The Seattle Times recently wrote an in-depth report on the state of transportation in Bellevue. The article states how the City has traditionally been known for easy driving and with the ongoing building boom, it is forcing the City to rethink and focus on how people get around. According to their research, Bellevue City staff anticipate a net gain of about 18,000 downtown jobs by 2025, with Eastside employees increasing at companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and more.
They use an example of the downtown parking garage that is currently being used for public parking, located across from City Hall, that will be turned into a 43-story tower for Amazon in the coming years. This signifies Bellevue’s traditional easy driving versus the changing climate of new buildings being built.
The article has an interesting comparison of Bellevue’s downtown area workforce at 52,000 people, which is higher than Seattle’s workforce in South Lake Union. To keep people moving and lessen traffic, the city is planning for trains, buses, bicycles, walking and van-pools. An interesting stat that The Seattle Times shared is that Bellevue aims to cut the share of downtown commuters who drive alone to work by about one-third by 2035.
They quoted Bellevue Mayor, John Chelminiak, “Bellevue is very car-centric. You can’t really change that, but what you can do is figure out a way for people using other modes to be able to safely transit the city.” Currently, the city has 350 free street parking spots in the downtown Bellevue core.
Bellevue imposes impact fees on developments to help fund transportation projects. Builders in the city must reduce their project’s size, postpone the opening date or contribute money to transportation improvements if drivers are delayed more than one minute at an intersection.
It was noted in the article that both city officials and large companies are relying on the $3.7 billion Sound Transit East Link light rail when it opens in 2023 to handle many of the new commutes. It’s anticipated to serve 50,000 passengers upon opening. Additionally, more bike lanes are being planned on Main Street, with new lanes already serving riders on 108th Avenue Northeast.
The Mayor of Bellevue believes that the light rail, as well as a push for van-pooling can help to reduce drive-alone commutes.