Sound Transit Proposes Improved Seattle-Everett Service

Map of Proposed Sound Transit Seattle-Everett Express Service Restructure

Proposed Sound Transit Seattle-Everett Express Service Restructure

There’s been lots of coverage lately about Sounder North’s poor ridership, but not much attention paid to the transit alternative many riders are choosing instead, namely Sound Transit’s freeway-running I-5 express buses, 510, 511, 512 and 513. These routes, as the Sounder North Citizen Oversight Panel report notes, are currently overcrowded in the peaks, with “riders standing in the aisles” — and Snohomish County to Seattle is a long way to stand. In the 2013 Draft Service Implementation Plan, which I began writing about yesterday, Sound Transit staff proposed changes to the I-5 corridor to address overcrowding, among other problems, and I was able to discuss the changes in detail with ST staff.

The current service pattern on I-5 north is a confusing number-soup of routes which operate differently at different times of day. The 510 serves the Everett city center, the 511 serves Ash Way, the 513 serves south Everett, and the 512 serves both Ash Way and Everett. The 510 and 511 operate all day, except on Sundays and holidays when the 512 operates in their place; the 513 is peak only. Depending on whether the I-5 express lanes are open at the time, the 510 and 511 may or may not serve the freeway stops at 45th St or 145th St, which is problematic for riders, as when those stops are served, the 510 and 511 are frequently the fastest way to get from Downtown to the west side of the U-District or the east side of Wallingford — but if you get on the wrong bus, you could end up in Lynnwood before you know it.

The restructured pattern, shown on the map above, would be much simpler. Route 512 would provide all-day service throughout the entire route, serving all stops on every trip, except in the peak period in the peak direction, when the 512 would split into the 510, 511 and 513, which would use the express lanes and thus skip the 45th and 145th stops. This is a much easier pattern for riders to wrap their minds around: if you see a 512 in downtown Seattle, you know it’ll stop in the U-District; if it’s anything else, move along. The off-peak frequency north of Ash Way increases, although interestingly the total number of trips on I-5 per day will actually decrease. Essentially, this restructure shifts trips from the mid-day to peak, but compensates for that by making the midday service structurally more useful and comprehensible. It’s an operating-budget-neutral restructure whose only cost is the deferred retirement of some coaches.

Overall, I have nothing but nice things to say about this proposed change within the context of the available funds — it’s a model of the kind of efficient, rider-oriented simplification and improvement I’d like to see from every agency, everywhere in the region. My wish list (pending funding) would be to upgrade the periods of 20-minute service to 15 minute service, to make the schedule simpler and more consistent, and further develop all-day ridership on this corridor.  In addition, extending the span of southbound service in the evening would make the service more useful for Seattle residents — last trip out of Everett is planned to be  about 10:25 PM, which makes the service of borderline utility for attending events in Everett. I’d cheerfully pay with North King money for two Monday-Saturday one-way southbound “cleanup trips” departing Everett at 10:55 and 11:40.

After the jump, the Olive Way freeway station idea.

All this great work by Sound Transit on the I-5 north corridor brings to mind the topic of a potential Olive Way freeway station, the benefits of which Zach did a great job of cataloging a few weeks ago. Now that we’ve obtained a much more useful all-day service at minimal cost, how about making it more accessible, at minimal cost? I discussed the obstacles to building such a stop at length with ST staff, and my takeaway is that it’s doable, if riders in the neighborhood organize and push the ST board to do it. While no formal studies have been done, staff have informally contemplated the idea and are aware of no technical issues that would render the project infeasable. It would require more effort than just bolting in a new shelter — staff would have to come up with a design, study its effects, and get every relevant jurisdiction on board — Seattle, King County, WSDOT. But from what I heard, this is all doable if there’s enough public pressure.

The biggest obstacle in actually an internal, bureaucratic one. Most agencies have a pot of money set aside for minor capital improvements that are larger than can be accommodated in the operations and maintenance budget, but not big enough to require the full scrutiny of a multi-million dollar capital project. When planners think of small projects which could save the agency money and benefit riders, they can write up the project, put it in a hopper and it’ll eventually get done. Sound Transit had such a thing at one point, but it was cut in one of the many rounds of cost savings the agency has been through. Because an Olive Way stop would require more than just bolting in a new sign and shelter, it would have to go through the same exhaustive internal procedures as something like a new freeway ramp.

This obviously makes no sense, as such low-cost high-impact improvements are precisely the kind of things which agencies should be doing in all funding environments, positive and negative. An Olive Way freeway stop would actually save money for ST, as it would allow the agency to remove a bus from the 545 schedule in the morning peaks, by eliminating the time-consuming Capitol Hill deviation. Essentially, Sound Transit is wasting operations money for the sake of a small amount of capital money.

