King County Metro Moves Slowly on Eastside Bike Share

Papahazama / Flickr

As reported in 2015, Seattle’s Pronto Bike Share was on the move to the Eastside, thanks to a $5.5 million budget allocation from the Legislature to King County Metro. It was originally slated to move forward by this June, but now it seems to be stuck in the mud.

Pronto’s collapse seems to have slowed State Department of Transportation and King County Metro. The Legislature originally booked the money in the 2015 – 2017 budget cycle but last year amidst drama on Pronto, they deferred all but $500k to future years, according to Scott Gutierrez, a spokesman for King County Metro. And even that $500k isn’t moving fast. King County Metro is planning on spending less than half that much on a feasibility study, and the RFP will be posted sometime in the first quarter of this year.

So what now? How do we get a region-wide bike share back up and running pronto (but without Pronto)?

The first step has to be to go to the King County council and repeal the mandatory helmet law. While the helmet law wouldn’t make a new regional bike share fail, it certainly doesn’t help. This program is coming back at some point, and it would make sense to help it succeed by eliminating this significant barrier.  Bike helmet laws are well meaning, but there’s also evidence that they do more physical harm than good.

Next, it is time to get King County Metro and Seattle DOT together to do a debrief on what went wrong in Seattle. Was it too small? Are Seattle’s notorious hills a deterrent? They should produce a report on what happened and come up with next steps. Hint to that committee — look at previous coverage on what would make a bike share work well.

Next, King County Metro and Seattle should partner to launch a large regional Bike Share program which leverages the $5.5 million for the Eastside with whatever resources Seattle can come up with. And hopefully, lessons learned from Pronto will make the second iteration of Bike Share more successful.

The good news is the Eastside is working to make biking better in general, even if bike share is not happening soon. Bellevue is in the midst of a Pedestrian and Bicycle Implementation Initiative, which is slated to spend $7 million per year on projects to help get around without an engine. Issaquah has a Walk n’ Roll plan, and King County Metro is expanding bike lockers and applying for grants to get better non-motorized access to transit.

Correction 1/31/17:  Per the City of Bellevue, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Implementation Initiative is one of several items that will be funded by last fall’s Proposition 2, which also includes funding for projects to reduce neighborhood congestion, neighborhood safety projects, new sidewalks and trails, technology for safety and traffic management and enhanced maintenance.  Proposition 2 overall will generate around $7m per year over 20 years.  We regret the error.

Transit Oriented Development at Mt. Baker Station

SEATTLE--113 lv Mt. Baker Station OB

Across the region, there is a conversation going on about what the area around the new light rail stations will look like. Will cities upzone and encourage more dense development to maximize the use of the stations, or will they leave things as-is? It is helpful to look back at ST1 stations and see how upzoning affected the development around the stations. The area around Mt Baker station has some lessons for everyone as ST2 continues and ST3 gestates.

Mt. Baker has had two upzones in 15 years. The first, in 2001, was a standard rezone for a light rail station. A more recent rezone in 2014 sent potential building heights even higher.

First, let’s look at the success. Mt. Baker station borders a 2 year old mixed use building, with 56 residences and ground floor retail, with artists getting preference for leases: how Seattle is that? Mt. Baker Lofts is the type of development that transit experts advocate for when they push for Transit Oriented development. Unfortunately, that’s it for anything approaching ideal.

The big employer in the area is the UW Consolidated Laundry Facility, a 65,000 square foot facility with room for parking that launders all of the medical clothing the university uses. It’s certainly a necessary service, but hardly an ideal use of valuable space around a valuable light rail station. Everything else around the station is low rise retail. A Lowe’s, QFC, and RiteAid all have huge surface parking lots. Franklin High School is a typical Seattle high school. A few abandoned buildings and fenced off lots are sprinkled between 1 story buildings that house banks, an auto parts store, a gas station, a pawn shop, restaurant and a laundromat. The only new building under construction  is hardly mixed use: it is a underground water storage tank to help better manage Seattle’s stormwater.

