Staff Documents Show the Need for Further Multi-modal Investments in Bellevue

Reach out to Bellevue’s Transportation Commission and tell them that data shows we should prioritize investments in walking, biking, and transit infrastructure. Submit written testimony at, or sign up for oral testimony at their July 8th meeting.

In yesterday’s article, we introduced the concept of concurrency and why its current implementation in Bellevue is limited – namely, because the current approach only accounts for vehicle traffic and prevents impact fees from being used for walking, biking, or transit projects. Luckily, city transportation staff and the Transportation Commission are actively working to overhaul concurrency policies through the development of the Mobility Implementation Plan. However, there are still several key decisions that will influence how effective the new policies will be at encouraging further multi-modal investments.

Perhaps most important among these decisions will be where staff & the Commission choose to set performance targets for each mode. This will represent a departure from the current policy’s targets, which are binding numerical values that determine the threshold at which a neighborhood fails to meet concurrency. This index for automobiles, measured as volume/capacity (or v/c), is the expected traffic level for a particular neighborhood divided by the total vehicle capacity for the roadways in that particular neighborhood. Put simply, each neighborhood has a set v/c target (e.g. 0.85, 0.90, 0.95), and if a new development would cause a neighborhood to exceed its v/c target, then the developer is required to pay impact fees to improve traffic flow.

Current v/c targets for different neighborhoods in Bellevue. Note that every neighborhood is currently meeting concurrency, often by significant margins.

In contrast, performance targets under the Mobility Implementation Plan will reflect the ideal facilities to strive towards for a particular mode – but not be binding thresholds to each be individually met. So long as there is enough total capacity available across all modes (walking, biking, transit, and driving) to accommodate everybody using the transportation system, then the city will still be meeting concurrency. However, these targets still have an important role in setting the type of facility that will help the city define what “system completeness” means. Is it acceptable to call the city’s pedestrian network complete if only growth corridor areas have wide sidewalks? Would painting bike lanes along the city’s priority bicycle corridors be sufficient infrastructure to call the bike network complete? Are current v/c targets for vehicles high enough in the eyes of commissioners, or would they want roadways to be able to accommodate more automobile traffic before considering the network complete? How the Transportation Commission answers these questions will affect which investments are encouraged, as priority will be given to filling in the gaps of the most incomplete network.

So how complete *is* our transportation network? To guide the Transportation Commission’s discussions at tomorrow’s meeting, staff have prepared a report outlining the performance of each mode relative to performance targets set in the 2017 MMLOS Report (a whole other report that involved an entirely separate but equally complex public engagement process). The performance targets that stemmed from that report may not be the performance targets the Transportation Commission chooses as part of the Mobility Implementation Plan, but viewing the transportation system through the lens of those targets provides some valuable insights.

The biggest insight is that the city has an incredibly long way to go before we can call our pedestrian, bicycle, and transit networks complete!

The numbers truly are shocking. Based on performance targets defined in the MMLOS Report and in various Land Use Codes, Bellevue’s multi-modal infrastructure is (unsurprisingly) underperforming:

  • Only 25% of Bellevue’s pedestrian network in our dense, walkable neighborhoods is meeting performance targets of at least 12-16 feet of combined landscape strip & sidewalk space. This doesn’t even account for the other neighborhoods of Bellevue that aren’t categorized as “mixed-use” but where residents still want safe infrastructure to walk!
  • Only 53% of Bellevue’s cycle infrastructure currently meets the expected Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) metric prescribed by the MMLOS Report. Significant portions of Bellevue’s key cycling corridors remain below their expected LTS targets.
  • Bellevue transit connections are slow – 14 of 16 neighborhood transit connections (e.g. Downtown to Factoria, Crossroads to Eastgate, etc.) run at speeds of less than 15 mph!

The tl;dr of this staff report is that, if you’re trying to get around Bellevue while walking, biking, or taking transit, you’re going to have a long, difficult journey ahead of you. But how does automobile travel compare? Just how much easier is it to get where one needs to go by car in Bellevue?

The differences are striking. If you’re driving a vehicle, you can expect to get to your destination with reasonable expediency – even during the PM peak! However, if you’re using any other mode, you’re required to deal with unsafe facilities, slow travel times, and indirect routes. This report very clearly underscores our central thesis – Bellevue’s road network is already great for people who want to get around by car. We should therefore devote as much time, energy, and resources as possible to bringing all other modes to a similar performance standard, or at the very least to the performance standards prescribed by the MMLOS report.

If you’re still reading this article after all this technical jargon, multiple data tables, and several maps of Bellevue, congratulations! You are one step closer to earning your “local policy wonk” credentials – and one step closer to understanding why it can be so difficult for ordinary citizens to engage in the municipal process. Unfortunately, this type of highly technical & complex policy is often the most important thing for residents to engage with, because it sets the tone for the projects, ideas, and visions that are possible down the line. We hope that these articles have helped to make the concept of concurrency a little less nebulous and empowered you to have enough information to make your opinion heard.

Reach out to Bellevue’s Transportation Commission and tell them that data shows we should prioritize investments in walking, biking, and transit infrastructure. Submit written testimony at, or sign up for oral testimony at their July 8th meeting.

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