Choose Your Way Bellevue Blog

Bellevue’s Lake to Lake Bike Ride Is Coming

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Join the City of Bellevue and fellow bicycle riders on June 15 for an adventurous and fun ride in Bellevue! The Lake to Lake Bike Ride, which benefits the City of Bellevue youth camp scholarship fund, starts and finishes at Lake Hills Park (1200 164th Avenue SE) and winds through some of Bellevue’s award winning parks and trails.

There will be two routes for the ride. Both routes utilize a  combination of low traffic roads, bike lanes and gravel trails.  One route is mostly flat,  and is the shorter of the two at approximately 8  miles (roundtrip). It’s  perfect for a family or less experienced cyclists.  The longer loop is 22 miles with some challenging climbs.  We have tweaked the courses from last year to offer more trails and a better route through downtown Bellevue on the longer loop. A bike that can handle a variety of terrain is recommended for either route.

After the event, there will be refreshments and a prize give-away.

Pre- entry is only $12, day of event,  $17.

This ride is NOT suggested for children under 8 years old unless riding in a trailer or tag-along.  All participants receive a Pace brand custom bike hat, and goodies.

The first 150 to register will receive custom event socks by SOS socks!

Pre-registration is recommended since the City is limiting the number of riders. Register online at: www.myparksandrecreation.com and use activity code 75029. You can also find the Lake to Lake Bike Ride on Facebook!

What are some of your favorite trails in Bellevue?

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 9:40 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Why I Commute by Bike

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This is a guest post by Ted Mittelstaedt, an avid bike commuter and City of Bellevue employee. Ted organizes the Lake to Lake Bike Ride which is on June 15. Check back next week for details on the ride.

Pet peeves. We all have them. Mine? I absolutely despise sitting in traffic. It’s the one thing that drives me crazy. That’s why I love riding past long lines of cars sitting in traffic. But I have to admit, I even feel a bit smug when doing so.

But that’s not why I started riding to work.

In college, like many undergrads, I rode to class and for fun. In 1983, I started riding to work and immediately fell in love with it. I’d strap my briefcase to my bike rack and off I went. I started riding to work for pure economics. I was a newlywed and my wife and I shared one car.

The only costs associated with my commute were an occasional tube and tire and a bike light I had to purchase after being pulled over for riding home at night without a light – dumb I know. The officer told me I could have the citation and fee waived if I came to the police station and proved I bought a light and installed it. It’s hard to now say that bicycling to work saves money, since I have multiple bikes and there are so many cool bike products that I really “need.”

After awhile, I noticed other benefits of riding to work. When I started to ride to work more frequently, I enjoyed the physical effort involved. Bicycle commuting combined a work out and a way to get to work. As I was riding even more, I found it was great to help get ready for an occasional race or bike event. Since I was able to get my workout in my commute, bicycling became a time efficiency tool for me.

Bicycling also helps reduce my carbon footprint. I live in Maple Valley and it is 26 miles each way to work. In my younger years, when I was bike racing, I rode the entire route on a regular basis. I now bus or drive about half way and then ride in.

When I ride to work I see things I would not normally see. It’s easier to take in your surroundings at 18 mph than it is at 60 mph on the freeway. I’ve seen deer, rabbits, bald eagles and other wild life on my bike commute, as well as some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

As a dad and supervisor of youth programs, I hope I’m setting a good example for my children and youth.

I’ve found that riding to work breaks down inhibitions and puts you in close contact with a wide cross-section of people: executives and doctors to people barely getting by.  Most bike commuters are pretty nice people.

I am starting to see an alarming trend with increasingly distracted motorists. I ride by people texting, talking on the phone, eating a bowl of cereal while driving. I’ve even encountered motorists who don’t think bikes belong on the road. I just wave and smile and try to be a good ambassador of bicycling. It’s hard to be mad at a middle age guy on a bike who is waving and smiling.

Thanks for sharing, Ted! Next time you’re stuck in traffic think how great it could feel to speed by on a bike! If you’re not sure how to get started check out our Bike page. Or send us a commute inquiry for a custom commute plan.

Do you ride your bike to work? How about the bus? Carpool, Vanpool or walk? Tell us why and we’ll spotlight your commute!

Friday, May 10th, 2013 12:30 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Is your helmet on right?

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Happy Bike to Work Month! If you’re new to bicycle commuter or even a veteran rider, you know there are many different components to a great bike ride: a safe route, nice weather, and tires pumped with just enough air. But there is one important and essential item we all need: a helmet that fits. Often times we take our helmet for granted, but making sure your helmet fits properly can make a huge difference in an accident.

Here are some steps to fit your helmet properly:

  1. Make sure your helmet is snug around your head. It’s not a hat, so it is not something you can just put on. Adjust the fit pads or rings so that your helmet sits on your head leveled and snug. Most helmets come with extra foam fitting pads with a top pad that can be removed or replaced with a thinner pad. Removing this pad will lower the helmet on the head to protect further down the sides of your head. Use thicker pads on the sides if there is still some space.
  2. The next step is to adjust the side straps. After leveling the helmet on your head, adjust the rear (nape) straps, then the front straps to locate the Y fitting where the straps come together. Where the straps come together should fall just under the ear.
  3. Then, adjust the chin strap until it is comfortably snug. If there is a rear stabilizer, adjust that as well.
  4. Now test it: Shake your head vigorously. The helmet shouldn’t move too much. Then push the front of the helmet up and back. If the helmet lifts more than an inch from being level then you must tighten the strap in front of your ear. Second test— reach back and pull up on the back edge. If it moves more than an inch, tighten the nape strap.

Your helmet should be level and feel snug, not too tight, on your head.

Helmet fitting is not easy and it can take a few tries, but it is worth it!

To find out more about helmet fitting, please visit: http://helmets.org/fit.htm. To find out more about commuting in and around downtown Bellevue visit: http://www.chooseyourwaybellevue.org/

And don’t forget to join us this Friday for Bike Appreciation Day! Downtown Bellevue On The Move staff will be handing out gift cards to people on bicycles throughout the day.

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 2:48 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

2013 Construction Season Starting in Bellevue

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The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) recently announced that the 2013 construction season is starting now! Along with the City of Bellevue, crews are starting to gear up for lots of work in and around Bellevue.