To its credit, the City of Seattle sees a problem. The city funded North Rainier Urban Village Assessment concluded last year:

The North Rainier Urban Village, particularly the area surrounding the Mt. Baker Light Rail Station, has not advanced towards the vision of the North Rainier Neighborhood Plan of 1999. Rather than a thriving town center, the station area is defined by vacant lots and auto-oriented uses and lacks a defined character and sense of place


What’s the problem at Mt. Baker Station?

Continue reading “Transit Oriented Development at Mt. Baker Station”

Coming in 2018: Major Changes to I-90 Buses

Keeping an eye on things
Many Metro and Sound Transit routes use I-90 between the Eastside and downtown. Sound Transit routes 550 and 554 and Metro routes 212 through 219 together total almost 20,000 riders daily. In less than 18 months, the ride to Seattle will change significantly during the East Link construction process. And of course, that’s just the beginning: I-90 buses will have even bigger changes when East Link opens in 2023.

Right now, I-90 buses from the Eastside have HOV 2+ or Express lanes for the entire length of I-90 in the peak direction, and HOV 2+ east of Mercer Island contra-peak. Then buses either proceed into the transit-only tunnel, or go on surface streets like 2nd/4th and 3rd (which is transit-only during peak). In June of 2017, the express lanes close to cars and buses move to new HOV lanes from Bellevue to Rainier Avenue*. In a relatively new development, all agencies involved have agreed to keep the D-2 roadway (which is west of Rainier) open to buses until 2018, allowing them to still flow unimpeded into downtown.

In 2018, the D-2 roadway closes also, and these changes occur:

  • The 554, contra-peak 212, and 217 get off at Rainier, serve a new stop at Rainier and Charles that replaces the Rainier freeway stop, and continue downtown via S Jackson St., using only three of the 6 stop pairs that the 7 has in this stretch.
  • The other I-90 buses get off and on at 4th Avenue and serve Seattle using 2nd and 4th.
  • The 550 uses 2nd and 4th Ave instead of the tunnel.

There is a plan to mitigate likely additional delays, as shown above: Continue reading “Coming in 2018: Major Changes to I-90 Buses”

The Transfer Bonus

KCM 6893 at ID/Chinatown Station A lot of digital ink gets spilled here and on other transit oriented sites about the “transfer penalty.” As most of you know, a transfer penalty is the time you spend waiting for your 2nd (or 3rd!) bus or train after exiting your first bus or train. So if you are going from your house in West Seattle to downtown, you hop on the 50, and then take the RapidRide C downtown. The time you spend getting off the 50, walking to the next stop (not far in this case) and waiting for the C to arrive and depart is your Transfer Penalty.  According to a 2013 Metro survey, half of all riders frequently take trips that involve a transfer and the average penalty in time is 14-15 minutes.

As Metro’s Park and Ride permanent large lots are almost all at 100% utilization, the only way to aggressively grow Metro’s ridership is to encourage more trips to be 100% transit, both in Seattle and in the suburbs.  How do you encourage people to do something they don’t do now? You pay them.

Enter the Transfer Bonus.

The idea is to give people who transfer a small ($0.25 or $0.50) reduction on the cost of the overall fare. It should be significant enough that people notice the difference but not enough that it encourages people to transfer for no other reason than to save some money. Metro could make it almost revenue neutral (or even revenue positive) by hiking regular fares by a similar amount. This would not apply to cash transactions, because — Metro shouldn’t still be doing paper transfers in the first place!

Charging more for direct trips may sound crazy, but in fact it happens everyday in the airline industry. In London, the Heathrow Express is faster and more direct but cost an arm and a leg more than just taking the less direct tube.

You could roll it out for a 1 year pilot, and accompany it with an ad campaign encouraging people to use transit for the whole trip (“Go All The Way with Metro!”). You could measure success based on overall ridership and by percentage of riders who use a transfer.

This would be superior to charging for parking in the Park & Ride lots in several ways. First, it has few implementation and ongoing costs. You would need to do a fare change and update a few signs, and you would need to create a procedure to stop people from using the off-board payment options in the tunnel and at RapidRapid ride stations (my guess it is a routine that runs monthly that debits peoples accounts for the $0.25 if they take more than a certain number of phantom trips that don’t involve a return trip at the same location). That compares to a lot of signs at the Park & Ride lots, and the ongoing customer service costs of answering peoples questions and dealing with problems and hiring people to patrol the lots and write tickets for violators.

