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It’s always nice to have options. When we are busy, having access to multiple modes of alternative transportation is a big relief! Read on to see how Gillian mixes up her commute to tailor to her schedule!

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08.27.13

Today I had to wake up super-early (at least for me) because I have to leave work early to go to school.  I am a part-time evening law student at Seattle University and fall semester started this week.  My work hours from Tuesday to Thursday are now 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Sometimes it’s a pain getting up, but there are certainly many benefits of an earlier start to the work day.  Traffic is better, I am more productive, and I don’t get worried that I am missing an early morning meeting or conference call.  I drive in to work on days I have class.  I wish it was more convenient for me to get to school and get home using public transportation.  But for the time and flexibility, I drive.

I have to say that it is great having multiple options for my commute on any given day.  Depending on my schedule, the weather, or simply my mood, I can choose to bike, bus, or drive.  Maybe someday I will try a fourth option – by foot.  =)

Friday, August 30th, 2013 4:45 PM | by geri | Add a Comment

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Summer is drawing to an end but our challengers are finishing strong in their commute challenge!

Meet Kate. She took the challenge determined to bike from Kirkland to her work in Downtown Bellevue, and occasionally, ride the bus. Kate was thrilled to start and was even given a high-five from a passing jogger at her bus-stop. Read on to see how Kate’s first ride went!

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Bought My Gear

This commute challenge is going to be so fun. I have always wanted to bike to work, but I have been intimidated in the past. Now that I live pretty close to where I work (Kirkland to Bellevue, 4 miles.) I am close enough. This commute challenge with Downtown Bellevue On The Move is just the thing to finally convince me to give it a try.

I was lucky enough to find a sweet deal on a bike on Craigslist. It needs a little love and attention, both things I can provide! The brake pads needed to be replaced. They were cheap enough at REI- $7. I watched a few Youtube videos to learn how to install them.

KAte's Bike

(Old brake pads. Significantly worn; the indicator grooves were almost gone.)

Written on Monday, August 12, 2013

First Bike Ride!

My husband practically had to push me out the door today. I was more than a little nervous. Sure, it’s been a while, but I can ride a bike no problem. Some would say, “It’s just like riding a bike.” …bad joke, sorry. So why was I so scared to ride my bike to work? Cars. Other drivers to be more specific. Inattentive drivers can be very dangerous to all who share the road.

Kate and Her Bike

Once I got out the door and on the road most of my fears dissipated. I am very fortunate that most of my route to work has a bike lane or large shoulder that I can ride on. Drivers do give a lot of clearance to bicyclists and I really appreciate that! I was confident that I was visible to drivers since I had my sweet new bicycle lights.

Bike lights

They each have a USB port so I can charge them at work after every couple rides. I love that!

Written on Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 4:34 PM | by geri | Add a Comment

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Challenger Gillian started out riding her bike to work but changed it up last week by taking the bus. Check out how easy it was to switch modes!

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GillianMy commute by bus takes about 20-25 minutes on average each way.  The bus stop is only a few hundred feet from my front door (yes, football throwing distance).

I use the OneBusAway app on my phone to let me know when the bus will be arriving.  I usually wait between two and five minutes, although these days the weather is so pleasant that I really wouldn’t mind waiting longer (it would be a different story in the winter).

Overall, my bus commute is pretty low-key.  Sometimes I put my iPod in, sometimes I just sit and stare out the windows, noticing all the construction going on in the area.  The most notable for me is the construction of the South Kirkland Park & Ride.  I remember when this place would get backed up with buses around the U-shaped driveway.  The design seems much better now, and there is already one parking garage up (not sure if it is open yet).  It looks like there will be at least another garage across the way.  I can’t wait to see this place after it is complete.

–Gillian 8.12.13

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 10:45 AM | by geri | Add a Comment

WFLyer_WINTERinterize your bike commute!

Don’t let the darkness and weather drive you off your bike this winter. Both can be easily overcome with the right equipment, clothes and attitude.

Join Cascade Bicycle Club to learn the basics of great winter bike commuting at a FREE brown bag presentation at Bellevue City Hall, room 1E-112 on Thursday, November 10th from 12:00-1:00 p.m.

You’ll learn:
  • What light systems are best for your commute
  • How to maximize your visibility
  • What clothing combinations work best for rain and cold
  • How to keep your cargo dry and safe
  • Fender options
  • Wet-weather riding skills and safety considerations
  • How to use transit to create a comfortable hybrid commute

RSVPs are required by November 9th. Email hayley@Bellevuedowntown.org.

Friday, November 4th, 2011 10:04 AM | by admin | Comments (1)

11949849761176136192traffic_light_green_dan__01.svg.medWe were curious about the Traffic Signal Priority system being touted as a benefit of the new RapidRideB service, so we took our questions to John Toone, the ITS program manager at King County Metro. John regularly works to expand and extend the capabilities of the ITS architecture of the transportation agency, As program manager, his duties range widely from policy and planning to installation and operation, and he was instrumental in getting the TSP system in place. Our conversation is below:

CYWB: What exactly is Traffic Signal Priority and where is it being implemented?

