes).

Continue reading “King County Explores New Water Taxi Routes”

What the Eastside Wants in ST3

Riders wait to board ST Express buses at Bellevue's busy downtown transit center
Riders wait to board ST Express buses at Bellevue’s busy downtown transit center

Several Eastside cities (Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland, Renton, Sammamish) submitted a joint interest statement to Sound Transit that lays out a shared vision for the ST3 project list. Each city also submitted comments with respect to their particular interests. The joint interest statement was developed in response to concerns that the draft PPL would serve the Eastside poorly, and that the relatively compact central Eastside needed a more comprehensive vision for regional mobility.

A plan for ST3, the Eastside cities argue, must do the following:

“Fund Eastside needs”: ST3 must fully fund investments necessary to meet Eastside transit needs. This is, of course, a shot across the bow of other regional leaders who have looked at the Eastside’s tax revenues as a funding source for spine expansion. Concerns about subarea equity were loudly voiced in several of the City Council meetings where letters to ST3 were approved.

“Connect regional growth centers within the Eastside”: Two projects are called out here; East Link to Redmond, and light rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah. Obviously, extension of East Link is the Eastside’s highest priority, and quite uncontroversial. BRT should be built between Totem Lake and Issaquah if light rail is beyond the financial capacity of the Eastside. Investments in Regional Express within the Eastside are also called for.

“Connect the Eastside with the region”: Here the cities advocate for strengthened connections with the neighboring subareas, including I-405 BRT and Regional Express. The statement is careful to call out how these are multi-subarea investments, implying that East King should not bear the entire cost of I-405 BRT. With the BRT corridor likely to extend from Lynnwood to Seatac, a large portion now lies outside the East King subarea.

“Provide an integrated regional transit system with access enhancements”: The cities are looking for a regional network that integrates ST rail, BRT, express bus and Metro bus services. They also call for TOD and non-motorized access planning as part of ST3. Performance-based initiatives for more efficient use of parking are supported, adding capacity as needed.

“Support system expansion”: This is a call for planning and studies for future system upgrades (and for ST to plan facilities like OMSF early in the process).

The individual cities submitted their own comments, describing their particular needs in greater detail:

Continue reading “What the Eastside Wants in ST3”

HCT Travel Times in Kirkland

Metro_255_KTC
Metro 255, and ST Regional Express 540, arriving at Kirkland Transit Center

Among the projects that Sound Transit has suggested for the Eastside are I-405 Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail between Totem Lake and Issaquah. While light rail is a clear priority, Eastside cities are interested in BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) as an interim solution. So there are several proposals in play that could serve as a high capacity transit (HCT) corridor in Kirkland.

Kirkland is attempting to balance these options. Some form of I-405 BRT is very likely to be included in any ST3 package, but requires an expensive station at NE 85th St to be relevant to Central Kirkland. The City has asked for a NE 85th St station along with a fast, frequent connection to downtown. A fixed guideway connection – aerial tram or people mover – has been suggested, but bus is surely more probable.

Light rail on the ERC gets closer to more Kirkland transit riders, but still has a last-mile problem in downtown Kirkland. BRT on the ERC could resolve the last mile issue with a deviation to downtown and at much lower cost than a rail alignment.

Letter AC-6
Kirkland seeks a new project for the Project Priority List, adding BRT between Kirkland and Issaquah with the Kirkland leg to run largely on the Eastside Rail Corridor. Source: Letter from Mayor Amy Walen to Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine, July 8, 2015.

Casual observers surely take for granted that any of these new transit options will be better and faster than today. Surprisingly, this is not the case for many riders to the most popular destinations. For riders to Seattle, neither light rail nor I-405 BRT would even approach the travel time of today’s Metro services. For travel to Bellevue, light rail would be slower than current bus service. I-405 BRT could deliver somewhat improved times for some customers, but would mean longer travel times for others. BRT that follows the Eastside rail corridor would handily beat any of the alternatives for a much larger number of transit users.

Continue reading “HCT Travel Times in Kirkland”

Central Issaquah becomes a Regional Growth Center

Central Issaquah Plan Area (Orange), Regional Growth Center (White)
Central Issaquah Plan Area (Orange), Regional Growth Center (White)

On June 25th, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) designated the Central Issaquah Urban Core as a Regional Growth Center (RGC). Issaquah is the 29th center to receive this designation, which is a major criterion in the distribution of federal transportation funds. Issaquah’s designation follows University Place, in 2014, and South Lake Union in 2007.

The new RGC is about two miles northwest of the historic downtown of Issaquah, centered around the intersection of I-90 and SR-900. It comprises 461 acres within the larger area of the Central Issaquah Plan. The Central Issaquah Plan, approved in 2012, relaxed parking requirements, height and FAR regulations over 1,100 acres of the Issaquah valley floor. Central Issaquah has 89% of the commercially zoned land, 13,000 employees, and many large employers including Costco. Central Issaquah is, however, thinly populated with just 730 residential units, none of which are in the newly designated RGC. Continue reading “Central Issaquah becomes a Regional Growth Center”

Growth is centralizing in Seattle and the Eastside

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Detail from Sound Transit mailer for ST3 Open House.

