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And how I dealt with Route 550 move out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel onto surface streets!

Editor note: Phyllis is the newest member of the Choose Your Way Bellevue Outreach team. While you can find her commuting from Columbia City to Downtown Bellevue using light rail and the bus for work, she’s most happy when she’s out riding her bike for transportation or recreation!

Whenever I can park my car, walk, bike or take transit, or light rail, I do it. I’m highly energized and like the outdoors and doing things that are productive towards health, fitness and the environment. This way I can contribute to all three. Riding my purple and red Kestrel bike gives me a sense of freedom and makes a daily gym routine seem hard. Pedaling on a fresh and crisp morning is quite exhilarating and prepares me for what is next to come.

I live a few blocks from the Columbia City light rail station and although I prefer biking for a commute to work, taking the light rail and bus is more efficient. The walk to my neighborhood station is quick and I can hop on the Link and head to the International District.  My commute to Bellevue offers various options via the bus and light rail and takes about an hour from start to finish without having to sit in the heavily congested traffic that Seattle is incurring more rapidly as the city continues to grow. Not bad, right?

Day 1– This week I chose the light rail and the bus, Route 550 from Seattle to Bellevue. My first day was a little challenging as the 550-bus route had changed. Learn more about buses moving out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel on Choose Your Way Bellevue’s Seattle Squeeze for Bellevueites page. I approached Bay 2 of the transit tunnel and noticed there were no buses in sight and a large detour sign that included information and a map.

I read the information and learned that the Route #550 bus stop was now located six blocks north at Yesler and 2nd Avenue. After reading the information, and reviewing the map, I walked upstairs and outside the tunnel and headed north. My eyes stared in the direction of where the bus would depart. At that moment I could see the bus and the doors were closing. I waved my hand to get the attention of the bus driver and jetted pass a lady that was trying to make it to the bus. I got there first and by the kindness of the bus driver he waited a few extra seconds to make sure she made it on too. A lesson learned, be prepared. Check the bus sites prior to taking the bus. Change happen, and Metro is very informative about route changes with posting given prior to the change.  You can sign up to receive alerts for your favorite routes with both Sound Transit and King County Metro. So, if you don’t ride frequently, don’t do what I did, check the route first. Lesson 1 learned.

Day 2– The second day was a breeze. I took the light rail from Columbia City and got off at Pioneer Square which was one stop beyond the first day. Walked upstairs out to Yesler and 2nd and here come the 550, hey that’s my bus? Yay! I thought this was much easier than walking up the stairs and across to the other side to catch the bus after getting off the Link to go to Bellevue on the prior route. People at this bus stop were lined up in an orderly fashion and I found my place at the end of the line. Next, I stepped on the bus, used my new ORCA card, found a seat and enjoyed the ride. It’s a 30-minute commute and the bus drop me off less than a block away of my destination. This is so easy!  Was there a lesson learned? Yes! Prepare, use the info that listed on the web, and plan your ride. I did, and my ride was very efficient with no bumps along the way.

Day 3- Headed out the door at 7:15 a.m. taking the same route as yesterday. What challenges will I have today and, if so how will I handle it?

I enjoyed my light rail ride just a little too much this day relaxing in the moment that I missed my Pioneer Square stop. No problem, I got off at the next stop – University and walked over to the opposite side of the tunnel and waited for the Link. I heard the train notification arrival time announced on the intercom; “The next train will be arriving in two minutes.” I waited and boarded the next train and got off at the very next stop. Followed the same route as yesterday and there I see, from a half block away, people lined up to the right and I look to my left and see the #550 three blocks north. I crossed the street at the light twice and found my self at the end of the line again. I found a seat about three rows back, sat and enjoyed the ride while finishing up on a few emails on my phone. Thirty minutes later, I’m getting off the bus and walking toward work.