John: TSP is simply the idea of giving special treatment to transit vehicles at signalized intersections. Since transit vehicles can hold many people, giving priority to transit can potentially increase the person throughput of an intersection. TSP is currently active for RapidRide buses at all but three intersections on the B Line, which will come online as construction in Bellevue finishes.

CYWB: Could you describe how the technology works to a layperson, like ourselves, and explain why we should be excited about it?

John: TSP is part of our Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) architecture where the buses, roadside and central systems are all connected via a single network. The buses know their location using GPS and other technologies. When it reaches a defined point on their trip, the bus sends a wireless message with about 25 pieces of information to a device on the roadside. This device generates a request to the signal controller if the criteria set by Metro and the City are met. TSP doesn’t just make the trip faster, it’s also more reliable. So, buses come more regularly, get to their destination faster, and it costs less for Metro to provide service.

CYWB: How can you tell (as a rider) when it’s in effect?

John: TSP is a priority treatment, not a preempt, so a rider or driver won’t really notice an obvious change happening at the signal as with an emergency vehicle. The green light is held a little longer or the wait at the red light is shortened for the bus, but the lights will never change order. People get to know the patterns of familiar intersections, so if they get the feeling a light has been green for longer than expected, look around for a bus. In general, though, it’s hard to know for certain that a bus got priority at a specific light without looking into the system logs. But over a trip a rider will notice that the bus spends less time stopped at lights than a car.

CYWB: Will we see its use expanding to other routes as well?

John: TSP is a core feature of RapidRide, so the A Line and all future lines (we currently have plans for 6 total) will have this technology. Every bus in the fleet is equipped with the same on-board equipment as the RapidRide coaches so this could be expanded to other bus corridors as well, although there is no budgeted project to do so at this time.

CYWB: Can you name any “TSP success stories”?

John: On the A Line one less bus was needed than was initially scheduled to provide service due to the success of TSP and other priority treatments.

CYWB: What is the relationship (if any) between TSP and the new SCATS system being implemented in Bellevue??

John: SCATS is a very cool new generation signal control system that’s very smart and uses a lot of information inputs to adapt to traffic conditions. The first SCATS intersections with TSP are currently planned to be installed in January/February 2012 at 120th/NE 8th and 124th/NE 8th. With their integration, our system can be considered one of the inputs to their adaptation. As you probably know, modern thinking about traffic management is that the infrastructure is intended to move people and freight, not vehicles. SCATS can be much more successful about moving people by knowing which vehicles are buses full of them. We should be able to be more aggressive in how long we could hold a green light for a bus, as we have confidence SCATS can compensate quickly for those movements that were delayed a little more.

CYWB: At Metro, are you working on any technology-related projects besides traffic signaling that could potentially make bus rides go faster?

John: As I mentioned above TSP is just one part of our ITS architecture. This architecture includes the next bus arrival signs and ORCA card readers located at the RapidRide stations on what we call the “Tech Pylons”. Paying your fare while you’re waiting for the next bus is a great way to get on board and on the road faster. We designed the architecture so that new technology systems can be more easily integrated, which is one of the reasons it was nominated for this year’s ‘Best of ITS’ award that will be announced soon!

Monday, October 31st, 2011 11:40 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Who says people only drive in Bellevue?

Friday, October 7th, 2011 12:32 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Picture 060Under almost impossibly blue skies, the gleaming new RapidRide B line was unveiled this morning before a smattering of elected officials, King County Metro employees and transit aficionados. Two inaugural rides, one originating at Bellevue City Hall and the other coming from the Redmond Transit Center, met at Crossroads Mall to a slew of fanfare, celebration, and even an appearance from a superhero.

“I feel like this is our golden spike moment,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Today, we’re bringing together the Eastside with new, reliable transit service. With RapidRide B, you’ll spend less time waiting and more time moving. It’s a leap forward in meeting the goal of increased efficiency for our entire transit system.”

RwifiapidRide B officially begins October 1, and will speedily shuttle passengers between the Redmond and Bellevue Transit Centers, operating about 20% faster than the current service along the corridor with more frequent headways. As King County Council member Kathy Lambert explained “With the RapidRide B, you can throw out those annoying schedules—you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your bus will always be coming in 10-15 minutes.” The RapidRide B coaches feature 3 entrances for speedier boarding, low floors, on-board wifi, and have the distinctly 21st century ability to interact with the traffic signals, meaning prolonged green lights to keep the bus moving. Additionally, 19 RapidRide stations have been installed throughout the corridor, all of which feature real time arrival information, ORCA card readers, benches, and a lighted signal that passengers can activate to let bus drivers know they’re waiting.

RapidRide B service is funded primarily through revenue from Transit Now, a 1/10th cent sales tax increase approved by King County voters in 2006 for improvements to bus service. Additional funding for RapidRide B came through a partnership between King County Metro and the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts program, which provides money to transit agencies throughout the country specifically for bus rapid transit initiatives. Any corridor with more than 3,000 riders automatically qualifies for the funding. Executive Constantine highlighted the importance of partnerships in the creation of RapidRide B, and Councilmember Jane Hague seconded: “The fact that we were able to deliver on this during a recession means that we are doing things right in King County, and providing intelligent transportation solutions that connect our region,” she said.

