On Tuesday May 19, 2015, King County Metro representatives met on a panel to discuss short, medium and long-term plans to make the Metro Transit bus system more accessible for students, including those at Bellevue College. Consisting of Victor Obeso, Franz Lowenherz, Christen Leeson, Shefali Ranganathan and Karen Kitsis, the panel discussed current issues surrounding students’ access to the bus system and future plans to make it more accessible for all.
In one specific example, the panel referenced an 18-minute car ride that would have taken two buses up to an hour and a half for the same trip. In discussing the problems and solutions, the audience was involved. The panel answered questions to clarify or address faults in potential solutions.
David Baker, mayor of the city of Kenmore, attended the panel. “We really need to continue to look at transit and how we can develop transit over the next years so we can create an effective means for us to get around,” Baker said.
He also endorsed the changes by concluding his thoughts and saying, “I really look forward to working with Metro to see what the future may hold.”
Deputy General Manger for King County Metro, Obeso, was straightforward when representing Metro.
“It is our job to maximize options or opportunities for people to travel where they want to when they want to.” He compared transit to freedom, saying, “It enables them to travel whether or not they have a car.”
He acknowledged weaknesses in the system and explained, “It is about tradeoffs. We will always have limitations with regards to our funding sources. It is our job to decide which tradeoffs give the most choice to the community.”
Bellevue and Bellevue College has already had long-term success as far as transit is concerned. “For the past decade, we’ve seen transit use in Bellevue increase 144 percent,” said City of Bellevue’s Senior Transportation Planner Lowenherz.
He added that on any given weekday there are an estimated 54,000 commuters as people travel around the city via bus. “Bellevue reached a place a few years ago where they had maximum access between major community centers.” Lowenherz said, “if funding doesn’t come through, we are willing to sacrifice those connections,” which leads to limiting the access to transit that current Bellevue residents have.
These cuts would focus on lower residential areas so that Metro could maintain access to major hubs such as Bellevue College, as “80 percent of students come from outside of Bellevue,” said Lowenherz. In fact, a bus stop is being planned for the backside of Bellevue College on Snoqualmie River Road, connecting to 145th. According to Lowenherz, it would also “increase access to the southern side of the campus with gateway treatment.”
With proper funding for this long-term plan, King County Metro plans to make all of these changes by the year 2030 in order to accommodate the growing population of the residential areas. “If we follow through on the long-term plans, we are expecting to see a threefold increase on the transit usage we experience today,” noted Lowenherz. With hopes to continually improve transit, Lowenherz concluded, “Our vision can be interpreted as more people reaching more destinations in less time.”