The internal machinations needn’t concern neighbors who want better bus service. The original 545 deviation was a product of small scale, but persistent neighborhood activism, and there’s no reason why that can’t be repeated. So, if you’re a transit rider who lives on Capitol Hill and fancies a try at neighborhood organizing, here’s a great chance. If a serious effort arises to put in an Olive Way stop, I’m sure STB editors would support it.

As I noted yesterday, there are several opportunities to provide feedback for Sound Transit on the Draft Service Implementation, including an open house on a bus tomorrow this evening, in Westwood Village. You can also send in comments by emailing them to fastride@soundtransit.org.

Comments

  1. Kevin R says

    Seems like a great change and a good way to make sure folks aren’t getting on the wrong bus. I do wonder if at some point they might want to keep the 512 during the peak hours (in addition to the express service) for improved service from 145th and 45th to Downtown as well as improved service between the U District and Snohomish County. That would provide what Metro would consider frequent service with good connections to the two adjacent neighborhoods and the 44.

    • David L says

      Interesting thought on running the 512 during peak. True frequent service all day along that corridor could open up a few other money-saving possibilities…

      - Reduce the pain of killing the 26 local.
      - Turn the 308 and 304 into a peak-hour crosstown route with more trips and feed that new route (now) with timed transfers to and from the 512 and (later) from the 130th Link station. I could even imagine changes to this new route, further down the line, that would give it all-day ridership.
      - Use the 44 and 512 to provide U District-Lynnwood connectivity, reducing shoulder service on the 810 and some trips on the other 800s.

    • Brent says

      The ST staffer I talked to said the 512 restructure would likely happen next fall, to give Community Transit time to go through its own restructuring to take advantage of the service duplication.

      The 560 and 566/567 restructures are likely to happen in June, barring any political blocks.

      • asdf says

        This will be a wonderful chance and I can’t wait to see it happen. Does this really have to wait for the fall? Even if ST makes its change now, with CT not making theirs until a few months later, I can hardly see a change that drastically improves the frequency of serving leaving Snohomish County users worse off in the meantime.

      • William says

        Entirely agreed. Duplicating things for a few months might mess up the statistics a bit, but Community Transit can certainly work around that.

        The one exception is that Everett Transit might want to make some changes to compensate for the tail of the 510 vanishing… they make their service changes in the fall normally, but they might be willing to run a short shuttle? Maybe?

      • Brent says

        The one obvious hole in this restructure is how Lynnwood-to-Everett ST service will disappear during peak (in the peak direction), right when it should get the highest ridership.

        One option to fill this gap might be to send the 511s emptied out at Ash Way back to Lynnwood, and re-sign them as 512s going to Everett. For AM Peak, a new route number (Call it 514, just for algebra’s sake.)just from Everett to Lynnwood could be used, emptying at Lynnwood, and then going back to Ash Way to become a 511.

        Another option might be to re-sign the 511s as 512s going to Everett before arriving at Lynnwood, and simply have them through-route. Similarly, sign peak buses going from Everett to Lynnwood as 514, and then change the sign to 511 at Ash Way.

        A third is to just extend the 511 officially to Everett, and have the signage designed to discourage riders going all the way from Seattle to Everett, and to then welcome riders going from Lynnwood to Everett. The AM peak would involved similarly discouraging/welcoming tactics. The difference between options two and three is nomenclature and presentation.

        Option four is to just let CT take care of peak-direction trips from Lynnwood to Everett (and Everett to Lynnwood in AM peak), but their path is not as nearly an express (or BRTish) as the 512 is. That may save ST money on deadheading, but it sure makes riding the bus from Everett to Lynnwood in the morning during the commute peak a suckier experience. The only way to minimize deadheading would to be to build an ST base in Everett. This may be a worthy investment considering Link won’t arrive in Everett for a long, long time.

  2. mic says

    Wouldn’t those operating funds be better spent building structured parking at Mukilteo and Edmonds CR stations to boost ridership there?
    (I’m just being a smart ass, now)
    Thanks for the SIP report on making existing things that work, even better, for not much money. It’s not sexy, and won’t win you any elections, but it’s a big improvement for lots of people.

  3. d.p. says

    Wow. Build freeway platforms at Lynnwood and Ash Way, install all-day bi-directional bus/3+ HOV lanes, and you’re done.

    Absolutely no Link necessary.

