Cascade: Redmond stations are a chance to go all out on Sound Transit station access

Transit works better when people can get to the stations.

This might seem like an extremely obvious point, but many of the region’s biggest rail and express bus stations have awful walking and biking access problems. Like truly awful:

It’s incredible how many people navigate 520 freeway hell every day to use these vital express bus stops in Montlake. Image from Google Maps.

And it’s a lot harder to go back and fix station access problems once the core issues have been baked into the planning process.

That’s why Cascade Bicycle Club’s East King County Policy Manager Vicky Clarke has put out an action alert calling for people hopeful for great light rail stations in Redmond to get engaged now. Sound Transit is hosting an open house 5 – 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center.

Specifically, Cascade is pushing for these station options:

Cascade supports an at-grade station at SE Redmond, and an elevated station at Downtown Redmond. This configuration promotes safety by minimizing at-grade road crossings, is the most cost effective alignment, and will enable King County to build a trail connection from the East Lake Sammamish Trail to the Redmond Central Connector, during construction of light rail.

This early process will guide high-level decisions about rail alignment and station locations. Making the right choices now to prioritize biking and walking access is far better than trying to tack on biking and walking improvements later.

More details from Cascade:

Last November, voters approved the Puget Sound region’s biggest ever investment in new public transit. With the plan approved, the real work starts here. The first ST3 (see below for a refresh on ST3) projects will be baked during 2017. First up is Redmond and the opportunity to set the destiny of the system expansion.

IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE: IF GETTING TO LIGHT RAIL IS EASY, COMFORTABLE AND SAFE, PEOPLE USE IT.

We’re working towards a future where light rail is fully integrated into local communities, people can easily walk, bike or hop off the bus and jaunt up to a station. In an alternative future, which would miss the mark, stands a cold, isolated train station, set away from communities and surrounded by thousands of cars, both parked and crawling by on congested roads. The few people walking to a station have a daily 10-minute slog across a parking lot, and they dread it every day. Ensuring we achieve the vision we want hinges on engaging today and speaking up for what makes light rail easy to use for people who walk and bike.

LET’S START IN REDMOND!

In Redmond, the design for two new stations could include a new off street trail to connect people between south and central Redmond, long separated by the SR-520 highway. One design option would connect the East Lake Sammamish Trail to the Redmond Central Connector segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor. The other option would make the trail connection cost prohibitive. That’s not acceptable: it’s critical to have an intuitive bike connection from Issaquah and Sammamish to jobs, and commerce in Redmond and Kirkland.

Sound Transit is seeking public input on Redmond alignment at a Wednesday, May 17 open house (find out more and RSVP to the event here), ahead of Sound Transit board taking up the Redmond alignment decision in June.

A MODEL FOR THE ENTIRE REGION

Just like in Redmond, there will be chances to create new safe places to walk and bike as communities make way for light rail stations and lines. We’re urging Sound Transit to work with local public agencies and communities from the beginning of station area planning so that this huge regional transit investment works for everyone. Sound Transit’s funding pot for making sure this happens is the System Access Fund. With approximately $370 million for the entire 20 year roll out, every dollar matters. These funds will pay for things like sidewalks and bike lanes, secure bike parking and ADA accessible pickup and dropoff areas. As ST3 projects roll out, we’re working to protect those funds and make sure that the light rail system expansion creates communities all through Puget Sound where people can walk, bike, and hop on the bus to get to light rail, and the places we need to go.

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9 Responses to Cascade: Redmond stations are a chance to go all out on Sound Transit station access

  1. Phil Miller says:

    Couple of points here –

    1) Kind of a cheap shot showing a picture of Montlake before the 520 Project – it might make the point just as well to show what can and is being done in the corridor to make better bike, ped, and transit connections. even the interim work was a big step forward. It may not eventually be everyone’s idea of heaven, but WSDOT deserves credit here for developing some of the most extraordinary bike infrastructure anywhere.

    2) I’m struck by the assertion that ST has to use precious dedicated bike/ped funding to create ADA accessible pick up and drop off zones – if there is one message in ADA, it is that transit infrastructure MUST be accessible. Not just a design standard, it’s civil rights legislation. If ST really is not baking accessibility into the overall cost of the station and system, then that should be job one for all transportation advocates, including Cascade.

    3) If there is one thing that Redmond has insisted on throughout development of Link, it is that the Redmond Connector and East lake Sammamish Trails must be connected. Comp Plan, Transportation Plan, neighborhood and subarea plans are of one voice on this topic. The earlier open house said ZERO about design options that would preclude this connection. While I intend to look closely on Wednesday at what is proposed (there’s nothing on the ST site), I hope this isn’t a case of CBC trying to snatch victory from the jaws of, um, victory. Redmond has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure excellent ped/bike connections at all four stops, and CBC has been at best a periodic participant in the process. By all means, we should get the best possible design out of the current work – at the same time we need to see our more visible advocates consistently at the table before we start dishing out the kudos.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      The 520 shot is the perfect example of why access needs to be designed from the start. As I wrote, it’s much more expensive to fix later. The montlake project is evidence of that.

      • Phil Miller says:

        True that – bike, ped and transit foresight were lacking here when that highway was designed in what, 1968? ;-)

    • Al Dimond says:

      Would it have been less of a cheap shot to show the lanes upon lanes upon lanes of the expanded interchange that’s planned at Montlake?

      Or the jarring expansion joints on the out-and-back 520 bike path of today? Those certainly are “extraordinary” — many bridges in Washington, built before and after 1968, have had bike and pedestrian paths, and this is the first one yet with joints you have to bunny-hop over.

      A basic interim connection between the ELST and Redmond Central Connection, across 520, could be built today, or could have been built any year previously, without any “extraordinary” measures: pave an asphalt path from the end of the ELST to the existing crosswalk; then use a tiny sliver of the ample space under the interchange to expand the sidewalk to an appropriate width for a regional multi-use path; then even in the remaining distance to the Bear Creek Trail, where there’s bridge over the Bear Creek Trail constraining width, we could find room to expand the sidewalk significantly by narrowing vehicle lanes to a width more typical for an urban street. None of that is complicated or expensive (relative to other nearby infrastructure) and it would provide an enormous connectivity benefit. I guarantee the City of Redmond, WSDOT, and ST have each spent more money for less benefit on something in the last few years…

      • Gary Anderson says:

        Have you rode the 520 bike path recently? I rode it shortly after it opened and I could not believe how bad the expansion joints were. I communicated this to the 520 project and they indicated they were looking into it. Truely awful for new infrastructure.

      • Biker says:

        Gary, I think Al just said that above, that the 520 expansion joints suck.

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  4. Corrie Trevanian says:

    At the meeting, the presentation speaker clearly said bike trails around the construction, such as the SRT, would be closed or detoured due to safety concerns.

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