(Metro’s “Ted Talks” about each subarea are available on Metro’s website.)
In March, Metro released two alternative proposals for the service change that will take place in March 2016, at roughly the same time Sound Transit’s University Link opens. We spent a lot of time covering (and mostly praising) “Alternative 1,” an ambitious restructure of service in Capitol Hill, northeast Seattle, and across SR-520. “Alternative 2” was strictly a minimum change proposal. As planned, Metro has now developed a single new proposal, based on feedback it received on Alternatives 1 and 2. This proposal will be subject to one more round of feedback, after which Metro will send a final proposal to the King County Council for adoption.
The new proposal can be summarized like this:
- In Northeast Seattle, Alternative 1 was adopted almost entirely, with only minor changes.
- In Capitol Hill, Metro got negative feedback on both alternatives, and this proposal is substantially different from either of them.
- Across SR-520, Alternative 2 was adopted—that is, almost nothing will change.
We should emphasize that, unlike either Alternative 1 or Alternative 2, this proposal includes funding from Seattle Proposition 1. The service levels in this proposal are the service levels riders can actually expect to see in March 2016.
We remain as enthusiastic as always about the Northeast Seattle restructure, which will bring 15-minute service to a startling number of new corridors and create several new connections. The Capitol Hill restructure is a “minimum pain” change for everyone but Montlake residents—but it’s also “minimum gain,” with several opportunities missed to increase frequency and connect riders to Link. With three regular SR 520 riders on staff, we are quite disappointed by the abandonment of any change along SR 520.
Details below the jump. And, as with our earlier coverage, many thanks to Zach Shaner for serving on Metro’s Sounding Board and providing much assistance with these posts.
We’ll spend the most time on this part of the proposal, because it’s so different from either Alternative 1 or Alternative 2. Here are the highlights:
Route 8. This proposal splits route 8 in half, but in a different place from Alternative 1: the Central District, rather than Capitol Hill/Madison Valley. Route 8 would be truncated at 23rd and Jackson, and new route 38 would take over service along MLK Jr Way south of Jackson. Frequency on both routes would be similar to the level current route 8 will reach once Prop 1 investments are made, but with an improvement to 12-minute midday service on route 8 only. The frequent evening and Sunday service included in Alternative 1 is not included here.
“All-Madison” route 11. Metro received much feedback, not at all consistent, about Alternative 1’s Madison Street proposals. Its solution was to develop an “all-Madison” route 11, running every 15 minutes Monday-Saturday and every 30 minutes evenings and Sundays. It’s not clear this solution will make anyone happy. Downtown trips for eastern Madison riders will remain very slow, and will no longer reach the retail core. Connections from Madison Park to Link will require a ride all the way downtown or a two-bus ride to Capitol Hill Station. The route will have to use diesel coaches, which are far from ideal for the steep hills on Madison and Marion, and which will take electric trolley service away for riders on First Hill.
Routes 12 and 43 survive… sort of. These two routes, both proposed for deletion in Alternative 1, received a lot of love in comments to Metro. Metro’s solution was to create a “route 12” which is really a truncated 43. It would serve 19th Ave E north of Thomas, but be identical to route 43 between 19th/Thomas and downtown. It would have the same frequency as the current 43, except 15-minute service would last a bit later. This solution preserves frequent service between downtown and Summit and to 19th Ave E. But it does not address criticism of Alternative 1 from Montlake residents, who would still have to transfer from route 48 to get downtown or to Capitol Hill. It will also require changes to trolley overhead at 19th and Thomas. Finally, with 15-minute frequency on this route and 12-minute frequency on route 8, it’s impossible to coordinate schedules between the two for super-frequent service along John St.
Route 49 stays on Pine. Alternative 1’s move of route 49 from Pine St to Madison St got a lot of love from the STB staff, and some from commenters, thanks to the new connection between First Hill and Link. But other commenters worried that Route 10 by itself was not enough capacity along Pine Street, and they carried the day. Route 49 will stay on Pine. It will also receive a daytime frequency boost from 15 to 12 minutes, except Sundays.