Second, the “Transfer Bonus” would also be aimed to get Seattle residents who aren’t using the Park & Rides to use transit instead of driving. The accompanying ad campaign would show non-transit users that transfers aren’t so bad.

Third, a “Transfer Bonus” would be more popular than charging for parking. According to SoundTransit, last year’s pilot of charging for parking was not popular – it received hundreds of complaints about the pilot or paid parking in general.  A “Bonus” is positive, where paid parking is a negative.

What about you? Would you drive less if there was a small fare decrease for transfers?

A King County Metro Ridership Update

stvsmetroSTB posts a monthly update on Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail ridership and Quarterly updates on Express bus service, and I thought it might be interesting to create a similar post on King County Metro’s ridership. We’re often excited about Sound Transit’s new service plans, but ST is still a very small player compared to Metro. Metro serves 3 times the number of riders of SoundTransit (that includes buses and light rail) and is the 7th largest bus system in the country (and the second most used Trolley Bus service in the country!), so it is important to keep a close eye on Metro.

metrobymonthAs you can see from this chart, Metro’s ridership isn’t moving fast. Average weekday riders are flat between this year and last, and have been up approximately 2% per year for the past 4 years (after a 2% decline caused by the recession).  Those small ridership changes are despite the deployment of RapidRide, big fare increases, various restructures, and the small service reductions of 2013.

2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Jan 399,659 391,165 382,570 346,481 367,442 368,984 378,489
Feb 403,660 396,446 386,026 384,704 363,735 360,624 367,692
Mar 398,675 396,159 386,284 373,495 365,156 364,532 373,790
Apr 408,368 407,430 401,121 390,652 380,261 364,905 381,236
May 414,693 415,463 408,461 399,030 389,018 371,357 385,628
Jun 399,673 396,597 388,215 385,084 375,049 360,476 370,254
Jul 396,465 392,605 381,570 373,882 364,403 353,249 364,223
Aug 387,251 382,214 370,386 364,909 357,025 346,108 347,649
Sep 390,296 399,363 386,868 382,395 365,628 357,702 357,929
Oct 421,955 415,086 403,681 393,665 392,552 382,314
Nov 399,668 394,393 383,972 373,625 349,807 360,059
Dec 359,928 354,129 338,578 340,088 329,071 329,071

metromaIf you had a goal of increasing Metro’s ridership  by 10% in a year, how would you do it? In a future post, I’ll delve into some specifics about Metro’s ridership to show where the weak points are and what can be done to improve ridership.

Sounder North: A Free Car For Every User Every Four Years

The average new car costs about $33,000. For the 630 people using the Sounder North line, your tax dollars are spending almost $8,000 ($5 million per year in subsidy divided by 630 people) a year to help these people get to Seattle in the morning and back home in the evening.  That’s equivalent to getting a new car for free every 4 years.

This is not intended to attack the people taking Sounder North. They didn’t make the decisions to continue to run this service. They are simply using the best options available to them and they are keeping around 600 cars off of I-5 in the morning by using Sounder North. So bravo to Sounder North users! 

Why does Sounder North still run?

It short, because politicians in Edmonds, Mulkiteo and Everett want it to keep running. It is providing high quality (at least during the summer, numerous landslides have cancelled service in the winter in recent years) transit service from the northern cities to Seattle and back.

The bus options are really just more buses down I-5, which gets busy during the rush hours Sounder runs, making the buses slow and less reliable. Here’s a comparison of Sounder versus similar transit service in the morning.

Sounder 510 to 5th and Jackson
Everett Station 5:45 59 min 63 min
210 daily users 6:15 59 min 72 min
6:45 59 min 77 min
7:15 59 min 85 min
Mulkiteo Station Sounder 417 to 2nd Ave Ext S & Yesler Way
140  daily users 5:56 48 min 77 min
6:26 48 min 77 min*
6:55 48 min 77 min*
7:25 48 min 83 min
Edmonds Station Sounder 416 to 5th Ave & Jefferson St
271  daily users 6:11 33 min 43 min
6:41 33 min 46 min
7:11 33 min 51 min
7:41 33 min 51 min*

* There was no similar bus service at that time, so I used an estimate.