The first three days haven’t been quite routine, but I plan on having a standard routine yet with mixing it up a little. I can also take the Route #7 bus instead of taking the Link and connect with the #550. It may take a few minutes more, but as long as I get to work on time, I like the experience of learning different ways of getting around the city. I can also take my current light rail trip but extend it to UW and take the #271 from there to the Bellevue Transit Center. This keeps it fun and adventurous. I took advantage of the information that we share with commuters through our custom commute plans about taking the bus and other ways to get around without riding in a single-occupant vehicle.

I used the King County Metro Trip Planner and learned how to map out the many different routes based on ETA. Next week I will try a different route and maybe next month I’ll move on to something I haven’t tried. Being new to the program, I appreciate Choose Your Way Bellevue information on getting around when not driving. I’m a morning person and energized about commuting. Feel free to share your experiences of your commute, you don’t have to be a morning person to do that!

I enjoy all modes of commuting and hope that you will try one of the multi-modal ways of commuting while leaving your car at home. Happy Commuting!

-Choose Your Way Bellevue Staffer Phyllis!

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 2:50 PM | by Tim Kelley | Add a Comment

 

Get ready–Spring is in the air and that means that Bike Everywhere Month is right around the corner! Here are a few exciting opportunities the City of Bellevue is offering to get you out on two wheels during the month of May:

And to officially kick off Bike Month, including the Bike Everywhere Challenge, Choose Your Bellevue is hosting the 2019 Eastside Bike Bash at REI-Bellevue with Cascade Bicycle Club and all our friends on May 1 from 4p.m.-7p.m. Learn about exciting bike projects coming to the Eastside, snack on delicious goodies, and meet up with other like-minded people who ride bikes.  We’ll have friends and partners from all over the Eastside with fun giveaways and coupons!

And don’t forget that May 17 is Bike Everywhere Day!  Find your nearest Celebration Station!

Want to give biking a try, but have questions or don’t know where to get started? The City of Bellevue will be hosting a “Basics of Urban Cycling” class at City Hall in May. The class will cover planning your bike route, riding safely and comfortably, rules of the road, clothing, gear, and is led by a Cascade Bicycle Club instructor. Free pizza will be provided.  Dates and times are still TBD, but check back soon for more details!

Additional Resources:

 -Choose Your Way Bellevue Staff

 

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 10:11 AM | by geri | Add a Comment

Cloudy weather with a side of Seattle Squeeze got you down? Choose Your Way Bellevue wants to perk you up! A lot of bike goodness happened in Bellevue in 2018 and we want to keep that momentum rolling in the new year. So with that in mind we’re giving away backpacks, bike lights, bells, and winter bike socks and all you have to do is send us a selfie so we can share your smile on social media!

Interested? Here are three easy steps that will score you some free swag:

Step 1: Pull your bike out of winter hibernation or find the nearest Bikeshare Bike, and then go for a ride in Bellevue!

Step 2: Enjoy your fast, easy, convenient bike ride and snap a selfie with your bike, or the view from your handlebars (while not in motion of course!), within the Bellevue city limits! Or better yet, grab a friend to play photog and go for a ride with you!

Step 3: Email us your photo (info@cywb.org) and provide us with your mailing address. Just for taking a ride and sharing your photo, we’ll send you a fancy, limited edition Choose Your Way Bellevue backpack stuffed with goodies inside, like bike lights, a bell and winter socks. (While supplies last. Let us know if you don’t want us to post your photo publicly.)

Step 3a (Alternate option):  Don’t have your selfie-stick handy? Fancy yourself a budding author or the next J.K. Rowling instead? Send us at short writeup on why you ride in Bellevue and you’ll be eligible for the same reward!  Send a narrative (50 words minimum) on why you like to ride your bike in Bellevue to info@cywb.org and we’ll feature it on our social media and mail you the bike goodies.  Easy as that! (Note: All entries are moderated for compliance with the city’s social media guidelines; one entry per person please.)