What does that mean for Bellevue commuters? Here are the projects you should know about:

SR 520 – I-5 to Medina Bridge Replacement and HOV Project (WSDOT)

What’s happening: Crews are replacing the aging SR 520 floating with a larger and more efficient floating bridge.

Why: The 50-year-old bridge is often backed up with traffic and is vulnerable to windstorms and earthquakes.

When will construction take place: Construction is under way and is expected to last until late 2014. For specific project timing affecting the Bellevue area, please visit WSDOT’s website.

I-405 NE 6th Street to I-5 Widening and Express Toll Lanes (WSDOT)

What’s happening: Crews will be adding one continuous northbound and southbound lane between NE 6th Street in Bellevue and SR 522 in Bothell. Combined with the current HOV lane, the lanes will serve as a dual express toll lane system similar to the High Occupancy Toll lanes on SR 167.

Why: Crews are improving I-405 to reduce congestion for commuters heading to and from Bellevue and adding additional carpool capacity.

When will construction take place: Construction is currently under way beginning in Bothell, and will be completed by 2015.

I-405 Concrete Pavement Rehabilitation (WSDOT)

What’s happening: Crews will completely replace the concrete pavement on all lanes of northbound I-405 from SE 8th Street to just north of Main Street in Bellevue.

Why: The concrete in this portion of I-405 is 40-50 yeas old and is crumbling faster than crews can patch it.

When will construction take place: Late spring 2013 to fall 2013

West Lake Sammamish Parkway: I-90 to SE 34th Street, Phase 1 (City of Bellevue)

What’s happening: Crews will widen the shoulder on the east side of the roadway and create a multi-use path on the west side. There will also be sidewalk and ADA ramp upgrades as wells as pedestrian crossing at key intersections. Two-way pedestrian and bicycle access will remain throughout the corridor during construction, although southbound automobile traffic will be detoured onto SE 34th Street.

Why: The project will improve West Lake Sammamish for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

When will construction take place: Construction is starting now and will last until October 2013.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 10:28 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

It’s Award Season for Employers

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There may not be a red carpet or paparazzi, but two award ceremonies were recently held recognizing businesses that have made an impact with their company commute programs. Choose Your Way Bellevue wants to give a big shout out to the 2012 award winners for helping make Bellevue a better place to live and work!

In November, the Washington State Department of Transportation recognized Washington companies for their commitment to reducing drive-alone commute travel through the annual Governor’s Commute Smart Award ceremony. This year’s winners included Deric Gruen of Bellevue College who received the Commute Smart Employee Transportation Coordinator Leadership award and Microsoft Corporation which received a Commute Smart Legacy award. Read more about the 2012 Commute Smart Awards here.

In addition to Commute Smart awards, Commuter Solutions, an initiative of enterpriseSeattle, recently awarded several Bellevue businesses who went above and beyond with programs to reduce commute trips among their employees. The 19th Annual Diamond Award winners include:

2012 Diamond Ring for Outstanding Leadership

CH2M Hill
Group Health

2012 Diamond Award for Organizational Leadership

City of Bellevue

2012 Diamond Award for Employee Transportation Coordinator (ETC) Leadership

Deric Gruen, Bellevue College

2012 Diamond Award for Special Achievement

Microsoft Corporation for Outstanding Commute Innovation focused on Bicycling

2012 Pacesetters (King County companies recognized for their commitment to commute trip reduction principles):

The Boeing Company
City University of Seattle
Kemper Development Company
MulvanneyG2 Architecture
Printed Circuits
Puget Sound Energy

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 3:58 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Major changes coming to downtown Seattle bus routes

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Starting on September 29, downtown Seattle’s Ride Free Area will be eliminated, and riders will be required pay on entering the bus for all trips in King County.
The Ride Free Area has been in place for the last 40 years. One of its benefits has been to keep buses moving through downtown Seattle by helping riders load quickly, instead of waiting for everyone to pay. The City of Seattle has paid King County Metro about $400,000 a year to cover the costs of the ride free zone, but that cost isn’t enough to cover the 29,000 rides used each day in the zone.
Metro is planning on sending employees to downtown Seattle streets and the transit tunnel to assist in loading to avoid delays, which are currently expected to be two to four minutes crossing downtown.
In addition to eliminating the Ride Free Area, Metro is discontinuing 18 routes and significantly revising more than 50, but no major changes are coming to downtown Bellevue routes.
For more information, visit Metro’s service change website.

Starting on September 29, downtown Seattle’s Ride Free Area will be eliminated, and riders will be required pay on entering the bus for all trips in King County.

The Ride Free Area has been in place for the last 40 years. One of its benefits has been to keep buses moving through downtown Seattle by helping riders load quickly, instead of waiting for everyone to pay. The City of Seattle has paid King County Metro about $400,000 a year to cover the costs of the ride free zone, but that cost isn’t enough to cover the 29,000 rides used each day in the zone.

Metro is planning on sending employees to downtown Seattle streets and the transit tunnel to assist in loading to avoid delays, which are currently expected to be two to four minutes crossing downtown.

In addition to eliminating the Ride Free Area, Metro is discontinuing 18 routes and significantly revising more than 50, but no major changes are coming to downtown Bellevue routes.

For more information, visit Metro’s service change website.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 11:22 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Kick start your commute by bike

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City of Bellevue employee Ted Mittlestaedt rides along the Lake to Lake Bike Ride Route. Photo courtesy of City of Bellevue.

When was the last time you rode your bike? Find where you put your bike and pump up the tires because this is a great time to be out on two wheels.

If you’ve never considered commuting by bike, we talked to Ted Mittelstaedt with the City of Bellevue. He’s an avid bike rider and is helping plan this year’s Lake to Lake Bike Ride on September 22. Every day, Ted rides the bus from Maple Valley to Renton and then rides his bike into downtown Bellevue.

Choose Your Way Bellevue: What advice would you give a new rider?

Ted Mittelstaedt:

  • Practice!  If you are unsure of anything, ask a fellow cyclist or take a class.
  • Make sure your helmet fits, your bike works well, you know the basics of how your bike works, and can perform basic repairs.
  • Start out on parks, trails, bike lanes and low traffic roads.
  • If you plan to ride to work on a Monday, try out the commute on weekend.
  • Just in case, carry a cell phone, keep a taxi company’s number programmed in your phone, know bus schedules nearby your commute route.
  • Respect vehicles by riding defensively, like you are invisible/unseen.

