Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bellevue is wrong

Just read in the Seattle Times this morning that Kemper Freeman, the landlord of downtown Bellevue, is spending millions of his own dollars to sue the state to prevent light rail on I-90. If he succeeds he will doom light rail on 520 too. He would rather see more auto lanes on the areas freeways. The current plan for the new 520 bridge calls for more lanes that directly connect to I-5 heading west, while there would still be single lane ramps for the ramps heading east on 520 from Seattle. McGinn's plan would change this and also calls for light rail on 520- predictably, the east side contingent are howling.

The crux of this issue is that transportation -wise, whatever you build will be used. You could build a 10 lane I-90 and I-405 and there would still be single occupancy vehicle gridlock. Or you could build light rail and infrastructure for mass transit and cycling- it would be used, there would be less traffic and less pollution, and most importantly everyone would have more than one reasonable choice for how to commute. Right now most people drive because even with traffic, it winds up being faster than taking the bus or riding a bike. And riding a bike is still downright dangerous in some places. I commute from the wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle to Eastgate in Bellevue by bike. Everything is fine until you get to Eastgate (the Montlake interchange from the last post is weird but doable once you figure it out). Riding eastbound on Eastgate and hanging a left on 156th is daunting- you have to merge into multiple lanes of high speed traffic- only a bicycle fanatic would do it on a regular basis. This is a good example of an area where a car is the only reasonable option for most people. There are lots of roads on the eastside that are like this. If I want to ride somewhere in Seattle, I just ride in the general direction of where I want to go and I'll get there in one piece. If I want to ride somewhere on the eastside, I pore over the bicycle map and carefully plan the route that is least suicidal, and if you get off track you will find yourself on a dangerous road. I think that is why I see tons of other cyclists on my commute in Seattle and Mercer Island and then hardly anybody once I'm in Bellevue.

Areas that allow more than one mode of transportation are more liveable and more pleasant. It is isolating and depressing to have to live somewhere where you are required to get in a car if you want to go to work, school, the grocery store or whatever. I'm sorry to say eastsiders, but if you continue to be developed around the automobile you will always be the ugly stepchild of Seattle that you are now.

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