Two park & rides on the Eastside will close in early 2017 for East Link construction. The South Bellevue P&R, with current capacity of 519 cars, is expected to close later in the first quarter. It will reopen in five years with an expanded capacity of 1,500 cars in a five-level garage. In the second quarter, the smaller Overlake Transit Center P&R will close for up to six years so it can be used for staging materials. Capacity at Overlake is about 220 cars. The future Redmond Technology Center Station will include a 320-stall parking garage.
Closure dates are dependent on construction scheduling and will be announced 60 days in advance. As the dates are confirmed, a more extensive public outreach effort will educate riders about alternatives.
To serve users during the closures, Sound Transit has expanded two existing leased lots and leased space at five new locations, accommodating 350 cars in total. All of the added capacity is at churches in Bellevue excepting one Renton location. The leased lots opened in December. That is less than a 1:1 replacement, but there is also unused capacity at some other Eastside locations such as South Sammamish, Houghton, Newport Hills, and Tibbetts Valley in Issaquah.
Buses will continue to serve South Bellevue during the closure. These include ST 550, 555 and 556, and Metro 241 and 249. The southbound stops will be relocated across the street. Road capacity will be reduced during some of the construction, but a reversible lane ensures two lanes can remain open in the peak direction throughout.
The closure of the P&R at Overlake Transit Center is being mitigated in part with ST Express service to nearby Overlake Village on ST 541, launched earlier in 2016. Sound Transit Express service on the SR 520 and I-90 corridors was increased in 2016, improving the frequency of service at several historically under-utilized lots.
Most riders from South Bellevue are taking ST 550. The temporary lots will not have direct access to ST 550. However, studies of South Bellevue P&R users reveal that they are drawn from all over the Eastside. The replacement lots all have connecting bus service to ST 550, or alternative connections to Seattle destinations.
Like many other P&Rs near Seattle, drivers use South Bellevue because it is close to their Seattle destination and they can avoid paying for parking in Seattle. It’s often not particularly close to their homes. A 2015 license plate analysis suggests 43% of users are driving more than five miles. For most Bellevue residents, parking near transit has become less important, with only 18% of Bellevue transit users using a P&R to access transit (down from over 40% a decade ago). Connecting service from more distant suburbs is less frequent, so driving to a P&R nearer Seattle is convenient. Sound Transit hopes it can offset that with well-distributed leased lots, and also by publicizing alternatives even if they are less frequent.
The license plate analysis hints at a mismatch between demand and the location of the leased lots, with many riders apparently living in Newcastle or Renton. Metro 114 could serve some of those riders, but it makes only five trips a day each direction. There is capacity at Newport Hills for some of those riders, which is currently about 80% full.
After South Bellevue closes, Mercer Island will be the only P&R with ST 550 service. There are concerns on Mercer Island that this lot will fill early in the morning with commuters from elsewhere on the Eastside. 53% of Mercer Island P&R users are already estimated to be from off the island. Residents nevertheless opposed a plan to add 200 spots on the island that could have been used by ST 550 commuters. Accordingly, Sound Transit did not seek other temporary parking on the Island. Mercer Island has withdrawn from Sound Transit’s carpool permit pilot program because the reserved spaces could be used by non-Islander commuters.