As traffic increases and environmental impacts become increasingly important, transit systems in King County are expanding their service and accessibility to serve a greater number of citizens.
King County Metro has released its long-term plan for the next 25 years of expansion and operation. Transportation Planner Graydon Newman came by Bellevue College on May 16 to share the plan and to gather comments from the staff, faculty and students who attended.
Amber Nicholson of the BC Office of Sustainability explained that Metro and BC have an ongoing relationship, including frequent meetings to “discuss our goals in reducing carbon emissions and traffic, as well as in ensuring affordable and quality transit for students.”
Similar goals are shaping the long-range plans for all of King County whose expanding population has already passed 2 million. Access to affordable transportation is a major issue and, according to Sound Transit’s website, by 2040, “the number of people who are within 0.5 miles of a transit stop with frequent service every 15 minutes or less from 20 percent today to 70 percent.”
Bellevue College represents just one of many communities from which King County Metro is seeking feedback. A survey and opportunity to comment is available online until June 1, as well as a comprehensive and interactive presentation of their long term plan and priorities. Both can be found at www.kcmetrovision.org.
Priorities for the plan are currently to accommodate growth, meet increasing demand, promote equity and social justice, connect people to Link, reduce emissions and adopt emerging technology. They have taken various factors into consideration in order to meet the needs of all its residents including low income and minority populations.
Increasing bus service means adding more buses and more employees as well as making physical changes to park and rides, bus stops and even curbsides that make the entire system more efficient.
Much of the long-term plan is also tailored to a close partnership with Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail. Construction at Eastlake is starting soon and will be a functioning stop on a 14-mile expansion of the Light Rail by 2023. This will be an “incredible benefit for folks going east-west,” said Public Information Officer for Sound Transit Bruce Gray in an interview. 50,000 to 60,000 people already ride the existing Link trains each day on the current route from SeaTac Airport to the University of Washington.
Not only will the expanded light rail system be a fast and affordable alternative to individual automobiles, it will also be a zero emission option. In line with the emphasis on hydroelectric and renewable sources of energy in the Puget Sound region, riders will be reducing the amount of carbon emissions their transportation adds to the environment.
Nicholson explained that encouraging students to use public transportation would be a big step towards sustainability at the college. “The majority of BC students commute to campus alone,” she explained, “which is a significant contributor to our carbon footprint.” As transit options expand more students will have the chance to change their transportation method and contribute to the Office of Sustainability’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.
To reduce their personal impact on the environment, students have resources including an Orca card price match that will double their transit money at the start of each quarter. There are also carpooling and rideshare opportunities that can further reduce the number of individual commuters on campus.
To learn more about construction of the eastside light rail service, Sound Transit offers text alerts and a full description of the plan on their website.