    • Bruce Nourish says

      As you may know, there are direct access ramps at Lynnwood TC, and a southbound ramp at Ash Way P&R, although both do require driving in a loop. I wanted to write about the Ash Way P&R’s unbuilt northern ramp in this post, but there’s a longish story around it, and the bottom line is it’s not likely to get built anytime soon.

      But yeah, build the north ramp at Ash Way, design and build a direct access ramp into Northgate, rename the 512 the “Snohomish Express” and terminate it at Northgate, run it in transit/HOV/HOT lanes every ten minutes 7AM-10PM…

      … oh well, the path not chosen.

      • Kyle S. says

        Any reason we can’t do that for ST3, and perhaps save us some massive egg on our face when Link-to-Nowhere turns out to be a failure that cuts off Seattle’s nose to spite Snohomish’s face?

      • Bruce Nourish says

        I’m honestly no more attuned to the political environment than you are. I think from a technical perspective, what I’ve thumbnailed above would be a great way to serve Snohomish county at a fraction of the cost of Link, for quite a while into the future. But what does and doesn’t happen is largely a political question that’s somewhat divorced from technical merit. See also, Sounder North.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      … and watch ST3 get annihilated in Snohomish County, killing the dreams of decent transit in the Western half of Seattle.

      Getting 3+ HOV lanes would be great, but that’s a matter of policy, not money, and one that WSDOT doesn’t seem to be able to figure out.

      • says

        If bus service had anything to do with the passage of ST packages, we wouldn’t have Sounder North, Tacoma Link, the First Hill Streetcar, any remote consideration of Link-to-Nowhere to begin with…

      • Mike Orr says

        ST1 was the ballot measure that established Sound Transit and Link. ST2 was the measure that extended Link to Lynnwood. ST3 is a potential future measure that could do additional things.

      • d.p. says

        I’m pretty sure no one ran feverishly to the ballot box be because they couldn’t contain their excitement for the FHSC.

      • mic says

        It’s a conspiracy now that Bailo, d.p., Bruce and others (me) are going over to the dark side. The only way to run light rail to all the places mentioned on W.Seattle plateau is in a huge ass looping tunnel. Those streets will never accept an elevated alignment down the middle, and surface lines would be a colossal blunder.
        Likewise, extending BART II to Tacoma will never replace frequent express buses on I-5, so why not just embrace the bus and make it work better?
        Link to Lynnwood is a done deal, and I can even accept the logic of going to Paine Field, if they start to function as a satellite airport to Seatac, plus there a huge employment center, then on to Everett to complete the loop. That would make sense.
        Just because some of us don’t march to the same beat, doesn’t make us less of a transit supporter. We could, and do argue that blindly following a path of light rail to everywhere is a fools journey.

      • Mike Orr says

        If you guys are all on the dark side, does that mean I’m on the gray side? I can see the value of seamless Link lines across the entire metropolitan area. It would just make it easier for people without cars to go anywhere, and for everyone else to use transit more than they would otherwise, and to gradually encourage walkable villages at stations all around the metropolitan area, until finally other neighborhoods say “We want that too” as happened big-time in DC. So I can’t say no to Link extensions because they would be more effective than anything else we can do. On the other hand, the most vital parts of Link are SeaTac, Northgate, and Overlake, and secondarily Lynnwood. Anything beyond those will be lesser benefit, and frequent buses from the termini would be an acceptable substitute. Frequent buses could “extend” Link. But they would really have to be frequent, not these half-hourly jobbies that ST Express so easily degrades into. Half-hourly just creates a barrier and makes people think about driving.

      • d.p. says

        It would just make it easier for people without cars to go anywhere

        Except that BARTLink doesn’t do that. Like, at all. Not even a little bit.

      • d.p. says

        One of the first things the D.C. Metro did was to make it really easy to get around D.C. once you got there.

        That’s why the D.C. Metro is so much more successful than BART.

        But that’s the last thing we’re doing. Especially by forcing dumb streetcar connections that will turn off all but the most ardent railphiles. (Everyone else, when not heading precisely downtown, will probably keep driving.)

      • Martin H. Duke says

        d.p.,

        That’s why the D.C. Metro is so much more successful than BART.

        But that’s the last thing we’re doing.

        So is your plan of action to go back in time to bring back the federal funding environment that created the D.C. Metro? Is it to get the legislature to reopen ST’s authorizing legislation to mess with the size of the district and subarea equity? Do you actually think that there would be a good outcome from that?

        If your #1 is priority is getting high-quality transit to Ballard, slagging on Lynnwood is at best pointless and at worst counterproductive.

      • d.p. says

        At this point, I’m just anti-blatant falsehood, Martin.

