Metro Focusing on Columbia Pathway

Columbia and Marion Pathways

Columbia and Marion Pathways; click for full presentation

As reported by West Seattle Blog and Publicola, Metro’s ongoing effort to choose a post-2016 pathway for SR99 routes to enter downtown Seattle has turned its focus to the Columbia Street pathway, which brings buses to 3rd Ave via Colman Dock, rather via Main St (or a Main/Washington couplet) in Pioneer Square. Yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with Metro staff working on the Southend Transit Pathways project, and discuss in more detail the work they’re doing.

The most obvious item is that already mentioned in Publicola: while either Pioneer Square option would be expected to deliver adequate reliability, and the projected travel times in the image above, with no changes to the city street grid or signals, to do so on the Columbia pathway will require much more work. SDOT has not yet committed to provide peak transit lanes in both directions on Alaskan Way, which Metro regards as essential to maintain speed and reliability in any service there. Another is the signalization of Columbia: SDOT will need to provide strong signal priority to keep buses moving reliably in both directions.

We had a great discussion on the network-design merits of the two alignments. Columbia obviously could provide West Seattle riders the faster trip into the central and north downtown, but Pioneer Square travel times would be much better with a Pioneer Square alignment; I suggested that publishing a single travel time number for the whole of downtown didn’t really capture the many destinations people travel to in the central city, and the different effects these pathways would have on their travel times. Pioneer Square is already a major employment center, and it has a great deal of room to grow, even at the current zoning.

More after the jump.

The City and Metro seem keen to turn Colman Dock into a transit hub, complete with good wayfinding and realtime arrival signs, etc. Long term, the current layovers of the 16 and 66 near the dock will go away, and the commuters who use those routes to access Belltown and the north of downtown* will need another way to get there; the Columbia pathway provides that with front-door service to Colman Dock. Metro is also interested in extending the Madison/Marion trolleybus wire down to Western; the city is pushing for a further extension all the way to Alaskan Way via a loop on Western and Columbia.

Just as there’s a value judgement implicit in preferring faster rides into the north of downtown over access to the south, there’s an analogous judgement in preferring better connections for ferry riders. Are we building RapidRide to facilitate less car-dependent living, providing access to dense employment centers and residential centers like Pioneer Square, along with King Street Station, from which you can go places that are navigable without a car? Or are we building transit to move commuters and visitors from outside the city to their jobs and other destinations? My preference has always been to put the buses where the people are, even if it slows them down a little; Metro got the alignment (if not the priority treatments) right with the Uptown deviation on RapidRide D.

Unfortunately**, but par for the course in Seattle, any informed debate over how best to spend our transit money will likely be superseded by our small-town politics. The well-connected Pioneer Square neighborhood activists who fought so hard for a quarter-mile extension of the First Hill streetcar (from 4th Ave S to 1st Ave S), an extension which provides so little additional mobility as to be a waste of good rails, have fought just as hard to push buses out of Pioneer Square, first by pressuring Metro to reduce layovers in the area, and now by arguing that the (federally-protected) historic character of their neighborhood will be wrecked by buses; this is, of course, a brickwork façade for NIMBYism.

Frankly, if the Fall restructure has shown me anything, it is that Metro is helpless in the face of any decently-organized opposition, regardless of the demonstrable merits of the proposal in question. While Metro staff insist (and I believe them) that they continue to study both pathways, I’m pretty sure I know already which the chosen alignment will be.

* You can see them in the spike in the blue line near the bottom of the right pane of this chart.

** And to be very clear, the rest of this is all my opinion, not that of Metro or its staff.

Comments

  1. Charles says

    The near tripling of inbound travel time is a lasting anchor of shame around the tunnel project.

    I like the idea of making Coleman dock a hub if they can tie it with an adequate shuttle or streetcar along Alaska Way.

    • LWC says

      Yes, but look at the upside: we’ll make room for a “people’s waterfront” consisting of a seven lane surface expressway!