CYWB: What are the benefits you’ve seen in riding your bike to work?

TM: There are the obvious benefits: one less car on the road, less pollution, less money spent on gas, and lower insurance rates. But when I bike to work I feel better mentally and physically. Commuting helps me get ready for the occasional weekend bike event I like to participate in. I think it makes me a better driver since riding your bike forces one to be more aware of your surroundings. And lastly I love passing lines of cars waiting in traffic!

CYWB: What are some common misconceptions people have about riding to work?

TM: The first misconception is that it takes too much time. Whether I drive alone, bike/bus and ride or ride the whole way, it takes about the same amount of time. Also, since I get my commute and workout in at the same time, I don’t need to exercise in the evening. The other main misconception is that it’s dangerous. I feel I am just as safe as other forms of transportation, when I plan ahead and bike in bike lanes, trails or on low traffic roads.

Still not sure if you’re ready to try commuting? The Lake to Lake Bike Ride on September 22 is a great opportunity for you to brush off the cobwebs and give riding another try.

There’s two routes on the bike ride – the Greenbelt Loop is 8 miles and mostly flat; the Lake Loop is a bit more challenging at 20 miles with some elevation gain. Make sure you bring a bike that can handle a variety of terrain including some gravel. A bike mechanic from Gregg’s Cycle will be on hand to assist with safety checks and minor repairs. Check out this YouTube video the City made for the event.

Space is limited so make sure you register soon! You can register online at myParksandRecreation.com using activity code 67033. For more information call 425-452-6885 or email bikeride@bellevuewa.gov.

Monday, September 17th, 2012 10:43 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Downtown Bellevue On The Move Rewards Residents, Employees and Employers for Greening up Their Commutes

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Commuting to work just got a little greener for residents and workers in downtown Bellevue. On July 4, 2012, the City of Bellevue, King County Metro and TransManage will launch Downtown Bellevue On The Move, a new online commute incentive program that provides rewards and travel assistance to downtown residents and workers who try a commute mode other than solo driving.

The Downtown Bellevue On The Move program offers downtown Bellevue residents and employees the following incentives for trying a greener commute such as riding the bus, carpooling, vanpooling, biking or walking to work:
  • $50 Get Started: Eligible participants can earn a $50 gift card after 25 days (round trips) of logging a commute by bus, carpool, vanpool, bike or walking to work – anything but driving alone.
  • $50 Monthly Drawings: Continue to log your commute trips and you’ll be entered into a monthly drawing for two $50 gift cards. All you have to do is log 12 days (round trips) of using a green commute mode.
  • Information on other promotional incentives through King County Metro, Wheel Options and enter-to-win drawings available through the www.DBOnTheMove.org website.
Interested commuters can sign up at www.DBOnTheMove.org. The website also provides access to a variety of travel resources such as vanpool and carpool partner matching, a transit trip planner, commute cost calculator and more. For assistance commuters can contact a program representative at 425-990-3098 or DBOnTheMove@cywb.org.
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DBOnTheMove
Friday, July 13th, 2012 11:22 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

SR 520 tolls set to increase July 1 on SR 520

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This Sunday, tolls on State Route 520 will increase 2.5 percent. That increase means the current peak Good to Go! pass rate will increase from $3.50 to $3.59. If you don’t have a Good to Go! pass you’ll now pay at most $5.13 to cross SR 520. Peak times are 7-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.

Why the increase?
“Debt payments are the single most important consideration when setting the new rates,” According to Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Toll Division Director, Craig Stone.

Every year, the state’s Transportation Commission reviews traffic and revenue data to determine if an increase in toll rates are needed to cover the debt costs. This is the first of four annual 2.5-percent rate increases for SR 520 planned through 2015. In 2016, there is a planned 15% increase that is based on forecasted traffic levels.

Source: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/TollRates.htm

Source: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/TollRates.htm

If this news has you worrying about the cost of driving to work, it might be time for you to reconsider your commute. If you drive back and forth across the bridge every day of the week, you’re already spending between $1,820 and $2,600 a year on tolls alone (assuming you drive during the peak travel time, five times a week).
This 2.5 percent increase will add up to $45-$65 to your annual costs. If toll prices continue to rise as predicted, by 2016 you’ll be paying $2,310-$3,300 a year to cross SR 520.
All you need to do to save money is rethink your commute. Here are just a few ideas on how to cut your commute costs; you can find more at www.ChooseYourWayBellevue.org. All the figures below assume you’re using a Good to Go! pass. Purchasing a Good to Go! pass saves you $1.50 each way.
Jump on the bus: You don’t pay a toll when you take the bus across SR 520. Sound Transit’s Route 550 runs every 10 minutes during peak travel times and has stops in downtown Bellevue and in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Even if your employer doesn’t provide you with a free or discounted ORCA card, you’ll be spending $2.50 a trip instead of up to $3.59. Over a year, that will save you up to $566 during peak travel times.
Find a carpool buddy: Use the Bellevue Commute Club to find someone to carpool with. Not only will you save time using the HOV lanes, you’ll also cut your toll bill in half!
Change your schedule: Not everyone is able to compress their work week – work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, for example – but if your employer allows you to change your schedule you could save up to $193 a year.
Work from home: Just like a compressed work week, not everyone is able to telecommute, or work from home, but it may be possible if most of your work can be done remotely. Imagine not having to drive to and from work. No commute = no tolls!
You may have an unpredictable work schedule, errands to run after work, and many other reasons why these options wouldn’t work for you every day of the week, but you can save money by doing them as much as once a week. Every little bit counts.
Not sure how to plan an alternative commute? Contact us and we’ll plan it for you!
How else have you saved money on the tolls?

If this news has you worrying about the cost of driving to work, it might be time for you to reconsider your commute. If you drive back and forth across the bridge every day of the week, you’re already spending between $1,820 and $2,600 a year on tolls alone (assuming you drive during the peak travel time, five times a week).

This 2.5 percent increase will add up to $45-$65 to your annual costs. If toll prices continue to rise as predicted, by 2016 you’ll be paying $2,310-$3,300 a year to cross SR 520.

All you need to do to save money is rethink your commute. Here are just a few ideas on how to cut your commute costs; you can find more at www.ChooseYourWayBellevue.org. All the figures below assume you’re using a Good to Go! pass. Purchasing a Good to Go! pass saves you $1.50 each way.