Recently, Matthew shared some 2014 population statistics that once again showed the City of Seattle leading King County growth.

Looking at more detailed city data across the region, the news is more complex and yet more encouraging. Not only is Seattle leading King County, but much of the growth elsewhere in the County is coming from the central Eastside. In 2014, Seattle grew 2.3%. Among the cities of the central Eastside, Bellevue grew 1.8% in 2014, Redmond 3.0%, Kirkland 1.5%. Renton grew 1.3%, and all of the rest of King County averaged just 1.1%.

Major cities in Pierce and Snohomish Counties (and in South King) lagged further. Everett was + 1.2%, Tacoma + 0.9%, Federal Way + 0.7%, Kent + 0.8%.

This mostly looks like concentric circles of slower growth the further one gets away from downtown Seattle. Continue reading “Growth is centralizing in Seattle and the Eastside”

East Link Stations Named

Revised_Map_East-Link

On Thursday, the Sound Transit Capital Committee approved permanent names for the planned East Link stations. Their recommendation will go to the Board for approval on June 25th.

Six of the ten planned stations have ‘new’ names. Names were selected after a public comment process with input from the cities. Sound Transit received 823 comments from the public and affected jurisdictions. Most notable was a suggestion that Rainier Station be renamed for Jimi Hendrix. The Committee instead recommended ‘Judkins Park’, but with a staff recommendation that the art and legacy of Jimi Hendrix be reflected in the station design.

Names also had to meet naming criteria established by the Board. They should reflect the nature of the environment, such as neighborhoods, street names, landmarks, or geographical locations. Names should be brief, easy to read and remember. They must comply with federal ADA guidelines and be limited to 30 characters. Commercial references are to be avoided because they may change. Similar names or words in existing facility names should also be avoided.

The Committee approved an amendment from Mayor Claudia Balducci to reverse the names for some stations in Bellevue so that they not start with the numbered street name first. Putting the numbers first would have created wayfinding and legibility issues.

So, drumroll please, here are the approved names, and some runners-up from the public input process:

Temporary Working Name Public/City Input Recommended Name
Rainier Jimi Hendrix Park; Judkins Park Judkins Park
Mercer Island Mercer Island Mercer Island
South Bellevue South Bellevue; Enatai South Bellevue
East Main East Main; Surrey Downs East Main
Bellevue Transit Center Bellevue Downtown; Downtown Bellevue Bellevue Downtown
Hospital Lake Bellevue; Wilburton/Midlakes Wilburton
120th Kelsey Creek; 120th; 120th/Spring Blvd Spring District/120th
130th Bel-Red; 130th; Midlakes Bel-Red/130th
Overlake Village Overlake Village Overlake Village
Overlake Transit Center Overlake Transit Center; Redmond Technology Center Redmond Technology Center

Sunday Open Thread: The Cambridge Guided Busway

The Cambridge Guided Busway is the world’s longest with 16 miles of guided sections. The guidance allows buses to run on a very narrow right of way (typical of many former railroad lines). It’s greener due to the vegetation that grows between the grooved concrete slabs which contain the wheels of the bus.

Running the buses on a narrower footprint leaves more space for a busy bike/walking path alongside.

The Eastside Needs Better Choices

ST_545_EP
ST Express 545 arriving at Evergreen Point. The busy SR 520 corridor is not on the draft priority list for high-capacity transit investments

 

Last Thursday, the Sound Transit Executive Board reviewed a proposed draft project list for the Sound Transit 3 ballot. On May 28, the full Board will consider and perhaps amend this list. After June 4, the public will be asked to comment on the draft project list, and the subsequent comment will guide the Board in further whittling down the list to a feasible proposal for ST3.

Sound Transit’s Geoff Patrick explained yesterday that the public outreach will “ask people’s views about the priority level for each project on the draft list, and to identify projects they think should be added or deleted”. The public will not be specifically asked about projects that are not on the draft list. So while the door is not closed to members of the public who may point to their own priorities, the presented options will be the “starting point for the Board and public’s conversation”.

Predictably, the draft project list for Snohomish, Pierce and South King is focused on completing the spine. All of their projects are just alternate alignments for doing so. Snohomish’ goals will be hard to achieve without large revenue transfers from elsewhere. The draft list includes costly projects such as alignments to Everett via Paine Field and a further extension to North Everett.

North King has ten projects to consider; all are light rail and would serve West Seattle or Ballard. Mayor Ed Murray would like to add Madison BRT to the list. The quality of the eventual outcomes in North King will depend on how these goals are balanced.

East King has just three options on the draft list. These are (i) the Eastlink extension to Redmond, (ii) I-405 BRT from Lynnwood to Seatac, and (iii) a light rail line from Totem Lake to Issaquah via the ERC and I-90.

The first two are highly likely to be in the final plan, and I endorsed their inclusion along with the BRISK BRT network last week. The last cannot, because even the maximum revenue authority sought by Sound Transit won’t support all three. The high-end cost estimate for Totem Lake to Issaquah rail is $2.67B (vs. about $900M each for East Link and I-405 BRT). With Eastside revenues well under $4B, Sound Transit could build to either Totem Lake OR Issaquah, but not both. Depending on the size of the final revenue authorization and competing demands from Everett, they may not build either end.

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