      • Wells says

        Extend Railway Ave north a few blocks
        ====== ======= === ===== = === ======

        2-Lane Railroad Way 2-Way, 1-Way, Curb Parking.
        4-lane rather than 7-lane Alaskan Way,
        roughly similar to 4-lanes as planned,
        but with NO curb parking Northbound. (??)
        20′ median between Ways counting curb extensions/bulbs.
        Streetcar like we remember.
        Could be done right following fine examples.
        6′ median for Alaskan Way.
        A better order of off-shoring cars,
        -or is that out-sourcing? –
        likely possible, plausible.

        If yall haven’t given this Railroad Way idear
        any thought over these heer years, yer an idjot.
        What idjot wud wanna studee un think bout it?

    • Paul says

      I think the presentation of the travel time differences is disingenuous. None of these buses stop on Harbor Island, so no passengers will experience a 150% travel time increase compared to existing conditions. For my particular situation, coming from the south end of West Seattle, these will increase my travel time to/from downtown about 20-30%. Noticeable, but not a huge issue I think.

      I’m more concerned about reliability. Both the buses mixing with ferry traffic and the impact of hordes of ferry passengers trying to get to or from downtown destinations using the West Seattle/Ballad buses as a shuttle could make travel times unpredictable.

      The former could potentially be addressed by transit only lanes, but evidently the City of Seattle is unwilling to do what is necessary to ensure buses don’t get stuck in traffic in both peak periods. If that’s the case, I’d much rather take a little more time to go through Pioneer Square if that means the City would be more willing to make the changes needed to ensure reliable trip times. The easier access to the south end of downtown would be a bonus.

      Anyway, this West Seattle resident votes for the Pioneer Square routing.

  2. Kevin R says

    What’s the future plan for the 16 and 66? Will they not be serving the Ferry Terminal at some point or are they just losing the layover spot?

    • says

      They might eventually be through-routed with other routes; depending on when buses get kicked out of the tunnel vis-a-vis when the stop goes away, the 66 might be moved there.

  3. David L says

    The Pioneer Square routing is not the panacea you make it out to be. There will be reliability problems in the vicinity of 1st Ave S at night. In both directions, the area around 3rd/Main/Prefontaine/Yesler is a schedule graveyard, and there’s not a lot you can do about it because there are just too many intersecting movements.

    And it’s not like a stop at Alaskan Way and Main or 1st and Columbia is a prohibitive walk from Pioneer Square.

    I think our focus needs to be on the Alaskan Way plan, and specifically on ensuring that there are dedicated bus lanes during generous peak hours in both directions.

    • Bruce Nourish says

      Any argument based on walkability can’t be an argument for any particular alignment, because it’s commutative: ferry commuters could walk to Pioneer Square stops or up Marion to 3rd. While it’s true that Pioneer Square is walkable from Colman Dock, I value the front-door access to Pioneer Square and the extended urban walkshed into the I.D. more than I do 1-2 minutes of PM peak travel time into the middle of downtown from West Seattle (and again, that’s actually assuming Columbia is done right).

      I don’t claim Main is a panacea, but it is (as Metro staff put it) operationally much less challenging than Columbia.

    • JohnS says

      My sympathies tend to lie more with Bruce’s argument.

      Having said that, I’ll ask the question: how, in a waterfront ‘process’ whose opacity (covered by a great veneer of listening to input), does anyone think Metro is going to get bus-only lanes on Alaskan Way? This same waterfront process, as evidenced at several public meetings, seems to think there is no role whatsoever for transit on Alaskan Way. And this in a city which is willing to sacrifice on-street space to queue up cars loading to Colman Dock, and the resulting street width is, well, just an example of how ‘no one will get everything they want”.

      Forgive me if I’m not optimistic about ‘ensuring that there are dedicated bus lanes during generous peak hours in both directions’.

      • David L says

        Surely we can find a way to exert as much pressure on SDOT as a couple of cranky people in Pioneer Square who turn purple with rage every time they hear a bus engine.

  4. Ralphie says

    For buses to work in dense urban areas, particularly residential areas they are going to have to be quieter and less polluting

    • Brett says

      We have those. They’re called Electric Trolley Buses. But then you’ll complain about the overhead wire being ugly.

    • David L says

      Have you heard the new 7000 series coaches? They’re as quiet as cars.

      Even the hybrid artics are quite a bit quieter than their diesel predecessors.