        Pervasive disseminated fallacy is how we ended up with the distorted funding environment and broken service principles we have now. It’s how we’re pursuing useless projects in the present. It’s how we’ll ensure an autocentric city and region in the future.

        We’re not getting real rail in NW Seattle, because Ben just handed ST city money and a permission slip to First Hill us. Only if you believe the city taxpayers alone can come up with billions in Second Ave Subway funds will real transit follow the streetcarp. Ben himself believes Seattle will be wall-to-wall skyscrapers and house millions, which is insane.

        I’m sorry that reality gets so deeply under your skin. But as the path we’re on is the path to useless transit forever, I simply cannot support it.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        At this point, I’m just anti-blatant falsehood, Martin.

        OK, so you admit you’ve given up on supporting any real transit project and will slag on any transit proposal that is at all consistent with the law as it stands and what people will vote for. Good to know what side you’re on.

        As for falsehoods, I can’t prove this is the case, but I think you’re highly delusional if you think ST2 would have passed without Link to Lynnwood, even more so if the law had instead allowed that money to be spent on Ballard.

        Ben just handed ST city money and a permission slip to First Hill us

        Leaving aside the fact that Ben has done 100 times more to get high-quality transit to Ballard than you ever will, your math doesn’t add up. The entire streetcar network, including First Avenue and Madison BRT, would be about $800m. The tax rate required to get to Everett and Tacoma will raise billions of dollars in North King. If ST didn’t care at all about high quality transit, they’d still have to come up with billions of dollars in Seattle projects just to make the books balance.

        If anything, a streetcar link from Ballard to Downtown INCREASES the probability of a 45th line so near and dear to your heart. Although I’m somewhat skeptical the Ballard Streetcar will get the priority it needs to be awesome, in any case it’s complementary to both Seattle Subway lines, not redundant to them.

      • d.p. says

        Gathering signatories to your wild fantasies does not qualify as getting high-quality transit to anywhere.

        You are correct, though. I’m over this crap.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        Gathering signatories to your wild fantasies…

        So you’re ignorant of what Seattle Subway is doing, ignorant of how to build a movement, or both.

        It would explain why you think disparaging every transit project between here and the Canadian border is going to help you get better transit.

      • Mike Orr says

        “It would just make it easier for people without cars to go anywhere

        Except that BARTLink doesn’t do that. Like, at all. Not even a little bit.”

        BART doesn’t go everwhere. It doesn’t go to western San Francisco, or Silicon Valley, or the southwest San Mateo penninsula, or Marin. If it went to all those places, people would ride it to those places, and they’d be glad it comes more frequently than Caltrain and is faster than MUNI Metro’s surface lines.

        I said if Link went all across the metropolitan area. It doesn’t and won’t. People can’t take Link to Ballard or Kirkland or Kent because it doesn’t go there. But if it did, and if it went to all the other strategic neighborhoods and cities, then people would be able to go between any of those places on a single line or train-to-train transfers. But Link doesn’t do that, unfortunately.

      • Bernie says

        Going “everywhere” isn’t such a good idea for a rail system in a west coast city. I believe BART at around 65% has one of if not the highest fare recovery ratios of any system outside of NYC. The number of Link Stations in Seattle is low because outside of DT/Sodo, Capitol Hill, UW and Northgate there just aren’t the all day high demand locations to justify the expense of rail.

      • d.p. says

        BART only has a “good” farebox recovery because the average fare is something like $6.50 one-way.

        Even if that 65% rate is accurate, you’re still subsidizing every boarding to the tune of $4.50. I’ve read that off-peak subsidies are over $13/passenger, and that outer branches cost the system $20-$30 per boarding.

        None of this math looks kindly upon underpopulated Lynnwood trains running all day at a fare of less than $3.

        Isolate the subway systems in New York or Boston and you’re looking at recovery near or in the the black, at fares of barely $2. (Buses, commuter rails, and other services drag the system-wide recovery ratios down.)

      • Bernie says

        NYC is in a different universe than Seattle. West coast cities are very different than “old world” east coast cities that were platted and built before the advent of the automobile. Apples and orangutans. It would be a lot easier to justify a $6 fare from Lynwood or SEA to DT than Ballard to DT. I’m not saying Link is going to ever be more cost effective than buses for anything outside of the core UW to DT segment (and maybe the airport) but the proposed stations make a lot more sense than cramming any more into the already bloated Seattle section. Seriously, 3 stations (four once East Link is built) just for the RV. Roosevelt and Beacon Hill with stupid expensive underground stations. At least out in the hinterlands construction is cheaper.