The launch of the RapidRide B Line coincides with a major east side transportation system restructuring, designed to improve the efficiency of the entire network. 12 underperforming routes were deleted as part of the changes, but many new routes have been added. Public officials praised both the changes and new service at today’s event, zeroing in on the importance of transit to accommodate the exponential population and job growth predicted for the Eastside. Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson stressed that  “the B line will support future job growth in our eastside urban centers, and will also connect with future East Link light rail stations.”  Congressman Dave Reichert explained that “not only will this new service benefit commuters, it will also benefit businesses by freeing up space on the roadway for them to move goods and services.”And with tolling scheduled to begin soon on the 520 bridge, Councilmember Lambert predicted that “the B line will become an invaluable service to commuters. As an east sider, you’ll have the choice of spending over $5300 a year commuting by car to Seattle, or just $1300 on a transit pass. Think of what you could do with all that extra money!”

superhero

Lambert also shared her experience of riding the B Line with the crowd, illustrating that riding the bus isn’t just about efficiency or fancy technology. “We really enjoyed our trip this morning, and were reminded of what a gift it is to be able to take [time] out of your day to relax with neighbors, check email, and avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. It’s a great way to feel a part of a community.” And as King County Metro employee Malva Slachowitz pointed out, “the bus even looks like it’s smiling!”

The B line will official start carrying passengers this Saturday at 6am, and rides will be free all weekend. King County Metro is engaging in a full scale marketing blitz to promote the service, and will have street team volunteers handing out information at the Bellevue Transit Center from 6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Thursday-Tuesday.  Maps, schedules and information about all route changes are available at metro.kingcounty.gov/up/scvchange.html

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 3:16 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Washington State Bicycle & Pedestrian Counts
Tuesday – Thursday, Sept. 27 – 29
7:00 – 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

It’s that time of year again – the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Cascade Bicycle Club are back for the fourth year of their Washington State Bicycle and Pedestrian Counts. If you have two hours to spare, they need your help counting bicycles and pedestrians at intersections and on trails!

They are still looking for volunteers in Bellevue, so please consider giving your time to collect data that will help WSDOT build the case for future improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in our region.

Click here for more information and to sign up. If you have questions about the project, have trouble logging in, or are unable to make your shift once you have signed up, please email Tessa Greegor.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 12:34 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Thanks to the participants in our “Once Upon A Bicycle Story!” Here is our winning story, coming to us from Juliet Swedlund. Congrats, Juliet, and happy riding!

“Life in Tandem”

Four years ago, at age 25, I learned to ride a bike. Literally, I had forgotten how to ride a bike, and it wasn’t so easy figuring out how to do it! I started timidly commuting to and from work, but soon entered a world of bicycle enjoyment. Everything from bicycle scavenger hunts and 7-seater rides to painted-body bike riding in the Fremont Solstice Parade and recently completing a 2-day ride from Seattle to Vancouver. Never did I imagine I could enjoy bicycling so much – this coming from a Tennessee native who scoffed when I saw a cyclist on the road! Bicycling changed my life, changed my perspective, and I’m happy to see roads in my hometown are getting more and more bike friendly – something I strongly support even though I live 2000 miles away in the bike-friendly pacific northwest!

I love bicycling so much that my husband and I decided to have a bicycle themed wedding! We had bicycle ties made, bicycle wine charms, a bicycle cake topper, and road off together on a tandem bike! My brother-in-law even wrote and played us a song called ‘Tandem Bike Ride’! For my husband’s birthday I signed us up to ride the RSVP (Seattle-to Vancouver), and I can’t believe I road nearly 200 miles in 2 days! I never would have imagined it! Riding our bikes together has always been something from which we both receive great joy, and look forward to sharing with our future family.

Friday, September 9th, 2011 3:48 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

gWe here at Choose Your Way Bellevue have been waiting with bated breath for the official start date for tolling on the SR-520 bridge. Well, it looks as though our wait is finally over, as WSDOT announced on August 25th that the tolls will begin in December of this year.

From the WSDOT press release:

“We’re confident we can start tolling SR 520 in December with a system that is reliable, accountable and able to handle more than 100,000 daily transactions,” said Dave Dye, WSDOT deputy secretary.

Dye said the department received valuable input from an expert review panel, an internal audit and from ongoing testing of the system. The feedback is being used, he said, to ensure that all components, including software and hardware, are fully operational before tolling starts.

“We appreciate the thousands of drivers who have already set up Good To Go! accounts and we thank them for their patience,” Dye said. “December will arrive quickly and we encourage others to set up an account now so they’ll be ready when tolling starts.” ”

Tolling was originally scheduled to begin in the spring, but Electronic Transactions Consultants Corp, the state’s tolling vendor, encountered relentless difficulties with the all-electronic collections technology. WSDOT forecasts indicate that over 100,000 cars a day will be travelling over the bridge, and delays were intended to ensure that the technology could keep pace. As Dye explained, “we’re on the cutting edge of tolling technology in Washington and it has taken longer to ensure that everything is ready.”

This delay has not affected the pricing scheme, which remains a dynamic one that will charge up to $5.00 each way during peak times. Tolling is expected to raise approximately 1 billion and will be used to pay for improvements to the bridge. WSDOT’s goal is to reopen a wider, safer incarnation of the bridge in 2014.