      And the kind of pollution you can see or smell is not a factor anymore. All new buses since 2003 have had diesel particulate filters (DPF), which take essentially all the particulates out of their exhaust.

      • David L says

        I’m talking about Metro’s new fleet of Orion VIIs, numbered 7000 through 71something. They’re mostly based out of South and East bases, but there are a few at Ryerson, and they often seem to turn up on the 16 in particular. They’re exceedingly quiet.

      • Brett says

        I believe that is the model I see taking over route 60 (slowly). They are pretty quiet indeed. But I’d rather have ETBs – fortunately I get both in my Beacon Hill neighborhood.

  5. Rob Fellows says

    This bugs me. The case seems to be that transit is incompatible and bad for pedestrian environments. I don’t think that’s correct, and it shouldn’t be allowed to prevail, especially in a neighborhood crying for activity to fill up endless blocks of empty storefronts.

    The Main St. routing would provide relief to the decades-long frustration of having routes that only serve half the downtown. Pioneer Square and the ID are more poorly served, as is the government core at the south end of downtown. But it’s not only the West Seattle and Burien routes that are affected — all routes throughrouted to West Seattle are also impacted. As a route 5 rider who works in Pioneer Square, I have to walk to the post office to catch the local 5 whenever I work late because of the West Seattle through-route its connected to.

    I see a Main St. routing as the biggest opportunity for transit coming from the tunnel project, and it’s a crying shame not to capture it because of what I think is unfounded kneejerk anti-transit paranoia. Pioneer Square desperately needs a boost from frequent and accessible transit, and the risk is high that running down the waterfront with all the other West Seattle CBD access traffic will be slow and unreliable – given no clear priority pathway.

    • M says

      Come September, you won’t have to worry about the 5 being through-routed with the 54/55 as the 54 goes away and the 55 becomes a peak-only bus.

    • David L says

      You’re going to like the September service change. The 5 will now be through-routed with the 21 and will go through Pioneer Square on 3rd Ave and 4th Ave S.

    • says

      If things are going as they usually go, the silent majority in Pioneer Square would support the Washington-Main couplet, but they aren’t the ones organized and speaking up to Metro.

  6. Mark Dublin says

    To me, there’s one overriding consideration: with the Columbia Street option,every single ferry arrival or departure will effectively shut down West Seattle service.

    I like the idea of a bus and streetcar transfer plaza on Occidental Mall between Main and Washington. This facility could help rejuvenate Pioneer Square into a place where people want to be at night.

    But if a fast ride to the ferry terminal is overriding priority, this might work:

    Give buses a fully-reserved two-way busway on the east side of Alaskan Way between Columbia and as many blocks south as are necessary to get clear of ferry traffic.
    Between Yesler and Columbia, buses could share these lanes with streetcars.

    But until Seattle gets serious about transit’s need- not “want” to keep moving, our future Waterfront will substitute a parking lot for a viaduct as far as transit is concerned.

    Mark Dublin

    • Transit Voter says

      There’s a level, elevated walkway straight out of the Colman Dock ferry terminal that goes right over to First Ave. A walk of maybe 450 feet. If the goal is to provide good bus service to the ferry terminal, just put it the service on First Ave. Move the First Ave. bus stops to Marion St. Problem solved.

  7. FWIW says

    While the discussion about the Downtown portion of the routing continues,
    I will ask if anyone knows how the West Seattle bound busses get across the river.
    From the diagram shown, they seem to be routing everything across the low-level bridge, which is
    subject to frequent openings.
    To get to the high-level access, the busses would have to be brought to the new ramp on 1st avenue.
    That means crossing RR tracks,more unpredictability.
    The scope of the solution needs to be expanded, IMO.
    The solution does not end with getting all the traffic to Alaskan Way.

    • David L says

      As part of tunnel construction, there will be ramps built south of Jackson Street from the northbound 99 freeway to Alaskan Way and from southbound Alaskan Way to the 99 freeway. The buses will use those ramps. The 99 freeway and the high-level bridge will be connected the same way they are now.

  8. Andrew says

    One potential advantage of the Columbia St. routing is that buses to W. Seattle leave from near the Water Taxi. That way, if the water taxi shuts down or someone just misses it, they don’t have far to go to get bus service. Similarly, if there is a problem on the W. Seattle bridge, people on the bus can hop off and get the water taxi.