      • d.p. says

        Give urbanites an indisputably convenient way to get around — a convenient, cross-connected method for gettin where they’re going — and they’ll use it all the time. Cities ARE all-day demand. That why they’re cities.

        Give suburbanites a highway mirror that goes exactly 5 places, and they’ll use it only when they’re headed precisely to one of those five places, and nowhere else. Maybe. Some of them will still drive. That’s why they’re suburbanites.

        BART’s terrible subsidies, high fares, and mostly empty trains are direct evidence of this, no matter how you try to spin it backwards.

      • Bernie says

        . Cities ARE all-day demand. That why they’re cities.

        Now I understand. By your definition Seattle isn’t a city. By 7PM the DSTT is mostly empty with the vast majority of those left doing their best to flee DT. Fair enough, it’s not Boston or NYC which are real cities. That’s why you’ll never be happy with anything in this region. Why don’t you join a Boston transit blog?

      • d.p. says

        Seattle’s got a long way to go, but there’s still a heck of a lot more going on in, around, and between the various parts of Seattle throughout the day and evening than there is going on between Lynnwood and Redmond.

      • mic says

        Or, just start following state laws pertaining to HOV lane capacity and standards of maintaining the HOV lanes at 45 mph or better, 90% of the time during AM and PM commute times. When they start to fail at 2+, the law says they must go to 3+.
        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/HOV/Policy.htm#speed_&_reliability_standards
        An inconvenient truth for legislators to demand their DOT to follow their rules.
        Or, start demanding that Commuter Rail lines follow existing state laws that allowed them to be created:
        RCW 81.104.120. This law states, “Transit agencies and regional transit authorities may operate or contract for commuter rail service where it is deemed to be a reasonable alternative transit mode. A reasonable alternative is one whose passenger costs per mile, including costs of trackage, equipment, maintenance, operations, and administration are equal to or less than comparable bus, entrained bus, trolley, or personal rapid transit systems.”
        It seems our law makers saw the North Sounder ‘train wreck’ coming, and put some safeguards on the books. When was the last time the trains from Everett beat the bus for cost/mile?
        Another inconvenient truth.

      • J. Reddoch says

        Since the RCW has “or” in it and we haven’t built a personal rapid transit system, we may never know.

      • mic says

        With respect to HOV 3+, it looks like our DOT even quite keeping up the stats on how bad most of our HOV lanes are failing in the peaks. Here are some charts from 2006, the last year they reported the conditions to the public.
        http://depts.washington.edu/hov/HOV_SpdReliability/2006_HOV_SpdReliability.pdf
        What if buses were allowed to average 45mph or better on all our HOV lanes during the day? Would we still need Link from FedWay to Tacoma, or LTC to Everett?

      • Brent says

        As you imply here, mic, any BRT service using HOV lanes will degrade as car traffic increases.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        eddiew,

        Tolling would be great. It’s revenue positive, so it doesn’t preclude doing anything involving Link.

      • d.p. says

        Name one place on earth where 3+ carpool lanes are anything but free-flowing.

        Just name one.

        Or build hundreds of millions of dollars in elevated guideway on a falsehood.

        Your choice. I’m running out of capacity to give a shit about the stupidity-guided missile that is Seattle.

      • Bernie says

        Prior to tolling the 3+ lanes on 520 were a parking lot during peak commute. Post tolling GP and HOV lanes are mostly free flowing. Of course the caveat is that the HOV lanes ended at the bridge so I accept the premise that 3+ would create free flowing lanes for most of our freeways. On the third hand, the lack of HOV to HOV access at most major interchanges won’t be fixed without pouring a lot of concrete.

      • d.p. says

        I’ve never witnessed the slightest bit of congestion in the 3+ segment, save the last few hundred feet from the merge point.

      • d.p. says

        And do you think ten miles of elevated railway doesn’t involve slightly more concrete than a few new HOV ramps?

        Heck, you could build smooth, curving, zero-turn-requiring ramps from the center lanes to elevated stations above LTC and Ash Way. They’d look almost identical to the Link segments planned for those same 300-foot segments. But they’d cost a pittance compared to building the miles and miles of elevated rail.

      • Bernie says

        I’ve never witnessed the slightest bit of congestion in the 3+ segment

        Living in Ballard I don’t expect you would. Many a time the HOV lane would stack up all the way to 405. When it happens the HOV lane is actually slower than the GP lanes because of the on ramp merges. Of course that will also be fixed with the 520 rebuild moving the HOV lanes to the center. Fixing the HOV structure, without taking existing GP lanes would be billions of dollars because of I-5 through DT Seattle and the geographic challenge of the 520 interchange. HOV lanes don’t even exist at the 522 interchange. I don’t know what the cost would be but it would most likely serve a lot more people every day than a comparable investment in elevated rail.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        d.p.,

        I’ll count on WSDOT to emphasize free flow of transit in HOV lanes about when you anticipate Metro to implement RapidRide properly.