If you are a frequent commuter, purchasing a Good to Go! transponder is still the cheapest, easiest way to pay the toll on the bridge. You can purchase a Good To Go! Pass at retail stores, online at GoodToGo520.org, or by calling 1-866-936-8246.

But if you’re interested in other commuting options, King County Metro and Sound Transit have added 130 daily bus trips to routes on SR 520 for a total of 700 every weekday in anticipation of tolling. The Go520 project continues to operate real-time ride sharing for people travelling across the bridge. Additionally, if you live or work in Downtown Bellevue, we encourage you to sign up for the Downtown Bellevue Commute Club, a brand new pilot program designed to help people by providing commute resources. By creating a free online profile, you can find carpool and vanpool partners, plan transit, bicycle and walking trips, and connect with fellow Bellevue commuters.

We feel fortunate to have been granted a brief reprieve from tolling, but December is right around the corner, so make sure to have a plan in place before it begins!

Watch the video below to learn more about 520 Tolling and using the Good To Go! Pass:

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 2:05 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Carla Saulter is a writer, parent and bus rider from Seattle who blogs about being car free on her website BusChick.com. She also writes about public transportation and children at Grist.org. According to her bio, she exchanged her car keys for a bus pass in March of 2003, and has never looked back. You can read more about why she takes the bus in her lovely This I Believe essay, Bus Chick’s Manifesto.

In honor of the “back to school” time of year, we chatted briefly with Carla about the delights and challenges of living car free with kids. Take a peek at our conversation with the Bus Chick herself below. Then feel free to add your own ideas and thoughts on how to work public transportation into your own family in the comments section.

CYWB: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Carla! It would be fantastic if you could begin by giving us a brief overview of the landscape of your car free life.

Carla: Because my family does not own a car, transportation considerations were one of our key selection criteria when choosing our home. To me, the location of our home mattered more than the house itself. Even a few blocks can make a huge difference when you spend a lot of time walking.

My husband and I both bus to work (he works in Redmond and I work downtown), and our kids’ daycare is within walking distance. So, one of us can drop them off and catch the bus from there.

CYWB: A lot of people think about going car free or light and say, “that’s great, but it couldn’t possibly be me.” In surveys we’ve conducted, parents often indicate that they need to be able to pick their kids up from school, run errands after work, etc.  I wondered if you could speak to whether going car free could actually be anyone.

Carla: By the time we had kids, we had fortunately already set up our life in such a way that would enable us to continue to be car free. If you’ve already got a home and a job and your life set up a certain way, making the shift can be more challenging.

It’s doesn’t have to be all or nothing, though. The key is thinking about your life differently, and identifying opportunities to make the choice to not drive. Take going to the grocery store for example.  People always think it takes longer to walk, yet if I were to get my kids in the car, drive the 7 blocks to the grocery store, look for parking, get out of the car, unstrap them, and get across the parking lot to the store, the time savings are negated. We tend to accept the daily hassles of driving as given parts of life, when there are lots of other options.

The huge thing for parents is getting kids to and from school—a large percentage of traffic during rush hour is caused by parents taking their kids to school, and many people think they are doing their kids a favor by driving them to school.  But in fact the most dangerous place for a kid to be is in a car, and traffic created by parents driving their kids to school also creates  danger for the children who do walk. The key is re-imagining how your kids get to school, and separating your commutes from theirs. If your kids walk, bike or take the bus to school, that frees up your options for how to get yourself to work.  If you have questions about commuting with children, I would check out the organization Safe Routes to School and  Anne Lutz Fernandez’s book, Carjacked. Both have good, reassuring information for parents who are considering this.

When you’re accustomed to driving, any other choice seems like a lot of hassle –on the surface, getting in the car seems the easiest. When trying a new commute, there is considerable work on the front end, and the challenge is getting people over the initial hump. Challenge yourself to try something for a week—or even once—with the understanding that it’s only a test. If you don’t like it, you can stop.

CYWB: Something you’ve written extensively about is how your kid’s lives have been improved by their experience being on public transportation. Can you talk a bit more about this?

Carla: One huge positive is that my kids are going to be great walkers! Exercise is always going to be an integral part of their life, because they’ve grown up with it as something that’s completely normal.

Their experience is such that getting around doesn’t mean being strapped in a box. The going somewhere for my kids is the adventure, being on the bus, waiting for the bus, walking around in our neighborhood. We’re partners in crime, and everything is an adventure for us. And the majority of the time, young children LOVE buses.

CYWB: Do you have a “survival kit” that you bring on the bus?

Carla: Good question! Not exactly, though there are things I always have with me. I don’t bring toys on the bus, because they take up a lot of room in my bag, and I don’t find that they provide much distraction for an antsy child. We live very close to the library, so I always keep compact, age appropriate books in my bag.  I also have bubbles for bus stops, and nonperishable snacks: raisins or crackers. I am intrigued, however, by the idea of having a special (compact) toy box that only comes out on the bus!

CYWB: Not to put you on the spot, but is there anything that King County Metro could do to improve the public transportation experience for parents?