    That said, putting buses (with 20-50 people on them) in a situation where they have to queue behind cars with 1-2 people in them is just a silly way to allocate the city streets. (This seems especially true for traffic exiting the Ferry… at rush hour, most of these folks are from outside the city and many are heading to jobs outside the city.)

  9. d.p. says

    My preference has always been to put the buses where the people are, even if it slows them down a little…

    The problem is that it doesn’t slow them down a little — it slows them down a lot. And when skinnier streets, finickier lights, and spikes in traffic get introduced, those slowdowns accumulate until “molasses” is your transit system’s default mode.

    It is unfortunate that the linear geography of Seattle’s CBD, combined with Metro’s consistent failure to provide a transfer experience with the slightest bit of ease or reliability, has allowed us to become obsessed with forcing every route the long way across. I struggle to think of any other city where people expect every route in and out to come within three blocks of every downtown destination.

    We built what was supposed to be a high-capacity transit tunnel to all parts of the CBD; then we overbuilt it, leaving it frustrating to use for connections.

    I strongly disagree with Bruce’s assessment of the Uptown alignment. With stellar priority treatments, it would have added 3 or 4 minutes to the route — less than ideal, yet acceptable. But without priority treatments, it’s 7 additional minutes in zero traffic, and >10 every afternoon rush (not counting the insanely long signal on Elliott, which can push it to 15).

    This is intended to become THE high-capacity route connecting Ballard to the larger city. That means this extra 7-15 minutes happens on the way from Ballard to everywhere. In my book, that is not a valid trade for putting the route slightly closer to where a few people are, on the basis of an anti-transfer bias that exists largely because Metro has been making these same routing/service mistakes for decades.

    RapidRide D riders would adore the opportunity to walk their last five blocks to Pioneer Square… if only getting to that walk weren’t already like pulling teeth!

    • Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says

      Metro has a formula for deciding whether it’s worth it:
      (number of through-riders * number of additional minutes) / (number of on-offs along deviation) <= 10.

      I don't have data, but my anecdotal experience suggests the Uptown deviation wouldn't satisfy this formula, especially if we omit travel between downtown & Uptown, which is served with greater frequency by the 3 trolley routes that pass through QA & Mercer.

      • d.p. says

        As much as I could go on all day about the Uptown deviation as an attempt to mimic the routing of a rapid transit corridor without doing any of the heavy lifting to make the corridor rapid, I’d actually rather people respond to my other challenge: naming any other city where people expect every route in and out of downtown to come within three blocks of every downtown destination.

        This thread is full of comments by people upset that their part of downtown is ill-served by their primary commute route. Bruce, usually such a prophet of efficiency, advocates a 10-block triangle just to save some a 5-block walk.

        So why do we all fear having to connect within downtown so much?

        1) The tunnel doesn’t work.

        A good downtown subway is so easy that you’d take it a stop or two just instinctively as you’d take it across town. Unfortunately, we’ve all tried this, only to have it backfire when the deep descent is compounded by a backup/incompetent bike loading/late-evening 15-minute gap in service.

        2) Surface connections don’t work either.

        Yes, something seems to be coming up and down 3rd at all times. But every one of us has hopped aboard for a quick trip from Seneca to Pioneer Square, only to miss two light cycles between every stop/get the gigantic mobility scooter that can’t navigate from the door to the wheelchair space, turning our “quick trip” into another 12-minute slog.

        3) We rely on OneBusAway so much that we won’t go outside until our bus is imminent.

        And this requires our ultimate route to be without shouting distance of our safe, indoor space. If 1) or 2) happens on the way to it, then we’re stuck on the street corner with or without a smartphone.

        We shouldn’t perpetuate the “every route to every part of downtown” expectation — again, no other city has this — especially because this forces many routes to enter and exit downtown inefficiently, worsening our already-terrible transfer penalty for trips to other places that require downtown transfers. (The last mile into downtown and the first mile out can account for 1/3 of total trip time, with the layover as another 1/3.) What we need is to fix the above problems to the best of our ability.