The Fine Print:
We only have a limited number of goodies, so this promotion is first-come, first-served limited to Bellevue riders. One reward per rider. Photos must be taken within the City of Bellevue. We want to share your smiling selfies with the world, but we do respect your privacy–let us know if you don’t want us to share your photos on social media.

Update: here’s a pic of some of the goodies you’ll get:

Friday, January 25th, 2019 12:05 PM | by Tim Kelley | Add a Comment

In 2015, the Bellevue City Council adopted a Vision Zero resolution, proclaiming that the life, safety and health of residents, employees and visitors to Bellevue is the Council’s highest priority. The City’s commitment to this priority is reflected in the Vision Zero goal: Zero traffic-related deaths and serious injures by 2030.

The City is currently creating a Vision Zero Action Plan to coordinate existing programs and identify opportunities where new efforts are needed to make Bellevue’s streets safe for everyone. Whatever someone’s age, physical ability, or how they choose to travel—walking, bicycling, transit, driving, or otherwise—they should get wherever they want to be safely in Bellevue.

An online questionnaire is now available through February 11: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VisionZeroBellevue.

Feedback from this questionnaire will help City staff better understand the public’s perceptions about street safety and what factors feel most threatening to people traveling in Bellevue. Responses will be used to develop strategies and take action.

Together, we will achieve zero!

Take the Survey!

-Choose Your Way Bellevue Staff

Thursday, January 10th, 2019 1:42 PM | by Tim Kelley | Add a Comment

With the Seattle Squeeze less than a month away, now is the time to start planning for your commute alternatives! Congestion is expected to impact travel beyond SR 99 and I-5 and even affecting travel on the Eastside. Have you ever thought about trying a vanpool? You’ve seen those dark-colored vans emblazoned with “King County Metro VANPOOL” on the side breezing through the HOV lanes on the freeways, or maybe you’ve seen one parked in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s time to look into how you can cut your commute costs, fast-track it through traffic, or just find a less stressful way to get to work!

Whizzing Past Other Traffic In The HOV Lane

In this blog post we connect with two vanpool experts to learn the ins and outs of sharing the ride to get to work! First up we have Kate Johnson, who is a Transportation Planner at the City of Bellevue and is the driver of vanpool from her home in Seattle to City Hall in downtown Bellevue.

CYWB: Hi Kate, how long have you been vanpooling? Where does your vanpool start, and where do you pick up your other riders?

KJ: Our origin is in Upper Fremont in Seattle. Most of us meet at the origin point, but we make one pickup along the way just before getting on the freeway.

CYWB:  How were you commuting beforehand, and what was the impetus to start vanpooling?

KJ: I have used just about every commute mode! Most recently I was biking about three miles to the bus, but the bus began to take longer than before. I have found that vanpooling provides me the fastest commute by taking advantage of the HOV lanes and providing a more direct route than the bus.

We’re Not the Only One!

CYWB: What’s it like being the driver? What are your responsibilities? Do you get to choose which radio station the van listens to?  😊

KJ: As the primary driver, I drive the van regularly four days per week (there are backup drivers for the days I don’t drive). I also get gas (using the gas card provided by the vanpool program) and take the van to the maintenance shop when needed. Even though driving isn’t my favorite activity, I find that I don’t mind it when I have friendly vanpool mates going along for the ride. Having others with me makes my commute more interesting. We’re a pretty easygoing group – sometimes we have interesting discussions, and other times we’ll just enjoy silence or listen to the radio – and, yes, it’s a perk of driving to be able to choose the station!

 

CYWB: Is there anything you don’t like about vanpooling? Are there challenges coordinating the vanpool regarding logistics?

KJ: There are some administrative tasks involved with vanpooling, and we need to coordinate with each other to decide on departure times and agree on policies. We have set strict departure times, so that only those who show up on time may ride. This streamlines our departures – we don’t need to keep track of who is supposed to be in or out on a given day. But we’re flexible as well – riders can send a text if they are running a few minutes late, and the group will wait!

 

CYWB:  Are there any surprise benefits that you weren’t expecting?