Carla: Taking a stroller on the bus is terrible. The current policy is that you need to fold the stroller down before you get on the bus, which is extremely time-consuming, cumbersome, and inconvenient. There are some good reasons why this policy exists, but it’s not communicated well or enforced consistently. Low-floor buses help with accessibility for all riders, including parents with children. Link Light rail is easy because you can roll your stroller onto the trains, but there are still some issues. Parents: I recommend using an infant carrier instead of a stroller, but if you are going to bring one, make sure it’s a lightweight umbrella model.

CYWB: For some people, money talks, and according to AAA, you can save up to $9000 annually by not having a car. Have you ever been able to do something awesome with the money you’ve saved?

Carla: My husband has never had a car, so he’s been able to put away quite a lot over the years.  Our kids college funds are basically already taken care of, and we can go on adventures when we want. But besides savings, another way to think it is that when you’re a car owner, a lot of your time working is spent towards paying for it.  If you’re not doing that, perhaps you’d be able to work less and have more time with kids. Or, you could choose to retire early so you have more time with your family that way.

CYWB: Some parents express the concern that if they don’t drive to work and an emergency happens, they won’t be able to easily get to home or school. Has that ever factored in to your considerations?

Carla: I think that’s crucial. When I started out riding the bus to work, even before I had kids, I would worry, how would I be able to suddenly leave work if I had to? What would I do if I needed to go home? Now my husband’s employer offers the Guaranteed Ride Home service as part of the ORCA Passport program, and it provides tremendous peace of mind. But even if that service isn’t offered at your workplace, you can always give yourself permission to spend $100 a year on taxis. That’s a small amount compared to the cost of driving every day.

CYWB: Do you find that having a car forces you to become hyper-local? Do you think you miss out on experiences because of that?

Carla: People feel like having a car provides them with unlimited options. It’s true that cars are useful for certain purposes, but not for every trip, every time—certainly not for the majority of trips that Americans use cars for, which are two miles or less. What I’ve found is that there’s so much in my neighborhood!  We go to the library twice a week, and we have three community centers, the lake, and amazing parks all within walking distance. My husband and I also take the bus to go to night events all over town, and we take a Zipcar when we need to go somewhere far.  I love being part of my community, knowing my neighbors, and feeling connected. I think this really gives your kids a sense of place. I mean, why do you live in a neighborhood? What does a neighborhood mean to you if you are always in a car going somewhere else? We just moved onto our street, and we’ve already met most of our neighbors because we’re always out walking. Our lives are not limited, but absolutely enriched.

Monday, August 29th, 2011 2:09 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

We are organizing a photo shoot in downtown Bellevue designed to promote walking, bicycling, and transit as attractive and viable commute options. In order to capture a realistic view of green commuting in Bellevue, we are looking for volunteer models who live and/or work in downtown Bellevue to help us out. Photos resulting from the shoot will enliven and enhance our ongoing marketing campaigns, and will be used in future print and web publications.

The shoot will last approximately 4 hours and will be held on either Friday, September 9 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. or Saturday, September 10 from 1:00-5:00 p.m., depending on when the majority of respondents indicate they’ll be available.

By sending a photo to us, you give us permission to consider you for inclusion in photographs promoting Choose Your Way Bellevue. In addition, you acknowledge and agree that the photo becomes the property of Choose Your Way Bellevue and we are under no obligation to choose you for the photo shoot. You further acknowledge and agree there is no compensation for your services.

Send a photo of yourself to hayley@bellevuedowntown.org, along with your name, contact information and availability (Friday, September 9 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. or Saturday, September 10 from 1:00-5:00 p.m.). We’ll be in touch if you’ve got what we’re looking for!

Thanks so much, and we’re excited to hear from you!

-Team CYWB

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 11:17 AM | by admin | Add a Comment
Choose Your Way: Seattle to Bellevue

Choose Your Way: Seattle to Bellevue

Reimagining: The cost of parking

Reimagining: The cost of parking

Friday, August 12th, 2011 4:40 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

We here at Choose Your Way Bellevue have been hearing quite a bit about the new ridesharing service go520, a pilot project sponsored by WSDOT that aims to pair drivers and riders in real-time as they travel. However, we had no idea what it was like to actually use it.

We know there’s nothing like a first hand account to alleviate the inevitable questions and concerns around trying something new. So, the folks involved with the project were kind enough to share this brief interview with one of their users, whom we’ll call Ronen Y.

Ronen uses go520 to commute from the Central District in Seattle to the Redmond Microsoft campus across the 520 bridge five times a week. Ronen initially became interested in the go520 project because he thought it would be a good way to earn cash for gas and have a faster commute. He primarily serves as a driver, so if you’re booking rides on this route you might get matched! Here is his story:

Pioneer Profile: Ronen Y.

Some info on Ronen:

Where do you commute from/to? Central District in Seattle to the Redmond Microsoft campus

How many days a week do you commute across the SR520 bridge? 5 days

Do you use the system mainly as a: Driver mainly (but also rider)

How did you hear about the go520 pilot program? Email from my employer

What made you interested in the program initially? Get some cash for gas and travel a little faster on the 520 on-ramp (as a driver or rider)

Q&A with Ronen:

What do you think of Avego’s go520 service?