- Route 47 is resurrected, and will run 7 days a week, every 35 minutes, during the day.
- Route 48 (which will now be truncated at the U-District) will run every 10 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes nights and Sundays.
- Route 10 will retain the frequency increases it is getting next month from Prop 1.
Metro’s proposal here is broadly similar to Alternative 1. So we will cover only the few differences from Alternative 1.
Route 73 retained, serves lower Roosevelt; route 67 less frequent. Commenters disliked the need to transfer under Alternative 1 to travel between Jackson Park, Pinehurst, and the U-District. Accordingly, Metro will retain route 73, running every 30 minutes, weekdays only. The route will not go downtown. It will serve Roosevelt Way between 65th Street and the U-District (addressing another common criticism), and will terminate at the UW Campus loop. To pay for this service, frequency on revised route 67 is reduced from 10 minutes in Alternative 1 to 15 minutes.
No new through-routes. Alternative 1 would have enabled new north-south and east-west connections by creating two new through-routes at the U-District: 1) the new route 67 with route 48, and 2) route 45 (the north half of current route 48) with route 271. Neither is in the new proposal.
The 67/48 through route is no longer possible because of the lower frequency on route 67. We also understand that there was some nervousness about creating the through-route only to break it when route 48 is electrified in the future.
The 45/271 through route is less practical because route 271 is no longer being shortened as Alternative 1 proposed. With the retention of the long and unreliable Issaquah tail, Metro apparently judged that the through-route would compromise reliability too much.
Route 70 still serves U-District. Alternative 1 rerouted Route 70 to serve UW Station rather than the northern U-District. This change received enough negative feedback that Metro dropped it.
Even fewer U-District/Downtown expresses. We identified the sharp reduction in U-District/downtown express service in Alternative 1 as its “biggest gamble.” Metro is doubling down in this proposal; there is even less. The only remaining express bus service between the U-District and downtown is peak-hour service toward downtown in the morning and away from downtown in the afternoon, and there are only 20 trips each direction on routes 74 and 355.
Metro is relying on all U-District commuters, and many downtown commuters, using Link and transferring to routes 44, 45, 48, 67, or 271. Alternatively, slower local service remains, with frequency improvements, on routes 49 and 70.
DART service in Laurelhurst and View Ridge. Responding to criticism of route 25’s demise, Metro is introducing a new hourly DART route serving UW Station, Laurelhurst, Bryant, and View Ridge.
The good stuff that remains:
- New route 16, connecting NE 65th, Wallingford, Fremont, and downtown with 15-minute service.
- 15-minute service on existing routes 65, 75, and 372 and new route 67.
- Frequent service through the hearts of Wedgwood, Ravenna, Maple Leaf, and Sand Point.
- Ultra-frequent service on five routes, with 21 buses/hour, between UW Station and the U-District.
- New peak-hour connections between northeast Seattle and South Lake Union on revised routes 64 and 66.
- Faster all-day service on routes 26X and 28X.
Literally the only change to Metro’s SR 520 service in this proposal is the deletion of route 242, which has suffered much lower ridership as it has become increasingly redundant with ST Express routes 555 and 542. Metro’s Jeff Switzer confirmed that the hours from route 242 are not being redeployed to other SR 520 service, but elsewhere in the areas covered by this restructure plan.
Feedback to Metro does not really illuminate why the SR 520 restructure was abandoned, as there was feedback both in support and in opposition. Fears about UW Station transfers may have played a role, as well as a feeling that there was simply not enough feedback to make a decision on such a major change.
Sound Transit proposes to make minor changes to ST Express service across SR 520, including the following:
- Move route 540 to serve Houghton P&R and I-405 rather than South Kirkland P&R and reduce its frequency to 30 minutes (although timed with Metro’s 277 to provide 15-20 minute frequency).
- Add new peak-only route 541 connecting Overlake Village and the U-District.
- Extend route 542 to Bear Creek P&R, and convert a few peak route 545 trips to route 542.