        We can’t make the tunnel any shallower, but we need to make it work at all times. On the surface, we need to fix payment procedures and encourage drivers not to linger even if people are peppering them with dumb questions. And fix the light-cycles on 3rd (including in Belltown), which are clearly still coordinated for automobile speeds and no station stops even though more buses use the street than anyone else. And move toward a route structure built on very-high-frequency corridors, so that catching one specific vehicle using OneBusAway will come to matter less. (Do this yesterday!)

        But “every route to every part of downtown” is redundant and untenable, and not something we should be advocating on a reform-minded blog!

      • Anandakos says

        Reply to d.p.

        “Fix the light cycles on Third”. You can’t “fix the cycles” on a two-way street. The best you can do is give three block “chunks” so that vehicles in both directions can — in low volumes — move that many streets before stopping.

        But why not just give Third Avenue to the buses, cabs and genuine delivery vehicles, remove most of the lights from it south of Pike and make the cross streets stop signs? The delivery vehicles would be allowed only off-peak for two blocks with no left turns onto or off of Third.

        That is, a vehicle serving a building on the east side of the street would have to enter from up-hill, turn right, deliver and then exit uphill at the first opportunity. A delivery to a west-side building would enter and exit downhill to the west.

        I’d be willing to leave leave the lights at Seneca and Columbia so that traffic exiting from I-5 headed for the waterfront doesn’t back up across Fourth and Fifth, but if Third were “transit only” is there any need for other cross-streets to have priority? There are few-enough buses that traffic could nearly always pause just once before crossing.

        But the free-running on Third would make the Pioneer Square “detour” quicker and therefore more acceptable.

      • d.p. says

        I don’t think stop signs on every cross-street of a wide-gridded major urban center are going to cut it.

        But even your first throwaway suggestion — fixing the signals to permit bi-directional “pulses” of 3-4 blocks at a bus’s pace — would do wonders. Buses routinely get stuck at right lights twice between Bell and Virginia, and twice again between University/Seneca and Marion/Columbia, often with little cross-traffic and essentially zero competing non-bus traffic on third.

        Trolleys, meanwhile, miss a light nearly every time they have to slow at an archaic wire-switch.

        The lengths of the current cross-signals don’t even have a rational basis. Pike gets less time than Union or University, despite far fewer cars or pedestrians at the latter two. It doesn’t make sense to argue “highway traffic” for long lights at Spring; when rush hour comes, Spring is so backed up that no more cars are going to fit between 3rd and 4th no matter how long you leave the light green.

        Driving 3 blocks uninterrupted takes no more than 45-50 seconds. Are concurrent 50-second greens, followed by no-more-than-30-second reds too much to ask? Why is this city so obsessed with light cycles of ridiculous duration?

    • Kyle S. says

      d.p. is exactly right.

      Ballard has three bus connections to anywhere else: half-hourly buses to Northgate, the notoriously unreliable 45th St corridor to the U District, and downtown via Elliott Ave.

      Each of these rides takes at least a half an hour under normal conditions. And then you have to transfer to get anywhere else.

      If “Rapid” Ride were designed to live up to anything close to its name, we could get to the downtown transfer hub in something approaching a reasonable timeframe. There’s no way to improve the 45th St corridor, but Elliott Ave was ripe for all-day express treatment, with a local shadow that took the QA deviation.

      Instead, we got shiny red buses on the #15 Local.

      • d.p. says

        Forget “local shadows”. RapidRide should be able to be walked to along its corridor, no more, no less. And as it happens, much of Uptown is within Elliott-Denny’s walkshed, and transfers are available for those who think otherwise. There is no more inherent reason to serve Mercer (at great cost to through passengers) than there would be for every Ballard bus to go over the top of Queen Anne Hill to eliminate the need for a 13 transfer.

        (Note: Mercer and Denny are actually closer to one another than 15th and Ballard Ave, which is “served” by this trunk route. Fancy that!)

        The next time you’re on a bus chugging up Mercer Place, take note of the couple of modest homes and apartment buildings that pre-date the post-WWII population explosion. You will instantly realize how minor of a connecting street this was intended to be before Mercer was transformed into a major suburban access route. In 1941 15-18 streetcars took Elliott and 19s to Magnolia snaked down Mercer Place. If you simply have to have direct service to Elliott, do it with the Magnolia buses. Everyone else can walk or transfer just as well they can to anywhere else they’re going.