I like the “stop-based” system go520 uses. The way I see it, it gives better chances of matching folks and gives riders flexibility to find a ride from different locations.

You took part in Avego go520 WP7 beta testing.  How did you find the app?

I thought the app was easy to installwithin a few steps you’re up and running. Just have your data entered on the website and you can easily find riders. The app is intuitive and reliable, and you can count on it to match you with riders along your route.

You have attended Avego go520 events—how did you find this experience?

The events were well organized and fun. I really enjoyed meeting the crew and learning about their system, and also giving direct feedback to the folks at Avego.

Do you have concerns with the system in general?

No, but you need lots of drivers/riders to use it to be effective. Let’s get some more people on board!

Do you have any other comments about the go520 Program or Avego?

go520 is a great idea that takes commuting to the next level. Its simple design allows users to find a match to carpool within seconds once there’s a rider on your route. The flexibility this system has allows you to depart whenever you want, and find a driving match without binding to a schedule. Driving over the 520 bridge can be faster on the ramp, and the riders pay you some money back which isn’t something to dismiss so fast, especially with the new bridge tolls coming soon.

Curious about real-time ridesharing? Visit Avego’s go520 website to learn how you can earn money—and save time—by participating in the project. Have you tried the project? We’d love to hear your story, too! Post a comment below:

Friday, August 5th, 2011 11:29 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Once upon a bicycleDuring National Bike Month in May, thousands of people hopped on a bicycle for the first time to see what life is like behind the handlebars.

Maybe that was you, timid at first, yet growing more confident by the day, learning to see your city in a new way, forever changed by the experience.

Whether you just started riding or have restarted after years away from a bicycle, we want to hear your adventure.

Tell us, in 420 words or less how starting to ride a bike has improved your life (or not!) Stories can be about the obstacles you overcame, cautionary tales or advice to would-be cyclists. Points will be given to those who include photos of their two-wheeled wonder!

The winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to Gregg’s Cycles to stock up on gear to make the ride even merrier. The winning story will also be posted on the Choose Your Way Bellevue blog and featured in our 2012 Bike to Work Month newsletter.

Stories must be emailed to hayley@bellevuedowntown.org. Contest runs for the entire month of August 2011. To be eligible you must live or work in downtown Bellevue.

And remember to like Choose Your Way Bellevue on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to learn about other contests and promotions throughout the year.

Monday, August 1st, 2011 1:50 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

In exactly one week (Friday July 29 – Sunday, July 30) over 500 artists and about 300,000 people will swarm into Bellevue’s city center to experience arts fair weekend. What many people don’t know is that the event actually comprises three separate fairs:  The Bellevue Arts Museum artsfair, The 6th Street Fair and Bellevue Festival of the Arts. Will you be attending this year? If so, do you have your travel plans set? Read on for Choose Your Way Bellevue’s arts fair weekend transportation tips below!

Enjoy the arts and crafts in downtown Bellevue without sitting in traffic! Let Metro or Sound Transit do part of the driving for you. Simply park your car at a nearby park & ride, and then take the bus to a stop near the fair. Or better yet, visit metro.kingcounty.gov to plan your entire trip by bus using the Regional Trip Planner.

Tips for riding transit to downtown Bellevuea:

  • Carry your exact fare in cash: Bus drivers do not have change. You may pay your fare, and the fare for others traveling with you, using any combination of paper and coin currency. ORCA transit passes are also accepted provided they have a value equal to or greater than the required fare (if not, a cash supplement may be required).
  • Free fares for children: Up to 4 children ages 5 and under always ride free with a paying adult on Sound Transit and King County Metro buses.
  • All buses are wheelchair accessible.
  • Return trip to park and ride: Plan ahead by locating the bay where you will wait to catch a bus back to the park and ride, as well as determining when the last bus leaves to get you there. Schedules are posted at each bay to assist you.

Suggested Park and Ride Options for Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31:
The information below is specific to Saturday/Sunday operations. If you plan to utilize a park & ride lot on Friday you can expect more frequent service, a $2.50 fare on Metro routes and fewer available parking spaces, due to heavy commuter use. All suggested routes serve the Bellevue Transit Center for incoming and outgoing trips. For specific bus schedules and more detailed information, please visit metro.kingcounty.gov and enter your preferred route number in the “Get a Timetable” box in the upper right corner. For Sound Transit routes (535, 550 and 560) visit soundtransit.org.

Park and Ride

Most Direct Route

Boarding Information

Return pick-up at the Bellevue Transit Center

Fare

Additional route options

South Bellevue
2700 Bellevue Way SE
Sound Transit 550 Bay 1, departs every 15 minutes on Saturdays and every 30 minutes on Sundays Bay 9 $2.50 222
240
560
Eastgate
14200 SE Eastgate Way
Metro 271 Bay 1, departs every 30 minutes on Saturdays and every hour on Sundays Bay 5 $2.25 N/A
South Kirkland
10610 NE 38th Place
Metro 230 Bay A, departs every 30 minutes on Saturdays and every hour on Sundays Bay 10 $2.25 234
Kingsgate
13001 116th Way NE
Sound Transit 535 I-405 Totem Lake Freeway Station, departs every hour on Saturday. Sunday service on Metro route 230 only. Bay 4 $2.50 230

If you have additional questions about arts fair weekend and getting there, please post a comment to the blog below. We’ll do our best to provide an answer as soon as possible. Plan ahead and enjoy the art!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 4:56 PM | by admin | Comments (2)

Have you ever wanted to try a new method of commuting, but weren’t sure where to start? Now it’s easier than ever!