These comparisons look bad, but I wonder how many of the people taking these service actually need to get somewhere else downtown, and are taking additional transit service to get there. If they were taking an I-5 bus, they would have other stops downtown. The worst situation is in Mulkiteo, where comparable bus service is an extra 1/2 hour each way.

How does this get fixed?

In short, SoundTransit needs to listen to its own Citizen Oversight Panel. In its latest report, it wrote:

As it has in previous reports, the COP continues to recommend setting ridership benchmarks in the corridor and identifying actions to take if specific targets aren’t met.

I can’t see a scenario where ridership benchmarks would be made, so the next step would be identifying actions to take:

  • You could expand Sounder North with more frequent service, perhaps 8 trains over 3 hours instead of 4 trains.  I can’t see how this makes the situation any better, and it stands a good chance of making the subsidy much worse.
  • You could cut Sounder North all together and replace it with bus service. In order to make this at all palatable, you would need to invest in some HOV lanes and transit priority, particularly in Mulkiteo. You could make these steps revenue neutral over the course of 3-4 years by re-purposing the massive subsidy into improvements in bus service.

What would you do to fix Sounder North?

Bike Sharing is Likely Coming to the Eastside

Near the top of the “Tier 1” transit projects funded by the state’s new Transportation budget is a curious item:

Project Title Agency Leg District Funding (Dollars in thousands)
Bike Share Expansion – Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah King County Metro 48 $5,500

That’s a $5.5 million allocation to expand bike sharing to 4 Eastside cities.  You may be wondering (as I was), what would Bike Sharing look like if it expanded to those cities? And how did this make its way into the budget?

To find out, you need to go back a few years and read the King County Bike Share Business Plan. It maps out the plan for what a region-wide bike sharing system would look like. It is a few years old now, funding might levy new requirements, and lessons from operations means that the real life system might look a bit different.

The original plan was to launch with 50 stations in Downtown Seattle and near the UW, and then add a total of 110 more stations in those areas and adjacent ones. Finally, Pronto would add 50 stations in a few relatively dense Eastside cities. The program got off the ground with 50 stations last year, and Seattle has a grant pending to expand bike sharing to most of the rest of the city with an additional 250 stations.

Does the state funding mean that Pronto would be heading to the Eastside too, or would it be separate? The answer is likely that Pronto will expand. Pronto is actually an independent non-profit, not an arm of the City of Seattle. Its board is a cross section of transportation staff from various agencies (including King County Metro, the recipient of the state funding) and some community members. It gets grants from the cities and county (who in turn get grants from the state and federal government) and hires a vendor to administer the system.  The vendor is Motivate, formerly known as Alta Cycle Share. They run similar programs in other cities like DC and Boston.

What would a small bike share deployment look like on the Eastside? I took the original business plan’s goal of spacing stations out by 1300 feet and placing 10 in Bellevue, and plotted them out in downtown. These are not the actual locations, just some ideas on where they could go. You could cover all of the downtown core easily, and add a few stations at Overlake, Bellevue High School and at the Hotels on 112th. You could easily apply the same logic to Kirkland and Redmond, especially if Microsoft wants to get involved.

Continue reading “Bike Sharing is Likely Coming to the Eastside”

Does This Sign Belong to You? If so, could it be updated?

I happened upon this sign while visiting SafeCo Field today. Some interesting problems with this sign, mostly as a result of it being dated.

– It refers to CenturyLink Field as Qwest Field.
– The Greyhound Bus Terminal is in the wrong location (it moved!)
– Chihuly Garden and Glass  (currently the #1 thing to do in Seattle on Trip Advisor) is nowhere to be found.
– The MOHAI is missing too (#23 on Trip Advisor).
– It designates the “Ride Free Area” for buses, which no longer exists.
– It tells you where buses run and roughly how often, but gives no indicator of where these buses go.

