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Overlake to downtown Seattle via 520 wouldn't really be that much faster than on I-90. I work in Overlake and on the occasions I drive to Seattle after work I usually take 90 even though 520 is a shorter distance, because of traffic. Rail along either corridor will be close enough in travel time that I don't see the need for two corridors. For South Lake Union, it's close enough to downtown (and connected by streetcar already) that there's no real advantage there either.

The theoretical advantage is for trips north of the Ship Canal across the lake. University is the obvious Seattle destination, but also Wallingford, Fremont, and Ballard further to the west (not shown on your map). But connecting directly to Kirkland would potentially be a better idea, using a third transit-only bridge or some kind of suspended underwater tunnel. 520 can remain the bus (and eventually BRT) corridor. Some of the guys at Seattle Transit Blog have mentioned the idea of this third bridge concept. But we're talking way down the road. A west side light rail line (Ballard-downtown-West Seattle) and the Seattle side of the Ballard to University line would both take priority. On the Eastside, a north-south line connecting Kirkland to Bellevue and continuing to Renton, as well as an extension to Issaquah, are the priorities before any second lake crossing.

Adam Parast

Most important people besides the mayor agree. In my mind the major sticking points are:

- Increasing service levels to account for the loss of the Montlake Flyer stop
- Use toll revenue to fund this
- Implement high quality BRT (I have my doubts the high quality part of it will happen)
- Ensuring that transit only lanes connection SR-520 to UW
- Ensure the HOV lanes meet strict performance criteria per WSDOT (45 mph at least 90% of rush hour, *not* over a 24 hour period)

Cap'n Transit

What about connections?

Ben Allen

I'm from Seattle itself, so my perspective on things Eastside might be a bit skewed, but to my eye the Sound Transit route from Overlake-and-hopefully-eventually-Redmond to downtown Seattle isn't quite as circuitous as it might look on a map. One real complicating factor (and here someone actually from the Eastside might have to chime in) is that the 520 is at least in my experience the most painfully overcrowded road in the metro area, at all times of day, and for any trip anywhere (except to the UW or north Seattle) I wouldn't blame drivers for heading down and taking I-90 across instead, despite the added distance.


I believe circuitous routes can work if the service is very fast through the diversion. It would probably have to be on exclusive ROW there.


Many Bellevue NIMBYs, concerned about hoods riding Link to their pristine neighborhoods (or ideologically opposed to the project) have been calling for a 520 routing of East Link. Some view this proposal as little more than a way to kill ANY LRT across the Lake.


Keep in mind also that trying to tie into the north south tunnel that is currently being built will be very difficult because of restraints on capacity. That tunnel is going to be used to capacity for people coming from the north. It will fill up fast. Trying to add trains coming from the east will be more than a challenge. It would likely need a new set of tunnels to get downtown.


I do love the idea of a dedicated busway when we get the additional lanes running in the 520 corridor.


Problem with this type of analysis is that it presumes that all, or even just most, of the potential light rail ridership will also ride buses in busways.

Unlike your very cogent arguments about the lack of mobility in shared-lane streetcar versus city bus, I find your implicit contention completely uncompelling given actual results on the ground in modern US cities (i.e. ones like Seattle, not New York).

Yes, some commuters take the bus - but you're cutting your potential market by perhaps half, or even worse.

The worst mistake most transit planners make (and many laypeople as well) is assuming that providing a bus for people to ride is the same thing as getting a bunch of people to ride the bus.

Matthew Miller

No hope of using transfers to avoid the need for the 'train interchange"? For example: A Kirkland to Bellevue line crossing a U of W to Overlake line.

Jeffrey Bridgman

If they do chose light rail and building all the necessary connections is too costly, I hope they at least chose to make the appropriate investment in rapid buses connecting to the line...

Also, are there examples of such a transit corridor being shared between multiple modes? Could light rail and buses run on the same lanes across the bridge?

Jeffrey Bridgman

If they do opt for the light rail option, but decide it isn't feasible to built all the connections necessary, I hope they will at least invest in rapid bus service with good connections to the line. For example, a light rail line running east towards Redmond could be intersected by several rapid bus routes running north to south, paralleling I-405. Some sort of segregated ROW + frequent service would make the transfer penalty minimal.

Also, are there examples of multiple modes sharing transit lanes? Could the transit lanes on the 520 bridge be used for both bus and rail?


[Reposting, as this was lost]

Since the city has resisted a direct transit solution for commuters between the high density Overlake/Microsoft work area and the high density residential area around Capitol Hill, the 520 is under unnecessary pressure at peak times.

The bus connections off from Montlake at the western end of the 520 are completely inadequate for fanning out to Capitol Hill, the U district etc. I've spent long hours shivering here, waiting for services that simply failed to arrive. At some point you give up and go back to using a private vehicle.


"In short, the line relies on the notion that light rail's intrinsic attractiveness will compensate for a somewhat circuitous route. We'll see if that really works."

It will, because what other route will they take? Ever since the ferries ended, they either have to divert to the south (the route of the light rail) or to the north (the route of SR 520). For downtown Seattle, the routes are practically equivalent in speed.

For the U of Washington and various points north, probably most Bellevue & Overlake riders will not take the rail "detour". But is that really a strong origin-destination pair?

If it is, rail over 520 makes sense. If it isn't, who cares?


"A busway solution will almost certainly require less infrastructure for the same mobility. "

Correction: for worse mobility. "Less infrastructure" is a synonym for "crawling slowly through city streets and running into stop lights, followed by stopping at unprotected street corners for non-level boarding".

If you don't think you need the better mobility of rail, then fine, save the money. If you do need it, don't screw around with buses -- you're just throwing away the 5-15% of your riders who will not ride buses period (that's the rail bias factor).

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