New rapid transit bus lines could hit Bellevue by 2024

A Proterra all-electric coach bus that Metro Transit operates. Photo courtesy of King County

Three additional RapidRide bus lines could be in the cards for Bellevue if a plan to expand routes countywide is approved.

King County Metro currently operates six RapidRide bus lines that span the county.

These lines are differentiated from standard bus routes due to increased frequency. During peak hours, a bus will arrive every 10 minutes and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours.

RapidRide was originally proposed in 2006 and was funded through a .1 percent sales tax before it was implemented in 2010.

Since then, it has become a popular service, with county documents saying the combined ridership of the six active RapidRide lines has grown nearly 70 percent relative to other bus lines’ growth.

Line B currently serves Overlake and other Eastside stops.

Under a proposed expansion that the King County Council was set to commission a feasibility report on during a meeting Sept. 19, 17 additional lines would be examined for implementation.

Of these, 13 lines would be created to service communities outside of Seattle by 2025.

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert said increasing service to the Eastside is a priority for Metro.

“I think with all the density on the Eastside, we will see more and more RapidRides coming,” she said.

Service to the north end would begin with a stop in Bothell beginning in 2021. Totem Lake in Kirkland and Bellevue would receive three routes in 2023 and Redmond would see at least one route developed in 2024.

The estimated cost to the county for these 13 lines would be $576 million, with additional costs being assumed by cities if they chose to participate.

Some $13.6 million was approved in the current county biennium budget for the project.

Cities like Kenmore have completed upgrades to their infrastructure to facilitate similar bus routes from Sound Transit. These include dedicated bus lanes with hard dividers and bus stops for rapid transit.

Redmond city staff said they will be working with the county to design and implement routes.

After the report is finished, the process for implementation will begin with planning and Metro reaching out to local jurisdictions, a design phase and the final construction phase where bus lanes and stations will be built.

Lambert said that with people moving farther away from job centers like those in Seattle or the Eastside, increasing public transit will be critical.

Additional service will be starting in both November and next March along regular bus lines.

In November, the 269, which runs from Overlake to Issaquah, will see increased hours, with buses arriving every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The second increase in March will be to a route that runs between Kirkland and Redmond.

This is happening at the same time that Sound Transit 3 (ST3) is also coming to the Eastside by way of new light rail stations that will open in southeast Redmond and the downtown core by 2024.

These voter-approved transit projects include the construction of two light rail stops in Redmond that will connect with Bellevue and Seattle.

ST3 was approved by voters last November and will include additional rapid bus lines along Interstate 405 and the north end.

Lines will also extend from Issaquah to West Seattle, and from a northern stop in Everett down to Tacoma when all the stations are completed by 2040.

Lambert said the county and Sound Transit coordinate bus routes. If one agency is taking over a route, the previous service provider will reroute buses elsewhere.

ST3 is projected to cost $54 billion by the time it is completed.

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