  4. alexjonlin says

    It’s a shame ST service will no longer be provided into Downtown Everett – the walk from Everett Station to Downtown sucks. I wish the station weren’t so far from the actual urban center…

    • Charles says

      I’m checking with my friends but I’m guessing this would significantly impact their transportation plans. One is an MD at Everett Hospital and the other is a departmental manager there. Both take the 510. It would be a shame if both of them had to resort to cars because of this.

    • Stephen F says

      There’s plenty of connecting buses via Swift and Everett Transit. Also, it’s like a 10-minute walk. Not that bad.

      • Charles says

        Everett station is more than a 10 minute walk. It’s a 10 minute walk from the current 510 stop on Pacific to their place of employment. There maybe some connecting service. My MD friend usually works the night shift so he arrives in Everett on a late bus and goes home in the morning. Not sure how connections would work for that use case.

      • Michael Ragsdale says

        Yes, Everett Transit is 100% a part of ORCA.

        In addition, RRFP holders ride ET for FREE :)

    • Brent says

      alexjonlin,

      Two words “Connection Protection”. Heck the connection doesn’t even require that much technology. Just train certain drivers to wait for the alighting loads of passengers from the 510/512 at certain times of day.

      • William says

        Except that Everett Transit doesn’t run as often as the 510 during peak periods. That shouldn’t really be too hard to fix, though – adding one bus to the ET29′s downtown section should do it easily. (Plus, the connection needs to be advertised, but that’s easy.)

      • Bruce Nourish says

        Also, ET’s online schedules are impossible to read. They need to fix THAT if they want people to transfer.

  5. David L says

    Bruce, can you share ST’s thoughts on how they would build the Olive Way freeway stop? Would they build a new island, swap the GP and HOV lanes, or what?

    • Bruce Nourish says

      I didn’t ask that, as staff are understandably reluctant to speculate on the record, and I didn’t think I’d get a useful answer. That’s the sort of detail that would come out of study & design process.

  6. Mark Dublin says

    Thanks for this posting, Bruce. I use the northbound 511 to either Lynnwood or Ash Way, depending on CT connections, several times a week around 5PM, and have been thinking about improvements for a long time.

    I don’t buy the argument that North LINK is a mistake. Trains should be full from opening day on. But when exactly will service reach Lynnwood? The argument with which I have the least patience is that we’ll just have to suck up two more decades of bad service until rail gets built out.

    Can you briefly outline just what the problem is with a northbound ramp at Ash Way? It looks like an easy no-brainer. But is there quicksand where the footings need to go?

    Also know that northbound schedules are frequently late because we don’t have a southbound bus lane from Northgate to Convention Place in the afternoon- which is definitely harder to build, but a lot more necessary.

    Meantime, I do think all-day Lynnwood and Everett ST Express service should replace the rush hour routes just taken out of the Tunnel. I know about the different agencies, and frankly don’t care. Sound Transit exists to solve that problem, not suffer from it. And since DSTT doesn’t require trolley-qualification anymore, Snohomish County drivers can learn to drive it.

    Mark Dublin

    • David Seater says

      Lynnwood Link is planned for service in 2023, if I remember right, two years after Northgate Link in 2021.

    • d.p. says

      Four-car trains, every six minutes at peak. Full “from opening day on”.

      Have you ever been to Lynnwood, Mark?

      • Mark Dublin says

        Several times a week right now, like I said, d.p. Watching the steadily-increasing amount of car traffic alongside and in front of my bus. And a year or two back, every day for work. Also had family in Edmonds for about thirty years.

        So it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine transit loads ten or eleven years ahead- though a lot will depend on what happens with the economy. But if you’re really concerned about improving transit service rather than bugging Sound Transit, you’d notice I’m on your side.

        Because speaking of passing decades, in the years since I first drove for Metro, and got involved with the DSTT, I’ve had to listen to about 30 years’ worth of good ideas for improving service dismissed with “Well, it’s ok if bus service is lame, because it’s only temporary ’til we get trains.”

        One of the main concepts behind the Tunnel and associated joint rail and bus operations was that this region could smoothly build present service into future service. Build trackways operable with buses, but spec’ed out for rail- like the Tunnel.

