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caption: Andrew and Maryam Keller live and work in downtown Bellevue. They commute mostly by foot, and chose their home nearby to allow that lifestyle.
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Andrew and Maryam Keller live and work in downtown Bellevue. They commute mostly by foot, and chose their home nearby to allow that lifestyle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Why more Bellevue residents walk to work now

Bellevue used to be known as a city where most people drive to work. But that’s changed dramatically in one part of downtown Bellevue just north of Bellevue square.

A Seattle Times analysis found that since 2010, the number of people who walk, bike, carpool or bus to work – has increased faster there than anywhere else in the region.

We went to find our why.

Andrew Keller runs a dental office – that looks like no dentist office you’ve ever seen. It has giant glowing crystals everywhere. It looks like Superman’s fortress of solitude.

"People tell me it looks like a night club. But it’s a dental office," said Keller.

But you know what he likes most about his office? His commute. He lives 5 blocks away!

"For the days that I don’t feel like walking I have a little Segway, so I can zip around on the sidewalks and that makes it easy, too," he said.

caption: While Leela the dog may be unimpressed, visitor Cheryl Rieken is awestruck by the interior of DaVinci Dental in downtown Bellevue.
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While Leela the dog may be unimpressed, visitor Cheryl Rieken is awestruck by the interior of DaVinci Dental in downtown Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Part of the reason for this shift in commuter habits – has been the big increase in density downtown. There are huge new apartment buildings everywhere you look and they’re just a block or two from downtown Bellevue’s jobs.

Luke Liu runs the Ashwood Urban Market at the base of one of those towers. He said many of his customers don’t bother to drive... at all.

"They tell me – they don’t need to buy a car," he said. Many people work from home, or work for Microsoft or Boeing - both companies that run commuter shuttle services to pick up employees.

caption: With apartment towers everywhere, Bellevue is a place where people live and work - and sometimes do both within a few blocks of each other.
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With apartment towers everywhere, Bellevue is a place where people live and work - and sometimes do both within a few blocks of each other.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Some Bellevue residents do commute along by car, but the Seattle Times analysis by Gene Balk reveals that number has fallen significantly.

And with light rail slated to reach downtown Bellevue in 2023, that number could soon drop even farther.

One apartment manager said many of her tenants moved to Seattle from other cities. She said they told her, when they made the move, they asked themselves: Why bring a car if I don't have to?

Another apartment manager said with rent being so high in Bellevue, cutting out the expense of a car can help.

Some residents who do have cars said they drive them only on the weekends. Or their cars are only used occasionally as "show cars," for showing off.