  • Jump on the bus: You don’t pay a toll when you take the bus across SR 520. Sound Transit’s Route 550 runs every 10 minutes during peak travel times and has stops in downtown Bellevue and in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Even if your employer doesn’t provide you with a free or discounted ORCA card, you’ll be spending $2.50 a trip instead of up to $3.59. Over a year, that will save you up to $566 during peak travel times.
  • Find a carpool buddy: Use the Bellevue Commute Club to find someone to carpool with. Not only will you save time using the HOV lanes, you’ll also cut your toll bill in half!
  • Change your schedule: Not everyone is able to compress their work week – work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, for example – but if your employer allows you to change your schedule you could save up to $193 a year.
  • Work from home: Just like a compressed work week, not everyone is able to telecommute, or work from home, but it may be possible if most of your work can be done remotely. Imagine not having to drive to and from work. No commute = no tolls!

You may have an unpredictable work schedule, errands to run after work, and many other reasons why these options wouldn’t work for you every day of the week, but you can save money by doing them as much as once a week. Every little bit counts.

Not sure how to plan an alternative commute? Contact us and we’ll plan it for you!

How else have you saved money on the tolls?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 9:42 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

There’s a new app in town

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2012_0530_BLINE

Look out Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja! King County Metro, along with 4Culture and Hornall Anderson, recently released a new game for riders on RapidRide B Line buses connecting Bellevue and Redmond.
The B Line PULSE – part game, part infographic and part community-wide art project – collects responses as well as data including time, location, and speed of response, to create a visualization of statistics and numbers. This information is transformed into ever-changing real-time art allowing participants to see the “pulse” of the B Line community as it develops over the course of the day.
“B Line PULSE was designed to push the boundaries of what a game is and to explore the relationship of transit, information and art in this digital age,” said Joseph King, Design Director of Hornall Anderson (the design team hired by 4Culture to create the game).
As a frequent B Line rider, I knew I had to try this art project and game a try. This past Wednesday I rode the B Line from my home in Redmond to my office in downtown Bellevue.
Each week has a different theme; this week’s being “Go Redmond” Wednesday’s question was “Redmond has a population of 55,000 people. How much will that grow over the next 10 years?”
To answer, I slid a bar across a scale that ranged from “little” at one end to “10-20,000” in the middle and “over 20,000” at the other end. I locked in my answer at the “10-20,000” mark.
Here’s a screen shot of how the app took the data and turned it into art:

Look out Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja! King County Metro, along with 4Culture and Hornall Anderson, recently released a new game for riders on RapidRide B Line buses connecting Bellevue and Redmond.

B Line PULSE – part game, part infographic and part community-wide art project – collects responses as well as data including time, location, and speed of response, to create a visualization of statistics and numbers. This information is transformed into ever-changing real-time art allowing participants to see the “pulse” of the B Line community as it develops over the course of the day.

“B Line PULSE was designed to push the boundaries of what a game is and to explore the relationship of transit, information and art in this digital age,” said Joseph King, Design Director of Hornall Anderson (the design team hired by 4Culture to create the game).

As a frequent B Line rider, I knew I had to try this art project and game a try. This past Wednesday I rode the B Line from my home in Redmond to my office in downtown Bellevue.

Each week has a different theme; this week’s being “Go Redmond” Wednesday’s question was “Redmond has a population of 55,000 people. How much will that grow over the next 10 years?”

To answer, I slid a bar across a scale that ranged from “little” at one end to “10-20,000” in the middle and “over 20,000” at the other end. I locked in my answer at the “10-20,000” mark.

Here’s a screen shot of how the app took the data and turned it into art:

2012_0530_MetroBLine
A few hours later, it looked like this:
2012_0530_BLINE_Q
Look out Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja! King County Metro, along with 4Culture and Pretty impressive for some statistics, right? I would have a hard time interpreting the data, but it’s a creative way to display what you and your fellow riders are thinking.
Why focus this art project on the B Line? Metro’s General Manager Kevin Desmond explains: “RapidRide offers a frequent and reliable connection between two Eastside communities with a lot of people interested in the latest and greatest in technology.”
“We think our riders on the B Line can have some fun with B Line PULSE and increase their connections with the community along the way,” Desmond added.
Want to give it a try? For the full experience, catch the B Line bus at the Bellevue Transit Center in Bay 7 and on your mobile phone visit www.blinepulse.com to answer your first question. Don’t worry, you can answer the questions even if you don’t ride the B Line, the results track your location and plot it differently than those riding on the B Line. You do need to log on using a mobile phone or tablet though to be able to answer the questions.
Anyone else answered a question on PULSE? What has been your favorite result/art piece so far?
Friday, June 8th, 2012 10:19 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

A wayfinding kiosk in downtown Bellevue.

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Contributed by Choose Your Way Bellevue Guest Blogger: Sherwin Lee,

As Bellevue grows ever more diverse, city planners and policymakers will need to start thinking of creative ways to accommodate the growth and mobility of our new residents. For the many non-native immigrants that come from abroad, adjusting to Bellevue’s way of life, particularly relying on a car for daily affairs, can be tough. Luckily, the City has made progress in this arena – neighborhood sidewalk projects are springing up across Bellevue, a collaborative agreement to build light rail has been made, and plans to increase transportation options downtown are in full swing. Downtown Bellevue’s wayfinding kiosks, for example, are a notable step in the right direction, helping pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users navigate through busy city streets.

But for many of Bellevue’s diverse communities that reside outside downtown, planning for neighborhood transportation improvements can often seem ignored. Money, after all, is tight as the City must make the difficult decision of prioritizing the projects most beneficial to Bellevue’s long-term future. Often times, this means placing costly capital improvements, like building new sidewalks, repaving roads, or striping bicycle lanes, lower on the priority list. While there isn’t much money for laying new pavement, we can look at more cost-effective methods of improving neighborhood mobility, like providing and facilitating information for travelers, whether in the form of bus schedules, neighborhood maps, or clearly-marked bicycle routes. Without clear information, mobility can often be restricted, particularly for non-English speakers or immigrants unfamiliar with Bellevue’s suburban landscape.

Just last Fall, a Chinese-speaking woman approached me at the Bellevue Transit Center and asked for directions to a salon in the Lake Hills neighborhood, for which she had the address on a business card. I was able to interpret for her and directed her to take the proper bus route, only to discover half an hour later, that I had misread the address as “NE 4th Street” when it was really located on SE 4th Street. Being able to find your way to a destination with just an address in hand (and without a smartphone!) may seem like a challenge, but becomes less so when there is clear and robust information to help facilitate mobility across the city’s neighborhoods.