Between now and September 30th, we’ll do the planning for you, and you’ll be automatically entered to win one of six $25 gift cards to Bellevue Collection!

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

Stop by Commuter Connection from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, or visit us online. Fill out a commute planning form (it only takes a minute!) and be automatically entered to win!

See you soon!

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 4:13 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

I fully realize that it wasn’t long ago that I waxed poetic about the wonders of commuting, but to be perfectly honest, I’m just not feeling it this month. Maybe it was the woman whose endless coughing punctuated Monday morning’s bus ride, idling in gridlock on I-90 for an hour and a half while the sun slipped away last week, or a combination of losing my iPhone (no games! no email!) and the residually chilly weather keeping me off my bike. Whatever it is, as much as I love cozy Capitol Hill, it would dramatically impact my quality of life to live a bit closer to where I work (though at 12 miles, my commute is slightly less than the 14.97 miles the average worker in Bellevue commutes). The fact that I can play mix and match with my commute does add a feeling of agency to the equation, but there’s still something unsettling about losing an average of 3 hours of your day to an activity that by no stretch of the imagination is fun.

A potential solution to, what I’m sure is, a fairly common predicament are initiatives like Washington DC’s new Live Near Your Work Program.

Much like Bellevue, where only 17% of downtown workers actually live within Bellevue city limits, Washington DC has long struggled with the image and partial reality of being a commuter city.  A pilot partnership between the Washington DC’s Office of Planning and select employers throughout the city seeks to remedy just that, by handing out a total of $200,000 to people who are willing to move within two miles of their work, within a half mile of a Metro station, or within a quarter mile of a “high-quality” bus corridor. The Office of Planning explains the rationale behind the program, saying that that people who live closer to their work spend less money and time commuting, employers get the benefit of reduced parking costs and “better on time and work performance”, and the city gets spruced up urban neighborhoods and a wider tax base. And theoretically, the region will see less traffic congestion and air pollution as a result.  The Office of  Planning will match employer contributions (up to $6,000 per participating employee) to attract and retain DC residents, and partner employers will be selected via a competitive application process based upon their ability to administer the pilot program, offer homebuyer education, and provide matching grants for their employees. The pilot program has money for approximately 60 employees, and encourages home ownership in all areas of the city.

Critics have argued that the program is throwing free money at people who might have been planning to move somewhere else anyway, is not scalable, and that the money ought to be directed towards expanding metro rail and bus service.

But the Office of Planning responded by explaining that the LNYW program encourages employers to redirect the upwards of $10,000 they would spend to subsidize employee parking over a 5 year period towards a longer lasting investment for their employees. They are using this pilot model to develop best practices, and the program would only be continued and expanded if the study is able to measure the program’s benefits and resources are available.

Historical precedent for initiatives like this comes from Baltimore’s 14-year-old Live Near-Your-Work program, which provides grants to fully benefited employees of selected employers in search of homes in Baltimore. Its goal was to reduce sprawl, cut commutes and increase home ownership in designated areas slated for redevelopment. Initially, the state, city and employer (Hopkins is the largest among several) each contributed $1,000. Since its inception, the program has expanded dramatically and has helped approximately 300 people purchase homes in Baltimore, revitalizing downtrodden urban areas and improving quality of life in the process.  The program currently partners with over 50 employers, working closely with John Hopkins to provide up to $18,000 to employees of the University.

While our Eastside darling Bellevue is certainly not in need of revitalization and continues to grow organically, there is still a significant overhang of vacant residential space downtown. One could expect that increasing density in the urban core would only add to the kinds of things people love about being in a city—street food, independent shops, art, and increased transit service—and would certainly make an impact on the regional congestion that just doesn’t seem to dissipate.

Do you think programs like these are a good use of money and are worth replicating? Or should city governments instead spend dollars on improving bus service, or make driving so unpleasant through taxing and tolling that people would never consider doing it? If you’re a commuter, what’s the tipping point that would cause to consider moving closer to where you work?  Weigh in below!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 3:47 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Tomorrow is national Dump the Pump Day, and transit agencies across the country are encouraging solo drivers to fatten their wallets by ditching the car in favor of public transportation.

From the American Public Transportation Association:

“Riding public transit is the quickest way to beat high gas prices. Our recent Transit Savings Report shows that a two person household that downsizes to one car can save, on the average, more than $10,000 a year.”

With high gas prices and household budgets already stretched thin, thousands of Puget Sound commuters are already experiencing the benefits of using transit.

“Puget Sound residents have so many great alternatives to driving—buses, light rail, streetcars, trains, vanpools and ferries. Dump the Pump Day is a great time to try out a new ride and save some money,” said Kevin Desmond, General Manager of King County Metro Transit in a press release.

