The Bellevue Transportation Department held an open house Wednesday on their Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation Plan, asking the public for feedback on the candidate Rapid Implementation Bicycle Facility projects as it enters into the second phase.
Some of the goals set are to provide mobility options to those who cannot drive due to age, income or disability; improve overall neighborhood livability; support and enhance public transit use; reduce air and noise pollution, energy use and oil consumption; and to support economic development.
“What we’re doing is creating opportunities to connect to those mega projects (such as Grand Connection and East Link) when they ultimately do come online.”
These particular projects are considered “rapid” because they use low cost materials, use existing roadway widths and can be installed within a minimal timeframe. The proposed 52 bicycle lines will provide a total of 57 miles to link neighborhoods, parks, schools and workplaces.
The initiative began in early 2009 in response to the anticipated growth in travel into the city to provide options to the public as they travel within, to and through Bellevue. This new plan was adopted by the City Council and has established an overall vision for the future of Bellevue to connect the city to the broader regional pedestrian and bicycle network.
“We’ve been making good on our commitment by implementing facilities and tracking how well we’re doing every year,” said Franz Loewenherz, the city’s senior planner on the project. “What we’re doing is creating opportunities to connect to those mega projects (such as Grand Connection and East Link) when they ultimately do come online, but also providing immediate opportunities in the next two to five years.”
Work on Bellevue’s East Link light rail system, a multi-billion dollar project investment, will begin at the end of the year and is anticipated to continue until 2020. This new system will provide six stations and is going to be transformational to the city’s public transportation. According to Loewenherz, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation Plan needs to push ahead to ensure that people will have an entry to the new light rail. Making good on that investment and maximizing its return ultimately demands that ready access.
There are immediate requests in Bellevue within the business community and among residents to have travel options, and according to the city that is what it is striving to address. “Our travel demand model today estimates that there is a total of 1.2 million daily person trips to, from and within Bellevue,” said Loewenherz. “Of the number of daily commute trips in Downtown Bellevue, about 20 percent of those are on transit today. Over the last decade there’s been a significant increase in transit usage of 140 percent.”
With a current number of about 56,000 daily boardings and landings of people getting on and off the bus, the City of Bellevue expects those numbers to increase significantly once the light rail comes online. Before work on these “rapid” projects begins, the Department of Transportation will be meeting on April 28 to determine the budget.
According to Colliers Bellevue Downtown Office Market First Quarter Report, the vacancy rate increased by 50 percent during 2015 and is likely to rise further as corporate giants like Expedia, Microsoft and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) complete their moves. To put this into perspective, for vacancy to drop back down to 10 percent and represent market equilibrium, it will require approximately 29 more leases equivalent to Salesforce’s recently announced 85,000 square feet lease at 929 Office Tower.
Downtown Bellevue will undoubtedly attract new and expanding corporate users due to the region’s deep supply of intellectual capital, entrepreneurial ecosystem and the millennial workforce’s preference for urban lifestyles. But with limited pre-leasing commitments announced to date and delivery schedules winding down, timing is becoming increasingly important for landlords as tenants have more options to consider, according to the same report. The market will look quite different in the not too distant future, and how exactly this will effect public transportation and the new projects currently being implemented is yet to be known.