Wayfinding, defined as any system of tools used to help individuals physically navigate through a space, is just one example of both harnessing and communicating this kind of information. While the term may sound new to many, wayfinding is a strategy not unfamiliar to Bellevue. Look no further than downtown, where a system of wayfinding and information kiosks help travelers literally “find their way” across the city’s central business district on a daily basis. Yet the use of wayfinding doesn’t have to be restricted to downtown alone. Many of Bellevue’s other neighborhoods have similar needs, particularly in Crossroads, where the population is rapidly diversifying and transit ridership is already high.

The Crossroads wayfinding plan, Go Bellevue, aims to fill in these very gaps by exploring how wayfinding, as a powerful communication tool, can be used to improve the quality of pedestrian and bicyclist mobility in neighborhoods outside downtown. Developing the wayfinding system, however, encompasses decisions that must be judiciously made– how do we both design and site wayfinding elements to best meet the needs of the Crossroads neighborhood community?

To help the wayfinding plan take shape, you can weigh in on these very decisions by taking a brief online survey or attending a community open house and workshop next Tuesday evening from 6:30pm to 8pm inside the Community Room at Crossroads Mall. By providing input, you will not only help improve local travel in Crossroads, but also help to inform the next generation of budget-conscious transportation planning for all of Bellevue’s neighborhoods.

Thursday, April 5th, 2012 11:54 AM | by admin | Add a Comment

Strolling with a purpose: walking audits of downtown Bellevue

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Click to view flyerHave you ever wanted to share your experience of being a pedestrian in Bellevue? Well, here’s your golden opportunity!

Pedestrian advocacy nonprofit Feet First is joining forces with the City of Bellevue to bring you two walking audits of downtown Bellevue on Thursday, December 1 & Saturday, December 3.

Each walk will take about 90 minutes and will begin with a short presentation by Feet First to describe the purpose of the walk and how to contribute ideas.  If it’s raining, bring a poncho or umbrella as the walks will go rain or shine!

Along the way, attendees will be encouraged to provide feedback and make suggestions to city transportation planners as they begin updates to the Downtown Bellevue Transportation Plan with the intention of improving the pedestrian experience.

The lunchtime walk on December 1st will begin at 11:45 a.m. in the Key Center Building lower lobby (601 108th Avenue NE), and last until approximately 1:15 p.m.

Saturday’s walk will commence at 9:00 a.m. at Top Pot Doughnuts (10600 NE 9th Place) and last until approximately 10:30 a.m.

The City can’t adequately plan without your input, so please join for what will be fun and enlightening afternoons! RSVP to Kevin McDonald, senior planner at the Bellevue Transportation Department at kmcdonald@bellevuewa.gov.

The Downtown Bellevue Transportation Plan Update is a focused, 18-month planning effort just getting underway, intended to update transportation plans and projects that will accommodate the growth that is expected in our city between now and 2030.  As part of their outreach efforts, the City of Bellevue recently hosted a series of bicycle rides, as well as an open house at City Hall. For further information visit www.bellevuewa.gov.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 2:29 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Interview with Rick Williams, Parking Guru

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rick williamsRick Williams is somewhat of a rockstar in the transportation, parking and land use arena. Between 1989 and 1995 he served as the Executive Vice President of the Association for Portland Progress, a business association representing the 75 largest employers in downtown Portland. While at APP Rick was responsible for the management and operation of the City of Portland’s municipal visitor parking system, Smart Park, comprised of seven parking structures and 3,500 stalls.

In 1995 Rick established his own consulting firm through which he focuses on parking management and transportation demand management programs (TDM) for business districts. He has since created comprehensive parking and TDM plans for over 50 cities. Rick also currently serves as the contract Executive Director of the Lloyd Transportation Management Association which provides parking management, transit, bike, ridesharing and outreach programs to 85 Lloyd District businesses and their 10,000 employees.

We chatted with Rick briefly about economic development, parking garages of the future, and whether any of his congestion-reduction strategies might work in Bellevue. Here’s the manuscript:

CYWB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Rick. Would you mind talking a bit about the evolution of the Lloyd District and the development of the Lloyd TMA?

RW: The Lloyd District is a neighborhood across the Wilamette River from downtown Portland that recruited me to work with them on their transportation and access issues in 1996. At the time, Lloyd was an emerging business district that was facing serious traffic and congestion constraints because of its geography and relationship to the freeway. Through a grant, we created the Lloyd TMA, the first ever TMA in Oregon, made up primarily of business owners in partnership with the City of Portland, and Trimet, the local transportation agency.

As stakeholders we realized that to achieve our job and housing growth goals, a key economic development strategy for the district would be to enact policies to encourage transit, biking and walking.  The Lloyd District was heavily auto-oriented at the time—80% of people drove to work, and there was an overabundance of surface parking lots and minimal pedestrian and bike infrastructure. We adopted fairly aggressive goals to reduce drive alone trips, and were able to get buy-in from the community by quantitatively demonstrating that congestion would eventually limit our ability to grow jobs.

What’s unique about the Lloyd TMA is that from the beginning, the business community was in charge of making the transition occur. A lot of TMAs were formed in response to state mandates, but our TMA was formed as a forum through which an economic development plan was delivered, with many sustainable byproducts. We were able to create an economic argument for why trip reduction is good for business, and it has paid off.

CYWB: Did you encounter push back throughout the process?

RW: Of course there was opposition, but we’ve always been clear that our mission is to support economic development through sound transportation planning—we’re not just doing these things to feel good. We made the decision to prioritize existing parking for customer and visitor trips instead of work related trips, which meant eliminating the majority of free parking in the district (particularly commuter parking). Of course that was contentious. But we negotiated with the City of Portland to meter the on-street parking in exchange for a significant portion of the net meter revenue. This revenue comes to the TMA and helps support our programs that promote biking, walking and taking transit. Businesses have control of the resources and see the benefit. We also negotiated with Trimet to sell transit passes, and to correlate the number of transit passes sold to the addition of new bus routes or frequency improvements, which was a new concept at the time, and added value to the community as well.

CYWB: How are you measuring your success?