To celebrate, there will be a variety of activities happening throughout the region. King County Metro Transit, in partnership with Sound Transit, will thank riders at the Bellevue, Federal Way, Northgate and Tukwila transit centers for “Dumping the Pump” and being part of the solution to traffic congestion. Riders will be greeted with a free cup of coffee and pastries donated by area businesses during the Thursday morning commute. Metro will also be emphasizing all the transit options available to commuters, including how to avoid upcoming tolls on the SR 520 bridge and congestion on the Alaska Way Viaduct by taking advantage of expanded transit options.

In addition, Choose Your Way Bellevue will be giving away cookies and coffee at the Commuter Connection store at the Bellevue Transit Center from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Also, Sound Transit will be giving away several ORCA cards loaded with $10 for regional travel as part of a Twitter promotion (@SoundTransit). Participants can “retweet” a special message all week and be entered to win a drawing for the ORCA cards.

But this needn’t be a one day thing—we encourage you to find out how much money you could potentially save using the Fuel Savings Calculator on the APTA website. By entering some basic information such as miles traveled each day, vehicle fuel economy and local transit fare, an individual can instantly see their personal potential savings.

Please join us in celebrating public transportation—and saving money in the process! See you on the bus!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 1:26 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

The Embarq Global Network for Sustainable Transportation just released a seminal report called “From Here to There: Marketing and Branding Public Transportation,” which investigates myriad ways cities and transit agencies can work to give public transportation a competitive edge.

From the rather ominous introduction:

“Major automobile companies spend billions of dollars annually to advertise their products to customers. Major auto companies collectively spent $21 billion worldwide and it looks like their investments are working. Car ownership is on the rise across the globe, in countries like China, India and Brazil. Such overwhelming statistics in favor of private vehicles, backed by billion dollar investments in advertising campaigns, illustrate the necessity for public transportation to play catch up in this marketing game.”

When it comes to marketing public transportation, so much of the focus is placed upon the technical and financial aspects of getting public transit projects off the ground that branding and marketing often become an afterthought. This report takes issue with the idea that marketing is a “luxury” that transit agencies cannot afford, and argues that cultivating a better public image attracts riders, leading to higher revenue and demand for service, creating what Embarq consultants refer to as a “virtuous cycle.”

In short, it is not enough for transit agencies to assume ridership by anticipating a desire among the citizenry to be virtuous, or even thrifty. Transit agencies must think like marketing executives…and beat the competition. This boils down to the following:

Transit agencies must

1. Attract new riders by making the system legible and accessible

2. Retain existing riders by listening and responding to customer feedback.

3. Secure political and financial support by running eye catching and persuasive campaigns

So what can transit agencies do to build their market share, in the face of the influence of automobile advertising dollars on public perception? The report highlights at length the Los Angeles Metro Authority’s 2009 ad campaign that promoted taking public transportation as a hip solution to congestion problems endemic to the city. It was called “Opposites” and presented clever graphics positing public transit as the angelic counter to polluting driving habits. To help spread the message, they handed out free t-shirts to trendsetters in urban neighborhoods, who then served as ambassadors for the service. This campaign was successful in generating support for Measure R, a 1/2 cent sales tax that is expected to generate 40 billion dollars over the next 30 years for improving transit services in LA.

Watch the video below:

LA Metro: Promoting Mass Transit from EMBARQ Network on Vimeo.

Another public transportation success story not mentioned in the report, but worth examining comes from St Louis, where in 2010 voters approved a ½ cent sales tax to fund service operations and expand light rail.  In St Louis, the challenge was to convince voters who do not ride transit that they should care about it. (The ridership is relatively small among the general population, and only 3 percent take public transit to work).  In order to do this, the campaign put a face on public transit to show that even though most people do not ride transit, almost everyone depends on workers who do ride transit. Television ads, for example, showed a wide swath of recognizable figures in St Louis reminding voters that the people who take care of us in hospitals and the people who serve us coffee in the morning depend on public transit. The centerpiece of the campaign was the slogan: “Some of us ride it. All of us need it.” View campaign videos here.

Some advice included in the EMBARQ report that may prove useful to our regional transit providers include enhancing user education efforts such as offering free rides on new services (perhaps the new Bellevue-Redmond Rapid Ride, scheduled to begin in Fall 2011 would be a good opportunity),  heightening their online engagement strategies by integrating dynamic Facebook and Twitter platforms, giving unexpected and colorful facelifts to existing facilities, going door to door to answer questions, inviting politicians on inaugural rides for new services, and interjecting some fun into an activity that is often associated with workday tedium.

While fairly comprehensive, one glaring absence from the report is any sort of guidance for how transit agencies should redirect funds towards marketing in this continuing era of austerity. King County Metro has cut back on much of their programming in order to preserve existing service, so for them, marketing may be literally be a luxury that they cannot afford. Perhaps Embarq should follow up with a piece called “Marketing Public Transportation Part 2: Closing the Gap Through Public/Private Partnerships.”

However, one thing is for certain. Transit agencies throughout the country need to begin promoting themselves like a business—and not simply as a public good—for the ultimate win. Do you have any ideas for how to make public transportation more competitive? Weigh in below:

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 4:51 PM | by admin | Add a Comment