KJ: As a driver, the vanpool program allows me to use the van for occasional personal travel needs, which makes it easy for me to run errands and get to appointments during the workday.

Our Lovely Van Parked At Its Home In Seattle


CYWB: If you didn’t vanpool, what would you miss most about it?

KJ: I mainly like that my commute is faster than it would be any other way, and I have more time with my family at the end of the workday.


So after hearing about Kate’s experiences, now you’re interested? Curious how can you join or even start a vanpool of your own?  We’re glad you asked!  To help answer that question, we have Julie Paone who is a Transportation Planner with the King County Metro’s Vanpool program!

CYWB: Hi Julie, tell us about the King County Metro vanpool program?  Is it true that it’s the oldest and biggest program of its kind in the entire country?

 JP:  In 2019, our program will be celebrating its 40th year anniversary!  And a special thanks to all of our customers who contribute to the success of our program.  Currently, King County Metro operates the nation’s largest public commuter van program, with 1,600 groups commuting in the region. Over this time, we’ve seen many changes in the transportation environment including new mobile app technologies and employers offering more work schedule flexibility. King County Metro recognizes these changes and strives to create a sustainable commuter van program than improves the customer experience, helps the environment by reducing additional vehicles on the road and reduces the demand for parking at employer worksites.

 

 CYWB: How can someone join a vanpool?  Are there easy ways to find existing vanpools?

 JP: Anyone can join one of our vanpools, it’s part of the King County Metro public transportation system. The easiest way to find an existing vanpool is to register at www.RideshareOnline.com and search for matches which are displayed on the customized map. Then, contact the group to ask about seat availability and confirm their work hours and route. New riders can even ride for a few days to see if the van is a good fit for their commute.

 

CYWB: If someone wanted to start their own vanpool, what do they need to know, and what do they need to do?

JP: It’s easy to start a new group, it just takes five people who share a similar route.  The group identifies at least two drivers, the more the merrier, and a person to fill the bookkeeper role. All participants complete an application, then work with a Metro representative to complete the online driver and bookkeeper training. Everything is included in the monthly fare – gas, insurance, maintenance, 24 hour roadside assistance, plus a ride home in an emergency. Many employees receive a transportation benefit from their employer so the cost is minimal or free to ride in the van.

 

CYWB: With the Seattle Squeeze coming, are there any special incentives that King County Metro is offering to get more people into vans?

 JP: Yes, we are offering options to help reduce congestion by filling the empty seats in our Metro Vanpool and Vanshare groups. Through our enhanced Ticket-2-Ride program, new riders in a Metro van can ride for FREE during the SR 99 closure.  New riders can search for a Metro van at www.RideshareOnline.com and contact the group to see if they have a seat available. Metro vans that add a new rider during the SR 99 closure will get rewarded, so it’s a win-win situation!

Metro van groups will get a $50 gift card by adding a new rider during the SR 99 closure and sharing a picture of their new rider on our Facebook page – www.Facebook.com/KCMetroVans. This promotion is available to all Metro Vanpools and Vanshare groups, even if they don’t travel through the downtown corridor.  For all the details, visit kingcounty.gov/metrovans.

 

CYWB: Do you have any fun success stories that you’ve heard from vanpools that you can share?

JP: Many of our customers are thrilled about the time they saved by commuting in a van since they get home faster and can spend more personal time with their family and friends. The van also creates a community so we hear about the new friends they met by participating in the program. Many of the groups socialize outside of the commute and stay in touch through summer or holiday parties. We even had a couple meet and get married because they met each other while commuting in a vanpool. So, the vanpool program helps commuters save money, reduce time commuting and provides a social connection during the commute!


And with that, thanks so much to Kate and Julie for taking the time to share their experiences and expertise! If you want more information about vanpool incentives, check out our post from earlier this month. We’ll see you in the HOV lanes!

-Choose Your Way Bellevue Staff

Thursday, December 20th, 2018 10:03 AM | by geri | Add a Comment

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