We like to tout that in 1997 about 80% people traveled by car to the Lloyd District, and we’ve gotten that number down to 43% in 2011.  We’ve affected a huge shift in how people move around.  Another measure of success is to disprove the oft-repeated claims that if you take free parking away, you’re going to hurt business. We have a 4-6% vacancy rate, which is an indication of a healthy business district. We’re not anti-car in the Lloyd District, we’ve just become more efficient in how we use parking. We’ve priced it at a rate that favors biking, walking and transit. And we’ve been able to convince property owners that there’s simply more leasable space with less parking.

When we started there were no parking maximums in the area: in 1997 developers were building about 3.5 parking stalls per 1000 square feet. The partnership plan the Lloyd business community took to the City Council in 1997 supported the establishment of maximum parking ratios and a prohibition on new surface parking lots, which was successful. Developers are now building closer to 1.8 spaces per 1000.

CYWB: Given that installing parking spaces IS so expensive, why do so many developers continue to gleefully add parking to the mix? Does the cost remain invisible to people?

RW: I attribute this phenomenon to what I call “underbuild anxiety” and a couple of things play into this. Oftentimes the local building code actually requires it, and they build it because it is a condition of development. Or developers will look at another property and say “I have to do it because they are.”

There’s also a pervasive urban/suburban cultural divide, and oftentimes developers don’t see where they’re at. When you live in a suburban area, you probably should have more parking, but what works in an urban area is often quite different, as are the economics of parking development.

We’ve shown that we can make a surplus of parking profitable by using existing facilities in multiple ways. A lot of our structures in the Lloyd District were overbuilt because they were constructed in the 1970’s. We’ve removed a lot of employees out of those facilities by encouraging non-drive-alone modes. We’re now giving the surplus parking back to attract ground level businesses, and create short term parking for new customers. We have great partnerships with developers, and have found that they’re not afraid to be flexible and diverse with the parking packages they offer new tenants.

CYWB: What’s the bicycling situation like in the Lloyd District?

RW: In cooperation with the partnership we set the goal of achieving a 10% bicycle mode share by 2015, and as such, determined that every building should have parking stalls to allow for 10% of their employees to bike to work. We have used revenue generated through our parking meter funds to cover the cost to purchase and install parking racks, lockers and bike cages in private buildings, up to our 10% goalthe individual building just had to provide the space. In 1997 there were only 239 bike parking spaces in the district, and today we have 2,000. It was a tough sell in the beginning because when we began there was less than a 1% bicycle mode split and no bike infrastructure to speak of. You often heard “there’s no way I want bike racks here; no one would use them.” However property owners eventually bought into the 10% bike parking goal because they started to buy into the economic equationtranslating less parking built into more leasable area, more efficient use of existing parking and more attractive, marketable, cost-effective options for tenants and their employees.

Underscoring this is our partnership with the City, who played a crucial role in making investments in bike infrastructure in the public right of way (e.g., bike lanes), which supported and leveraged the investments we were making in bike infrastructure on private property.  In 1995 there were no bike lanes in the Lloyd District and today we have bike facilities on five streets, making it safer for people to bike around. The TMA also organizes and hosts around 15 bike events each year in the district, which continues to educate and assist people who make the decision to bike and further complements our bike infrastructure.  You have to have all three legs of the stool in place, or it won’t work (bike spaces, bike lanes and education).

CYWB: Do you see any similarities between the Lloyd area and the city of Bellevue?

RW: I see many similarities between the two. Lloyd was a very suburban district when we started and very much the “other downtown,” for the City of Portland. We’re the east side, you’re the east side. We have Oregon’s largest mall, a convention center, lots of hospitality and a sports arena. Much like Lloyd, Bellevue is a commercial center with newer construction, a fair amount of residual surface parking, and relatively low ground floor residential where there’s a lot of potential to bring the drive alone rate down.

CYWB: You’ll soon be coming here to speak with property owners, developers, and parking lot operators. What strategies have you found to be effective when talking to these groups about rethinking their parking strategies?

RW: There are a lot of changing trends in the parking market, particularly with regard to what customers want, which is not to have an “either or” choice. We need to break that cycle, and I always encourage property managers to look at offering transit and parking products that would grant their users a degree of flexibility.

There’s a relatively new concept called the Half Pass that allows for 11 days of parking during the month, which recognizes that there are people who still need to drive but don’t want to have to choose between parking and a transit pass. You’ve got tolling soon coming to the Seattle area, and the Half Pass would be a great way for people to avoid having to pay $7 for tolls every single day.

Pricing things in this way takes into account changes that are occurring in the region, or nationwide. Furthermore, people are rational economic creatures and you can have the best transit system in the world, but if you have a transit pass that costs more than a parking pass, people are going to continue to drive! People think the parking equation is difficult, but it’s really quite simple. Look, 30% of people who are 18 years old don’t even have a driver’s license! That’s an astounding statistic, and is indicative of where things are headed. We can help properties add components to their toolbox in order to better reflect these changes in the market.

CYWB: How do you demonstrate the added value of the work you do at the TMA?

RW: We are an organization that values sustainability, but our primary purpose is to grow jobs, add tenants and create new development. The byproduct is the feel good sustainability stuff. That’s the story of our TMA, and I think is the reason why we’ve been so successful.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 5:40 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Can Social Media help us move beyond preaching to the converted?

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The flight from Seattle to Ottawa takes a solid 6 hours, releasing you into a land that seems mostly familiar yet strangely off, like looking at a “can you spot the difference?” page from an old Highlights magazine. The changes are subtle—distance measured in kilometers here, an extra “u” there, the absence of glaring poverty anywhere–but quickly begin to add up to create a unique tapestry worthy of further inspection.

I’d been invited to this tidy Canadian capitol city to give a talk to the annual membership meeting of Citizens for Safe Cycling, an advocacy organization that’s been working for the past 30 years to improve the city’s cycling environment. I also came with the fervent intention to ride, to share ideas, and to determine whether my experiences in the social media realm offered anything useful in their quest to fashion the bicycle into a primary mode of transport.

Energy levels in the Ottawa cycling community were high—the mayor had just announced that 24 million would be spent over the next several years to improve cycling infrastructure, and riders of all stripes have been rejoicing in the segregated bike lane that has graced Laurier street in Downtown Ottawa since the summer. Several of Ottawa’s city council members are expressly bike friendly, and there was no palpable sense of animosity between the cyclists and the community at-large. If anything, things were a bit too pleasant as I gently wound my way throughout the extensive greenway networks of the city on a borrowed Dutch bicycle, traversing farm, field and urban core with nary an insult thrown or close call with a car.