      • d.p. says

        Correct hyperlinking and stuff.

        Again, in an ideal world, Uptown would be a major stop along a major rapid transit corridor. But with the neighborhood refusing bus lanes on W Mercer and on Queen Anne Ave, and with SDOT refusing to fix the lookee-I-knitted-an-entire-sweater-while-waiting-for-this-left-turn-signal, it’s no longer valid to call that stop indispensable.

    • Mike Orr says

      “people expect every route in and out to come within three blocks of every downtown destination.”

      What are you talking about? Almost all routes are straight or have one major turn. The loops are at terminuses or where forced by one-way streets. Naturally, the most effective way from Denny Way to Jackson Street is straight down one of the avenues. The particular argument here is that not enough buses continue south between Columbia Street and Jackson Street. I disagree with this because a huge number of buses cross Jackson Street. So you have to transfer at Union. But in any case, it’s a stretch to say “not enough buses in Pioneer Square” equals “people expect every route to come within three blocks of every downtown destination”. The 2 has never gone to Pioneer Square, and nobody has asked for it to.

      • Mike Orr says

        I cut out a sentence.

        So you have to transfer at Union. I’ll have to too when the 14 is split, and nobody is crying about that (although I sniff a bit to myself) because everybody says it’s more efficient overall.

  10. alexjonlin says

    Will they have stops for West Seattle-bound buses along Alaskan Way in Pioneer Square?

  11. Matt the Engineer says

    I could say something about connecting WS with either the ferry building or King Street Station by gondola, and saving huge amounts of bus hours for more useful tasks than sitting in traffic. But I can’t decide if we’re better off waiting for a subway. All of the new angst, pain, and anger from slow service might just convince people to act.

  12. Stephen says

    Why can’t they just use the SODO busway? Then the only traffic they have to contend with is a short jog on 4th to get to the busway, and a cutover to 1st to get from it. This would be good because it would improve connections with other routes that use the busway, plus, most importantly, connections with Light Rail.

    • David L says

      That “cutover to 1st” requires the bus to cross the train tracks. Also, the trip down 4th is no picnic, particularly the turn left onto Royal Brougham and the turn right onto E-3. Finally, E-3 is limited to 35 mph while the 99 freeway will presumably go back to 50 once construction is complete.

      Also, almost all of the connectivity you’d get is duplicated either downtown or via routes that stop at other light rail stations (50, 60).

      • Stephen says

        Oh, the train tracks crossing is a shame. Are they ever going to make the rail there fully grade separated?

        I feel like the speed limit on E-3 could easily be changed by policy… it’s not like there are NIMBY’s with it in their backyards, and there are only 2 crossings its entire length.

      • d.p. says

        There would have been a decent case for this back when you could have taken the busway to the very end, and then gotten on the upper West Seattle Bridge directly from the lower Spokane Street.

        Which you can’t do anymore, because… um… progress.

        [forehead slap]

  13. asdf says

    My ideal solution to the Ballard-West Seattle corridor would be to build two freeway stations downtown along the new highway 99 tunnel, one next to Pike Place Market, and one on the south side of downtown, between the stadiums and the ferry terminals. RapidRide C would then utilize the tunnel and thru-route with the E-line, instead of the D-line, with the D-line maintaining its existing routing, but without the Lower Queen Anne deviation. Ideally, these stations would have been planned years ago and be constructed at the same time SDOT is already tearing the area up to rebuild Alaskan Way when the viaduct comes down.

    While this approach would be quite expensive, it would still be cheaper than building an entire second transit tunnel downtown and it would provide high quality transit to people going both to and through downtown – in other words, we would have real BRT, rather than the not-at-all-rapid lines we’re going to get instead.

  14. Fil says

    I agree with asdf. When we were deciding on what to do with the viaduct and someone would ask “deep-bore or cut and cover?” I would say “yes!” we need both the deepbore tunnel for through traffic and after that a cut and cover tunnel along the waterfront for Ballard/Belltown/Downtown/West seattle traffic. The waterfront is not big enough for all of the things it needs to do. Grade separated transit being one of them…. Lucky for us we have a mayor that is in denial of the whole thing….