        Problem was that beyond the I-90 ramps into IDS and the E-3, progress on right-of-way went nowhere. So why don’t we at least agree on getting those few miles of southbound transit lane from Northgate into town.

        That way, whichever of us is right about North LINK and Lynnwood ridership, however many passengers there are will still get a good ride.

        Mark Dublin

      • says

        There are 300 buses a day driving down I-5 in the Everett/Lynnwood area. About 240 continue on into the city. That’s enough to fill some trains even without considering new ridership because of the train. Lynnwood itself isn’t that big but Snohomish county is. King county population is only 2.5x that of Snohomish but we’d have ONE train line serving the entire county whereas in King County we’ll have 3.

      • says

        Outside of the middle of peak hours those buses are not carrying many passengers, and the trains won’t either. That’s what happens when all the train stations are in the shadow of a giant freeway. “This Machine Kills Walksheds” — but not only that, it kills any potential walkshed, which means it mostly makes sense to use transit to avoid rush hour traffic or where parking is expensive.

        Meanwhile the consequence of “I-5 Train Or Bust” fever is that we couldn’t build adequate stop spacing in places with all-day transit demand. It wouldn’t make any sense to extend the southern Link line to Tacoma because a bus that bypasses the Rainier Valley and SODO will always be faster. The same would be true of Everett if we were building the northern Link line the way we should, instead of as a slower, lower-capacity version of BART.

      • d.p. says

        You are on my side when it comes to defining quality, usable transit service, Mark. Sorry for sounding snippy.

        I know the express-lane buses are well-used, which is why I was wholeheartedly proposing filling in the missing pieces of infrastructure to make them the very best that highway buses could ever be.

        But Lynnwood (and Everett) Link are no better than highway buses, following as they do the exact same path, with the exact same stations, at infinitely greater expense.

        Proposed Lynnwood service envisions four-car trains running every 6 minutes. Even presuming an aversion to standing, that’s 10-20 times the current peak highway-bus offerings. Even at the peak of peaks, I just don’t see that kind of demand happening!

      • Mike Orr says

        “It wouldn’t make any sense to extend the southern Link line to Tacoma because a bus that bypasses the Rainier Valley and SODO will always be faster.”

        It’s not just about downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma! It’s about SeaTac airport, and Rainier Valley, and Capitol Hill, and Highline CC. All on one line. So you can go to any of them, simply by staying on a couple stops longer or shorter. Express buses will never be able to do that. As soon as you get away from an express bus destination (which pretty much means only downtown or UW) or have to transfer buses, the advantage of an express bus over Link disappears and quickly turns negative.

      • d.p. says

        Thanks, Mike! You just finally explained to yourself that an express subway that only stops in five places in the entire urban area is not all that useful or appealing!

        “As soon as you get away from a [Link] destination (which pretty much means only downtown or UW [or 2 other notable nodes]) or have to transfer buses [to go where you actually want], the advantage of [Link] over [just giving up and driving] disappears and quickly turns negative.”

      • Brent says

        Well, I would hope the trains are nowhere near full when they start out at Lynnwood. They have a lot more passengers to pick up before they get downtown.

      • d.p. says

        Don’t worry, Brent, because ST envisions needing 3-minute service starting at Shinjuku Northgate.

        [rolls eyes]

      • Mike Orr says

        “Thanks, Mike! You just finally explained to yourself that an express subway that only stops in five places in the entire urban area is not all that useful or appealing!”

        Funny, I wonder why I’m so looking forward to Link then. Oh, it’s because it would speed up a lot of my trips, several times a week. Even when I have to transfer to a bus for part of the distance, it’ll still be faster than taking a bus the entire way, and much better than transferring between two buses. When I said the advantages of express buses disappear when you have to transfer buses, I meant bus-to-bus transfers.

    • Brent says

      I would love to see the 512 in the DSTT. But I would hate to see the 510, 511, and 513 separated from all the CT commuter options.

      What if just the 512 were put in the tunnel? At the times and directions it will run, it is not part of a trunk with other Snohomish routes. Physically separating the lines would also help riders get used to the idea that that route in the tunnel serves all the stops.

      Yeah, we’ve discussed the legal/financial issues ad nauseam. But politics is not, in and of itself, an acceptable excuse for blocking good transportation.

  7. stuart says

    I think it would make more sense for the ‘base’ route to be called the 510, not 512. The three peak variants should be 510X, 511, 513. Also it would be nicer if the 512 kept running even in peak, though I imagine I-5 traffic prevents that.

    • Doug says

      +1- I thought the same thing when I read that….the routes are better but the numbers make it confusing….they need to rethink the labels….