You may think of this as nitpicking a sign (and I am!), but it may be useful to think about what is the purpose for this sign. In 2015, the only folks who really need this sign are folks that don’t have smartphones — locating the Greyhound Bus Terminal in the wrong location could be quite catastrophic for someone trying to find it to catch a bus. Likewise, telling a visitor to town that you can ride buses for free downtown could cause them an expensive ticket (if they got on the RapidRide buses, as an example).

Who does this sign belong to? I’m guessing some department of the city of Seattle? What are the goals of signs like these in 2015, and are they meeting them? And how can they be kept up to date in a fast developing city like Seattle?

Service Improvement Idea: The Super Express Bellevue to Seattle

There are many ways to improve service and provide the best bang for our transit dollars. You can improve or even remove low performing routes – that was essentially the focus on Metro’s September 2014 reductions. But, you can also tweak high performing routes and get either deliver increased service at the same cost or reduce service without reducing frequency. I’d like to take a stab at improving one of the most popular routes: the SoundTransit 550.

The 550 is responsible for 16% of SoundTransit’s boardings, with close to 10,000 rides a day. In rush hour, it runs as frequently as 11 times an hour. It is so popular, it is essentially being replaced with a light rail line in 2023. That’s still 8 years away, and there’s room to improve this busy route right now.

I propose replacing some of 550’s rush hour runs with a new 551 – a super express to Seattle. The 550 begins at the Bellevue Transit Center, makes a few downtown Bellevue stops and then goes down Bellevue Way to serve the S. Bellevue Park and onto Mercer Island, Rainier Freeway and Seattle. The great majority of people on this route are just going between Bellevue and Seattle and the intermediate stops just waste those people’s time and our transit dollars.

The 551 would start at Bellevue Transit Center, stop at one or two (though likely different than the 550) downtown stops and proceed directly to Seattle. That would allow the bus to get on the freeway at SE 8th St, using a queue jump and dedicated HOV exit lane to go directly from I405 to I90. Without traffic and stops this saves 4 minutes according to Google Maps), I suspect the actual savings are much larger. Skip the Mercer Island stop and the Ranier Freeway station and head directly to the tunnel and make the regular tunnel stops. Do the same on the return.

I’m not sure how many of the 550 runs could be converted to 551. You wouldn’t want to convert too many, as there are enough users of the South Bellevue Park & Ride and the western Bellevue stops near Bellevue Way who would miss out. But even if you convert just 1 trip per hour during rush hour, you improve the rides of hundreds of people and you might be able to squeeze out an extra run you couldn’t do otherwise.

Downsides? There are some. First, the confusion at least at first — it would be annoying if you got on a 551 bus looking for South Bellevue Park and ride and you end up in Seattle instead — though good outreach, driver announcements and signage could help. Also, you would get people used to the super express with no stops when the matching light rail service that opens in 8 years can’t match it. But light rail can also bypass the traffic the 550 gets stuck behind in Bellevue, so the effect might be a wash. And the traffic is just heating up — there a number of new towers going up in Downtown and the light rail construction will yield some serious traffic issues.

SoundTransit (and STB commenters), what do you say?

How A Community Got A Park & Ride Shuttle Without Really Trying

Map of Issaquah Highlands 628 Stops. Source:

A few months ago, I was thinking of ways to improve transit service up in the Issaquah Highlands. I thought a peak hours shuttle bringing people from the Issaquah Highlands to the nearby Park and Ride would increase ridership, increase the capacity for the Park & Ride, and help some folks cut down from 2 cars to 1.

I made some initial inquiries into the issue with Hopelink, Metro and my neighborhood’s association. I got some price estimates, but really didn’t get much farther. My neighborhood association didn’t see a path to paying for it, and I couldn’t imagine Metro increasing service after cutting service in September 2014. The association did mention that they would survey folks to see if there was interest and try and advocate to Metro and/or the city to help pay for some service.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that the new 628 (which started this week) route provides almost exactly the bus service I was calling for, albeit in not quite the way I expected.