    Build Baby Build!

  15. asdf says

    In general, there are numerous examples of buses that take the freeway into downtown, but get off the freeway a bit too soon, making trips both to the center of downtown and through downtown (with a transfer) take far longer than they should.

    For example, every bus (except one) heading southbound on I-5 into downtown that isn’t using the tunnel takes the Stewart St. exit. This requires a whopping 10 stoplights to get to Westlake Center. During rush hour, buses often need a full 3 cycles at 3 minutes each to get through the first light along at Stewart and Denny.

    The 522, however, doesn’t do this – it takes the Union St. exit, which goes straight to the center of town with minimal hassles.

    Another example of this is the 101 and 594. The exits for Seneca St. or Madison St. would go straight into the center of downtown, but instead the buses have to amble very slowly through SODO to server a very small number of passengers.

    These delays have consequences, especially considering that the same time penalty we pay to get an extra stop or two in downtown could be used to add a stop further in ways that would provide a significant improvement to our overall network. For example, the time the 510 spends slogging down Stewart St. could instead be spent stopping at Lynnwood Transit Center, doubling the frequency of service between Lynnwood and Seattle. Or the time the 594 spends going through SODO could instead be spent stopping at Federal Way Transit Center, allowing either a doubling of the Federal Way->Seattle frequency of service or a reinvestment of the 577 service hours into something else, for example, an all-day express route between Kent and Seattle without the 150’s zillions of stops.

    Even better, if every express bus entered downtown from the center and then branched either north or South, rather than traversing the entirety of downtown end-to-end, you would be able to make connections through downtown right off the freeway, without having to pay a 20-30 minute time penalty to get from one end of downtown to the other.

    • Mike Orr says

      That depends on how big their service area downtown is. I get off southbound express buses at Denny Way/Boren/Convention Place, and those would all be bypassed by a routing going directly to Westlake. Would that be bad? I don’t know, but it would require a decision by Metro that Denny/Boren isn’t part of the downtown focus for these routes. I have noticed that the 522 has a much quicker path to 6th & Union, and it’s odd that that route is different. But ST is of course a different agency, and the 522 goes northbound on Pike (although not stopping at all the stops).

      • Chris Stefan says

        While the AM routing for the 522 works quite well, the PM routing is pure Hell due to extreme congestion on Pike Eastbound.

        During PM peak I can walk from 3rd & Pike to I-5 & Pike (or Bellevue & Pike) faster than any of the routes along this stretch (10, 11, 14, 43, 49, 306, 308, 312, 522).

      • asdf says

        You have to draw the line somewhere as to home much of downtown each express going into it is going to directly serve. South Lake Union is becoming almost like an extension of downtown that there are some who would argue that the I-5/520 express routes should take the Mercer St. exit to serve South Lake Union as they approach downtown.

        However, travel time from one end of downtown to the other is already long enough as it is – it is not uncommon for the 545 to take almost as long to get from the Stewart St. exit ramp to the international district as it does to get to the Stewart St. exit ramp all the way from Redmond! And serving South Lake Union would only make matters worse, as the bus would now get to sit in the line of cars going to and from the Seattle Center in addition to the line of cars going to and from downtown.

        To facilitate travel to the outer areas of downtown, the solution is not to to try to have every bus going to downtown to serve everywhere, but rather a combination of frequency, local connecting services and human-powered transport. Most of south Lake Union and the Cascade neighborhood is within a 10 minute bike ride to 6th and Union, so the proposed bike sharing system (if it actually happens) would serve that neighborhood far more efficiently than deviating the mainline bus. Many of the streets could use some serious improvements in their bike-friendlines for this to really work, but I consider that a solvable problem if we can find the political will.

      • Oran says

        I would assume that the 522’s routing is an artifact from when its predecessor, the 307, operated in the downtown bus tunnel and to maintain a common routing with all the SR 522 buses.

        The downtown bus tunnel was built specifically because downtown buses were spending a big chunk of their time in downtown traffic. It’s sad to see that twenty years later, we still have the same problem. They never really completed the connections that would make it a great bus facility.

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