Park-and-ride closure in Bellevue: Commuters angry, feeling stranded

More than 500 daily park-and-ride customers will be displaced, and probably face longer commutes, when the South Bellevue lot closes May 30 to make room for a light-rail extension to open in 2023.

You can chat with commuters for two hours in the South Bellevue Park-and-Ride lot without finding anybody who likes how transit agencies tackled the impending closure of its 519 stalls.

The popular lot closes May 30, to be overtaken by equipment storage, track installation and station construction for the new light-rail extension connecting Seattle to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake.

Voters approved the route eight years ago, but for park-and-ride users, these kinds of hassles don’t feel real until they occur.

A shutdown on May 1, also for light-rail construction, removed 222 spaces at Overlake Transit Center, which like the South Bellevue lot overflowed most mornings.

Both park-and-rides will reopen, with more spaces, before rail service reaches them in 2023.

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Sound Transit has tried to compensate by securing lots at eight Eastside churches with a total 367 spaces near local bus stops.

None of these is alongside any of the eight Sound Transit Express cross-lake commuter routes. The nearest one to South Bellevue is 2 ½ miles away at 2015 Richards Road. Most of them are alongside bus stops to downtown Bellevue.

Parkers heading for Seattle would need two buses rather than one.

Transit customers estimated they would forfeit 40 to 60 minutes a day, switching to other lots, making transfers or catching a slower bus closer to home that goes to Seattle or downtown Bellevue.

The primary route affected is the popular Sound Transit Express 550, linking downtown Bellevue, the South Bellevue park-and-ride and downtown Seattle via I-90.

The 550 and other Bellevue Way buses will continue to stop near the closed park- and-ride.

The South Bellevue closure will leave the huge 1,614-stall Eastgate park-and-ride next to I-90 as the closest hub to freeway buses. It’s officially 99 percent occupied.

“There’s no parking spots at Eastgate. We can’t squeeze 500 more cars into that lot,” said Amy Potts, awaiting her morning bus last week. “And the parking spots they’ve ‘added,’ they’re not anywhere near the 550.”

As a result, people will drive to work even though they’d rather use transit, she said.

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