As covered here, it provides service from North Bend and Snoqualmie to the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride. But it also has 5 optional stops (like other DART buses, you must contact Hopelink at least 24 hours in advance to get them to go to the stop) in the Highlands which would help many people folks not within walking distance of the Park & Ride to easily get there without driving.

I guess the next step is to try and get people to take it. I’m hopeful that the bus is overcome with Highlands folks that Meto sees the need to provide the shuttle I originally suggested. Our association has done some publicity to get the word out — now, how would you get people to take the bus?

Improving Transit Accessibility for Visitors

A recent trip took me to Atlanta for a family get together. We were staying in the suburbs, and wanted to go to downtown. After hearing some grumbling about dealing with Atlanta’s traffic and finding parking, we decided to drive to a park and ride and take the MARTA train into the city. We were a group of 14 adults and kids, and we need to get tickets. This should be easy, right?
I never realized what a pain point transit can be for tourists.Here are some things we noticed:
  • MARTA requires a separate Breeze card for each paying customer. Each Breeze card is $1. There are no paper tickets. Granted, that’s better than $5 ORCA cards, but still is annoying for a one time user. Could they be free and have some sort of “recycling bin” for collecting used cards?
  • You must pay for each ticket separately.  Some of the kids were under MARTA’s 46 inch height limit for riding free, but most needed tickets. That meant an adult had to navigate the machine 8 times.  The upshot is that we got good at using the vending machine by the 8th time, but why is there no way to buy multiple tickets at once?
  • Conveniently, there was a staffed office at the park and ride, but they have no ability to sell transit tickets. They can only help with parking fees. Parking was free for 24 hours, and fairly easily to understand for newcomers.
  • MARTA has a day pass for $10, or each ride is $2.50 + $1 fee for the Breeze card. But if you take a connecting train, is that a ride? There was nothing indicating “round trip” — just a question of how many rides we wanted?
  • Many of our riders were Canadian. They inserted their credit card, and it asked them for a 5 digit zip code, which didn’t accept letters (Canadian Postal Codes have letters too!). It also had no prompts of what to do if you didn’t have a numeric code, and couldn’t easily go back to the previous screen. So they were unable to pay with a card —  luckily they had cash.
  • All of our riders spoke English, but I don’t recall the machines having a way of switching to other languages. MARTA’s site only offers a machine translated copy of the site. This would not be helpful to most users, as machine translations are extremely unreliable.
  • The machine dispensed change as $1 coins, something despite years of the US Mint’s efforts, most consumers are unfamiliar with.
 The good news is that we cleared all of the hurdles and had a great time. The troubling news is that MARTA was a bit challenging for a newcomers, which probably acts as a deterrent to this type of use — how many people would say this is just too complicated, and drive off?  I know there are some signage challenges, but what’s Seattle’s transit experience like for tourists? Are there any model cities that handle this challenge well?

How to expand transit service, one neighborhood at a time

Blue Moon

A few weeks ago, a neighbor of mine in the Issaquah Highlands noted that the 1,000-parking-space Park and Ride near our neighborhood was filled to capacity on a recent weekday. I got to thinking, if people wanted to use public transit in our relatively dense neighborhood, that park and ride is all we have. The majority of our neighborhood’s homes aren’t within 1/4 of a mile of the bus routes, and there’s a decent sized hill between many homes and the park and ride.

I decided to seek a rush hour shuttle service that would take people from where they live and get them to the park and ride, where there are several rush hour bus routes to Bellevue, Issaquah and Seattle. At a time of service cuts at Metro, there is no chance of a service expansion — in fact Metro recently cut service on several of our city’s routes.

However, Metro does have a program to allow cities to buy service. I contacted Metro and spoke with Michelle Allison, a self described “transit geek” working on the Community Mobility Contracts project, which allows cities to purchase Metro service. Community Mobility Contracts are a “full cost recovery” program, meaning that cities pay 100% of net costs to Metro. So if the route would cost $200,000 a year, that’s what it costs your city.  Also, even if your route happens to recover an above-average amount at the fare box, they charge you the system average. For example, if you collect $100 in fares on your route that costs $200, Metro only gives you credit for collecting $60.  For a low-performing line, this could be a benefit.  For a high-performing line, it would be a drawback.  My quick math (based on this article) is that a shuttle service like this might actually net higher than average cost recovery, so this makes Metro’s service look less desirable than it might otherwise look.