And yet, challenges remain. Ottawa is a classically North American city, blessed (or cursed) with endless open space, and subsequently built with the automobile in mind. Ottawa’s bicycle mode split is holding steady at around 2%, and there is a wide gap between the number of male and female cyclists. Many continue to view cycling as “recreation,” and the primary iterations of dress showed it.  And of course all the familiar anti-bike refrains hung in the air—stories of business owners fighting bike lanes tooth and nail, city council meetings packed full of seniors tearfully lamenting that their grandchildren wouldn’t visit them if their parking was taken away, claims that bicycling just doesn’t fit with the “culture” of Ottawa. Many in the cycling community expressed frustration at dancing in perpetual circles around like-minded individuals. Wherever I went, the question on people’s lips was, “how do we get a new generation of people interested in cycling—so that it’s seen as something cool and fresh, but also incredibly normal at the same time?”

With this in mind, I chose to focus my presentation on “telling bicycle stories,” and discussed the various ways in which use social media to effectively promote cycling to new audiences. I spoke at length about my experience in Bellevue—as well as Atlanta, where I lived prior—of using Facebook and Twitter as a means of reaching out to people who wouldn’t ordinarily think of themselves as cyclists. I have found social media to be an incredible tool to portray cyclists in all their various incarnations—from glamorous to earnest to hale and hearty—and to tell the accompanying story. It’s extraordinarily easy to form “relationships,”on social media—all it takes is a few likes!– thus rendering it more likely that non-cycling groups will help spread your information. If the recent saga of the anti-bike GM ad is any indication, companies are clearly paying attention to what people are saying on twitter, thereby lowering barriers to access and increasing opportunities to insist upon change. Facebook is a dream for sharing clever transportation memes, luscious photos, and offering moral support and tips to newbie cyclists. It makes it simple to organize events like Tweed Rides, Bike Polo, and Heels on Wheels, increasing the appeal and fun factor of cycling to disparate audiences. Ultimately, social media has the ability to so beautifully demonstrate what could be, thereby allowing organizations to break out of the eggshell of preaching to the converted, and opening up a world of imaginative possibilities.

However, the alluring but sometimes unrealistic world of social media is not one to be inhabited exclusively. There is no substitute for actual civic engagement, for rolling up your sleeves to lobby for improvements to infrastructure that would make it easier to ride your bike. Ottawa is an example of an extraordinarily liveable place that is making deliberate strides to increase mobility for all its citizens. With a little more pizzazz and electronic engagement, they could easily catapult to the top of the list of the most bike-friendly cities on the continent; the dedication I saw from people in the cycling community was that apparent. In that respect, Ottawa wasn’t so different than the Pacific Northwest after all.

Friday, November 4th, 2011 4:32 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Free Winter Bike Commuting Class

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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)

Traffic Signal Priority 101

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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

Bellevue’s traffic signals are technically awesome

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untitledIf you’ve ever missed a traffic light by mere seconds only to be held hostage for a seeming eternity, you’ll certainly appreciate the intuitive new signaling system currently being implemented throughout Bellevue. Traffic signals may not come across as the most scintillating of topics, but they can absolutely make a difference in the amount of time each day you spend waiting, having a huge affect on your quality of life.

The Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System, or SCATS as it’s more commonly known, continually obtains traffic data from all lanes in order to determine traffic light cycle length, eliminating inefficient cycle time and providing extra time when needed. You’ll see it in full effect in downtown Bellevue at the intersection of NE 8th Street and Bellevue Way, as well as NE 8th Street and 112th Avenue NE and myriad intersections further east.

Bellevue has the distinction of being the first city in Washington to implement the system, and to impressive results: where it has been deployed locally, SCATS has shown to reduce delays by an average of 10% throughout the day, and as much as 20% during rush hour. Or, to put that in more concrete terms, it produces an average 70 second reduction in individual wait times, or saves 6,400 aggregate hours for drivers over the course of a year.

But perhaps you don’t drive? The system dazzles with benefits for pedestrians, as well. SCATS has the capability of producing a walk sign midway through the cycle at the press of a button. Since implementation at NE 8th Street and Bellevue Way, there has a 8% increase in pedestrian opportunities, and this function will be extended to more intersections in the future.

SCATS can also respond to accidents and disruptions in real-time (something that was nearly impossible to do with CompuTran – the former signaling system) and comes complete with the flashing yellow arrow function, which enables it to change left turn rules based on traffic conditions.

SCATS is currently in effect at 28% of the intersections in Bellevue, and partially in effect at 51%. Implementation will continue in phased rollouts until 2015, or until a new technology comes along that knocks us off our feet again. Such is the cycle.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 1:15 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Downtown Transportation Plan Update Open House

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On Tuesday, November 1 from
4:30-6:30 p.m.
, the DSC01009_2City of Bellevue will host an open house and scoping meeting on the Downtown Transportation Plan Update.

The Downtown Bellevue Transportation Plan Update is a focused, 18-month planning effort just getting underway, intended to update transportation plans and projects that will accommodate the growth that is expected in our city
between now and 2030.

There are two main objectives for this meeting: to provide information to a broad section of the community about the purpose of updating the Downtown Transportation Plan at this time; and to receive comments and suggestions regarding specific transportation issues that affect Downtown mobility and livability.

Following an overview presentation in the Council Chambers, those in attendance will be invited to the Concourse to join in small group conversations with City staff focused on specific mobility modes such as pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and roadways. In this format, the City hopes to hear from the community about the transportation system issues that concern them and their ideas for improvements. People are encouraged to visit more than one of the mobility display tables to help in the challenging task of planning for a multi-modal transportation system in a complex and dense urban environment.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Bellevue City Hall – Council Chambers and Concourse

450 – 110th Avenue NE

For further information, consult the web site: www.bellevuewa.gov/downtown-transportation-plan-update.htm

You may also contact the project manager, Kevin McDonald at 425-452-4558, or kmcdonald@bellevuewa.gov.

See you there!

Monday, October 10th, 2011 1:20 PM | by admin | Add a Comment

Bellevue’s transportation choices through photos

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Who says people only drive in Bellevue?

