With Friday’s unfortunate announcement that Routes 2 and 4 will be remain largely unchanged, we’ve lost one of the best parts of the Fall 2012 restructure, with anything beyond “small adjustments to the frequency and running hours” on the 4 ruled out. As I pointed out months ago, the eight-terminal network that now serves Queen Anne to Madrona is intrinsically less efficient and comprehensible than the three terminal network that was proposed; with restoration of the 4, most or all of that is probably lost.
While it’s all water under the bridge now, it’s worth noting that Metro had an unpublished draft plan that would have kept the crosstown Route 2 on Seneca (with a one-seat ride to the Seattle Center) while still improving Route 13 to all-day frequent service and providing service every 5-8 minutes during the weekday from Downtown to First Hill (it would also have raised the south part of the 2 to frequent service on weekday evenings). The thousands of people who use those buses daily — far, far more than who use the tails of the 4 — who will pack onto overloaded buses on James St or suffer the woefully inadequate service on Queen Anne Ave to Seattle Pacific are the real (but evidently unpersuasive) human cost of inertia.
Nonetheless, there are a couple of minor changes that would noticeably improve Queen Anne service, cost nothing overall, qualify under the rubric of “small adjustments … to running hours”, and upset almost no-one, thus fitting quite well with what’s left of the Fall proposal.
Abolish the Night-Sunday Routing of Route 4. All day Sunday, after 7:15 PM Saturday, after 10:30 PM Monday-Friday and for a handful of early morning trips each day, service to East and North Queen Anne is provided by driving buses in a giant “dog bone” path on the top of the hill. Metro’s timetables describe it thus:
Special Service Info
Service from Downtown to Queen Anne Hill – Route 3 (North Queen Anne) does not operate during Night & Sunday service hours. Instead, it is served by Route 4 buses (signed “4 to East Queen Anne via Nite-Sun Rt”). The Route 3 terminal (1st Ave W & W Raye St weekdays, Queen Anne N & McGraw St weekends) is served first, then the Route 4 terminal (Nob Hill Ave N & Galer St), from where buses return to downtown. Direct service to downtown from the Route 3 terminal is not provided.
Having spent many nights and Sundays on Queen Anne Ave, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of riders I’ve seen who sit through this little jaunt all the way to the turn for Nob Hill at Blaine St (they get off on Boston St and walk — it’s quicker). These special 4 trips should be turned into 3 trips. It’ll save money and I’m willing to bet almost no-one will even notice.
Fix late night service on Route 13. When Route 8 was original created, daytime frequency on Routes 10 & 12, and late night service on Route 13 were cut, in order to offset the cost of the new service. The legacy of this is inferior late night service on Route 13 compared to Route 2N, as can be seen from this table of last trips inbound to Downtown from the terminals:
The makes no sense if you know the area: Route 13 serves a dense (and getting denser) “Main Street” full of apartments, bars, restaurants and shops (including a 24-hour grocery store), while the unique segment of the 2N covers a quiet, mostly single-family neighborhood. The late-night 2N/13 schedules should be reversed, to put the buses where the people who are awake will be. This would get more riders, and cost very little — and the cost could be offset by the savings from the above proposal for Route 4.