If the list version of the Southeast Seattle and Southwest King County Link-related service changes wasn’t helping you visualize what was happening, I’ve obtained .pdf route maps of both SE Seattle and SW KC.
Tuesday is the deadline for your last chance to comment on these changes before Metro starts making timetables. You can comment in person, or by email or phone.
Thanks to Rochelle Ogershock and Jack Latteman from Metro.
In related news, Dick Burkhart, transit activist and representative of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, criticizes the plan for reducing connectivity of Seward Park to light rail, and generally doing a pretty poor job of connecting people to the train instead of downtown.
I’m actually sympathetic to Burkhart’s points; longtime readers might recall my August proposal to nuke the whole system and replace it with circulator routes. However, Metro resources are far from infinite, and as I predicted then, such a radical change to the status quo would create a torrent of negative comments. Even cuts to express bus service to downtown — the most obviously replaced by rail — provoked a firestorm of protest.
Part of this is due to an instinctive and well-earned distrust of authority in the Rainier Valley. To make matters worse, Sound Transit took so long to even announce options for their fare structure that the early rounds of comment were polluted by a fear that the train would cost radically more than the bus, although that turned out to generally not be the case.
Furthermore, after to talking to some of the Metro planning staff, it’s an article of faith in some quarters there that “circulators don’t work.”
The text of Burkhardt’s letter is after the jump. I’ve posted a specific reaction to some of the points afterwards. Again, I agree with him in spirit but don’t think the service hours are there to fit his vision. Taking those hours from elsewhere in the Southeast is, for now, politically impossible.
“While many of the latest SE proposed bus route changes make a lot of sense, some represent a loss over current service. There is also a major loss of potential light rail riders.
The prime example is the route 39, which would have significantly less service when it actually needs much more. Instead of 30 minute service for most of the day it would have only 45 minute service except during rush hour. This is a huge problem because it will provide the only east-west service to the Columbia City Station and the only service to the east of the Othello Station. The previously proposed route 50 should be re-instated, as this extends the 39 route to West Seattle, instead of downtown, with much more frequent service. The VA hospital should be asked to assist visitors to get to and from the adjacent stops for the more frequent and reliable bus 36, instead of caving in to their demand for the only slightly closer bus 39 stops.
The area east of MLK into Seward Park is where there are potential ridership gains from a non-transit dependent population that would like to take the light rail. This is because taking light rail to downtown from either the Othello or Columbia City Stations is faster, more reliable, and more comfortable, even with bus transfers, than their current bus service. However with poor bus service and no station area parking, most will probably stick to their cars.
Our goal needs to be to better transit service to a much broader segment of the population, to dramatically lower car travel, especially when oil prices skyrocket again and we get serious about climate disruption. In particular this means 15 minute bus service, east-west as well as north-south, to all the light rail stations; plus much better coverage off the main north-south corridors.
In addition, a major fraction of bus 7 riders, who are the majority of southeast riders, may rarely use the light rail simply because of poor access, especially to the Othello and Columbia City Stations. This is a big loss of potential light rail riders – a loss both to them and to system efficiency.
In summary, the latest proposal is a backward looking plan, focused mostly on current bus routes and riders, not on creating a new system revolving around the light rail stations and their adjacent commercial districts.
While not unreasonable given established habits and given the resource constraints imposed by the major diversion of service hours to the South Lake Union Streetcar, it fails as a forward looking proposal, one designed to get dramatically more people onto the light rail and out of their cars over the next decade.”
Dick Burkhart (representing the Rainier Valley Chamber of Commerce in this matter, also working with the Othello Station Area Community Advisory Team, Sustainable South Seattle, and the Sierra Club Transportation Commitee)
Martin here again: in specific reference to Mr. Burkhard’s point about 15 minute service, that’s already in the plan for peak hours. The sole exception is the 39 at Columbia City Station (East-West), and that can be seen as the direct result of the community’s desire to maintain the peak-hour 34 express instead.
When the 194 goes away in February, and thus frees up more hours, that will likely go to the 8 (providing N/S connections at 15 min through the day) and getting the 39 back to half-hour headways.
He’s absolutely right that the VA should figure out a way to get their patients over to Beacon Avenue and take the 36.