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

Meet Deric Gruen of Bellevue College

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Deric Gruen is the Sustainability Coordinator and Resource Conservation Manager at Bellevue College, where he works to plan, implement and evaluate iniPicture 028tiatives to integrate sustainability into institutional practices.

Deric received his Masters in Public Administration from the University of Washington, and has lent his expertise to a diverse array of organizations, including the Sightline Institute, the Puget Sound Regional Council, and the Trade Development Alliance at the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

In just one year at BC, he has already spearheaded a successful movement to bring Metro bus route 240 to campus, heightened the campus sustainability web and social media presence (see Facebook and Twitter pages), as well as instituted a college-wide paid parking program that began this fall.

We chatted with Deric about organizing, land use, making biking “cool,” and what’s next for Bellevue College.

CYWB: Can you begin by telling us a little bit about how you came to work at Bellevue College, and what you do there?

Deric: I began working at Bellevue College in September of 2010, following a year of traveling through the Middle East and Southern Africa by bike on a fellowship through the University of Washington. The first thing I was tasked with was tackling the longstanding transportation issues on our campus. I quickly helped to develop a task force comprised of students, faculty and staff that served as a platform for ongoing discussions about how we continue to grow mindfully while remaining an accessible institution for everyone.

CYWB: We hear you’re a something of a community organizer—would you mind telling us the happy story of bus route 240?

Deric: Earlier this year, I worked with student groups in an effort to get the Metro bus route 240 to make a stop at the Eastgate Park and Ride, the closest transit station to the College. We determined that 23% of Bellevue College students come from areas that would be served by this route, and that the cost of this change would be a mere five minutes for some commuters, but would save our students about a half an hour. We encouraged students to send letters and emails of support to the King County Council, and they went and testified before Council about how critical the bus service was to them. Their testimony tipped the scales, and as of October 1, the 240 now stops at Eastgate. Students often don’t count as much as jobs in transportation route planning, but they matter just as much, which I’m glad the Council recognized.

CYWB: Bellevue College has also been in the headlines lately for their new paid parking program, which is quite a change for the suburban-style campus where about 70% of the students and faculty drive alone. Can you explain how this came about?

Deric: We’ve long offered subsidized ORCA passes for our students, but with sharp increases in the cost of the pass, we realized we wouldn’t be able to continue to make the numbers work without a funding source for both parking and ORCA. We hired a consultant to conduct a parking study for us as a requirement of a new building we have permitted, and they issued the recommendation that charging for parking was the best solution to maintain accessibility of our campus. Furthermore, we determined that 75% of our emissions are commute related, and we want to reduce this by 10% over the next 5 years as part of our campus Climate Action Plan.

CYWB: Parking is often a contentious topichow did you win the support of the campus community in this process?

Deric: The student government came out in support of it after a long review and deliberation—we have a very active student body and strong leaders on campus. The toughest sell was some of the employee union groups—they’ve long considered free parking to be one of their benefits. The whole bargaining process took a good 6 months. But in the end, the students were able to make the case to the Board of Trustees that we would never have a different future if we didn’t make this change now. It was approved in June of this year, and we began implementation this fall. The rates aren’t prohibitively high$65 a quarter for students, less if you drive less, and just $15 a quarter for faculty and staff.

CYWB: If you could explain why institutions should charge for parking to the unconverted in just a few sentences, what would you say?

Deric: People need to understand that parking is not a free resource, and at Bellevue College, we’ve decided that we’d rather put our resources towards the students. Parking costs about $500 annually per stall, so it’s really a trade off when you think of it like that. As an institution, we want to become mode neutral and not subsidize one commute method over another. We want to always give people the element of real choice.

CYWB: Transportation and land use is often thought of something separate from sustainability efforts—often organizations that have recycling and energy saving programs don’t even mention transportation. Why the disconnect?

Deric: There’s always the fear factor of engaging around commute issues—it’s a very personal thing to people, with often intangible manifestations. It also takes work to organize non-drive-alone commutes, which is why before we enacted the paid parking scheme, we set up 5 informational booths around campus with representatives from King County Metro and the City of Bellevue and other students to help people plan their new commutes. That way it became more tangible, and manageable. Interventions like (PARK)ing day can help to make physical effects of parking more visible, as well. That’s something we might try on campus.

CYWB: Do you have any thoughts or tips for other institutions (schools, hospitals, etc) who might want to shift to paid parking?

Deric: Do the analysis to find out the true cost of parking on your institution and explore whether subsidies for parking are more than your subsidies for other modes and consider if that is fair.  In times of tight budgets consider your priorities.  Once you’ve done that analysis bring the findings to your employees and clients.

CYWB: How will you be able to tell if the new paid parking program has been a success?

Deric: We’re planning to do parking counts and a transportation survey but we haven’t decided whether it’ll be the spring or fall. Sales of parking passes and ORCA cards are going briskly, as expectedwe’ve actually sold out of the cheaper ORCA pass—and we will continue to help with individualized commute planning through our SHIFT partnership and RideshareOnline. The parking program is a biennium, so we’ll re-evaluate it in 2013.

CYWB: What’s up with biking on the Bellevue College campus? You’d think it would be the perfect demographic for it.

Deric: Anecdotally, I’ve seen more bikes this fall than ever before. We’re installing covered bike parking, and our gym is free to use for showering purposes. We’re in the process of setting up a maintenance facility, and working with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington to organize safety and maintenance classes that will train our faculty and staff so that they can offer classes on campus themselves.

In the longer term, I want to work to make biking “cooler” on campus. That could look something like organizing something to coincide with the Tour de Fat (beer tour) or a “pimp yo bike” ride, or bike swap similar to the annual one in Seattle.

CYWB: What are some other forthcoming projects at Bellevue College that you’re excited about?

Deric: We’re starting a carshare service with WeCar, a service of Enterprise sometime this fall, which will help those traveling the 5 miles between our two campuses, as well as to our newest location in Issaquah in the future. We’re also researching the idea of installing trip planning electronic kiosks similar to the ones in South Lake Union.

CYWB: What does Bellevue College 10 years from now look like to you?

Deric: A campus that uses of land, energy and material resources only to the extent necessary to advance College goals.  A campus that’s easy to access to bicycle, transit, and personal vehicles.  More space for learning and campus life due to a drop in demand for parking.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 1:33 PM | by admin | Add a Comment