Wednesday, August 12, 2009

East Link Debate

The debate continues to rage over the east link light rail segment through Bellevue. What I don't understand is why they don't just follow the freeway? It is an established route, with major development nodes. It appears the Bellevue route is going to bypass Factoria entirely in favor of the controversial Surrey Downs/Bellevue Way alignment. (Bellevue Reporter/August 12 2009 "Surrey Downs Making Noise About Light Rail")

The neighbors there don't want it. I'm sure, however, Sound Transit would get no complaint from Factoria store-owners. When we moved here 16 years ago I asked why there weren't shuttle buses between Factoria, Crossroads, and downtown Bellevue (the three major development nodes in the city). I was told that Kemper Freeman doesn't like competition with his downtown retail developments. To ferry people to competitive malls would be intolerable. The buzz is that he's not fond of the proposed BelRed Community Development either. But that's another story.

If you click on the map here and look at segment B you see a red line following 405 and another line to the left. Apparently the Sound Transit preferred alternative is the one to the left. This will run adjacent to six residential neighborhoods and a sizeable portion of Mercer Island Slough, a wetland preserve. Trains currently average 65 decibels, exceeding federal nighttime limits and the levels promised by the agency (Bellevue Reporter) Residents refuse to be placated by sound walls.

In addition, Surrey Downs has recently been place on the list of most endangered historic properties by the Washington Trust for Historic Properties. That's another story, too.


Ben Schiendelman said...

Simple answer. The cost per passenger mile is lower when you don't build along a freeway.

Basically, in an area where you can develop (and Bellevue plans to), you want to build as much as possible around the train stations. Building next to the highway lowers property values and reduces the amount of space available to build in dramatically.

Ben Schiendelman said...

Also, the Washington Trust for Historic Properties is essentially run now by the anti-transit. I don't think their decision to go after light rail says anything about the historic quality of a suburb.

RobinB said...

Ben--didn't LA build along the freeway? (At least in some segments?) All those people sitting in traffic watching the trains whiz by was an incredible incentive to get them out of their cars--it's working down there.

Also, think of the parking required when you build in residential neighborhoods. Noone in Bellevue will take transit if they can't park at the station.

I'm sorry to hear about WA Trust--they've done a lot of valuable work.