Next, I approached Hopelink, a social service provider on the Eastside. Many people don’t know that Hopelink provides all of the buses for Metro’s DART Bus service. They quickly returned messages, and came back with an estimate of $75/hr (almost 1/2 of what Metro’s average cost is). Even without any farebox recovery, that brings the cost to approximately $113,000 per year.

Finally, I spoke with the neighborhood association to see if there was interest in paying for this service.  Initial comments included concern about the cost and whether the City of Issaquah and service users would be paying for part of the costs. I’m working on scheduling a meeting with the President of my association to assess next steps.

I’m excited about my nascent effort to expand transit options in my neighborhood, and curious if my efforts will bear any fruit. I’m hopeful that this service upgrade could mean fewer car trips and perhaps allow some people to downgrade from 2 cars to 1.  The Issaquah Highlands is never going to be downtown Seattle, but perhaps some additional transit options can improve people’s lives. I hope to share my findings soon.

Repurpose This Building

Space at a transit center in the heart of a growing downtown should be at a premium. Strangely, The Bellevue Transit Center has a 2,100 square foot building uselessly taking up space. Here’s why I think it should be repurposed, and I’d love to see some ideas on how that could happen. First, a bit about what is there: the Bellevue Transit Center has 12 bays, 23 bus lines, and thousands of passengers every day. It also has the Bellevue Rider Services Building, which Sound Transit described in 2008 as

…adjacent to the Bellevue Transit Center. Several rider amenities are available including transit schedules and other rider information, public phones, community information, bike racks and public restrooms. The building also houses a station for the Bellevue City Police.

The majority of the stations users are workers in the core of Bellevue. They are extremely likely to have access to transit schedules via computer or smartphone. They are also unlikely to need a public phone (wait, there are still public phones?), or access to paper community information. There are no bike racks in the building (though there are *many* in the nearby area), and the police station closed 3 years ago.  A bike shop apparently was in the building several years ago, but it failed. In addition, just a few feet away is a small building attached to the transit center that housed a ticket office at one point. Now, it is a very expensive and big map holder so you can find your bus in the 12 bays of the transit center.

Continue reading “Repurpose This Building”

Repurpose This Building

Space at a transit center in the heart of a growing downtown should be at a premium. Strangely, The Bellevue Transit Center has a 2,100 square foot building taking up useless space. Here’s why I think it should be repurposed, and I’d love to see some ideas on what could happen instead.

First, a bit about what is there: the Bellevue Transit Center has 12 bays, 23 bus lines, and thousands of passengers every day. It also has the Bellevue Rider Services Building which SoundTransit described in 2008 as

…adjacent to the Bellevue Transit Center. Several rider amenities are available including transit schedules and other rider information, public phones, community information, bike racks and public restrooms. The building also houses a station for the Bellevue City Police.

The majority of the stations users are workers in the core of Bellevue. They are extremely likely to have access to transit schedules via computer or smartphone. They are also unlikely to need a public phone (wait, there are still public phones?), or access to paper community information. There are no bike racks in the building (though there are *many* in the nearby area), and the police station closed 3 years ago.  In addition, just a  few feet away is a small building attached to the transit center that housed a ticket office at one point. Now, it is a very expensive and big map holder so you can find your bus in the 12 bays of the transit center.

Before going forward, you have to wonder what SoundTransit and the city of Bellevue were thinking here. In 2006, payphones had all but gone the way of the dodo bird, and the city of Bellevue’s headquarters is two blocks away — why would they need a station so close by? The public restrooms are a nice item to have, but I’m frankly surprised they have lasted – Seattle’s experiment with public restrooms didn’t go as well. Overall, it seems like the building you would want in 1985, not in 2006 and certainly not in 2014.

Moving forward, that leaves a $3.5 million dollar 2,100 square foot  built in 2006 sitting mostly empty. What would you do with this building and the accompanying former ticket office?