    • asdf says

      I disagree. People are already used to the 510, 511, and 512 meaning certain things and changing the numbering so “510″ means what is now “512″ would just lead to confusion. Also, I don’t like the “510X” since all Sound Transit routes are already express.

      • stuart says

        The proposed 512 is more like limited stops. There are still half a dozen stops between Everett and Seattle. The proposed 510 has just one. Since they follow the same route, 510/510X would make sense, the 510X would be a true express version of the 510. Also helps that the express version would use the I-5 express lanes.

        It might be confusing in the short term, but in the long term, riders would learn that all 51_ buses go in the direction of Everett. 510 buses (X or not) would go all the way to Everett station; other 51_ buses would go most of the way then branch off.

  8. kevinb says

    What’s a shame is that still none of these make a good connection for Boeing employees who live in Seattle (there are a lot of us). There is one connection in the AM and one in the PM with the Metro 952 at Ash way that comes to the plant, but it’s not very good. I’ve hounded our employee commuting office about this and numerous internal studies have been conducted by employees. Regrettably, nothing has come of them.

    A lot is made about Sounder North and ST Express Buses heading south, getting employees TO Seattle from Everett, but this massive employment campus is generally left out of discussions when planning transit in this corridor.

    • Bruce Nourish says

      I’ve wondered about a bus connection on Airport road, too. Periodically, there’s interest from regional carriers in creating scheduled services out of Paine Field; a bus connection (more than twice a day) would be mutually useful for any such air service.

    • William says

      There’s talk in the “Lynnwood Transit Master Plan” about redeploying hours from the 511 to a Paine Field – Lynnwood bus after Link reaches Lynnwood. Of course, that’s a ways off.

    • asdf says

      The best solution for Boeing employees would probably be for Boeing to run their own shuttle to the nearest 512 stop (either Everett Station or South Everett P&R). I would guess Boeing has enough employees to justify frequent service during the peaks, especially if Boeing has a large number of workers beginning and ending their days at the same time.

    • William says

      There actually is Everett Transit service between the Boeing plant and Everett Station. I’m not sure how frequently that runs, though, and it’s way out of the way for everyone coming from King County. I agree that a Boeing shuttle would be much better than the current state – but the best, I think, would be if Boeing provides the funds to expand ST service.

      • asdf says

        It makes more sense for Boeing to provide shuttles to their own buildings than to provide funds to expand the ST service in general. The ST service is something that benefits everyone, whereas shuttles to Boeing benefit only Boeing employees and no one else. One can make arguments about whether it would be more cost-effective for Boeing to operate such a shuttle directly or pay a transit agency to operate it, but either way, it would be a shuttle that exclusively benefits Boeing employees and, therefore, should be paid exclusively by Boeing.

        As a precedent, Microsoft provides its own shuttles from Overlake Transit Center to the front door of almost all of its buildings, and some buildings which are located near Eastgate have service to Eastgate P&R as well. Just as it it makes more sense for Microsoft to operate these shuttle routes than King County Metro, it makes more sense for Boeing to operate shuttles in its area than the general transit agency.

        There is the question about whether Boeing cares enough about its employees to offer such a service – once you’ve already paid the sunk cost of providing enough parking capacity for every employee to drive to work every day in a separate car, the only incentive to operate shuttles is increased employee satisfaction among those that use it.

  9. Reyes Ojeda says

    As an avid 511 rider, I am not too excited about this plan. Mainly, I believe buses will be habitually overcrowded by the time they reach Lynnwood. Service is already at 15 minute intervals, and buses are moderately full already-even in the midday. Throw in Everett riders too, then the newly-expanded 512 will be packed all the time. I am dreading game days when the Sounders and Hawks play. Currently, buses run overloaded with fans and are often 30 minutes late.

    ST has good intentions regarding this plan. And I can see the need for streamlining service. But ridership is too high in each locale that service demands separate routes. Would the 594 stop in Federal Way? Would the 554 stop at S. Bellevue?

    • Bruce Nourish says

      Actually, I really wish ST would consolidate the 577 and 594 on weekends, and use the money to run the combined route more frequently. Both the 577 and 594 show up in ST’s charts as marginal/unsatisfactory during the weekend. Unfortunately, thanks the the introduction of Saturday service on the 578, consolidating the 577 and 594 would require 578 riders to transfer on Saturdays.

      The 554 idea you cite is different — South Bellevue would require a very time consuming detour for the 554, as it’s quite a way from the freeway and lacks direct-access ramps.

      It’s possible that the I-5 north changes might cause full buses in the off-peak, but currently the peak service is overflowing, so arguably the need is greater there. ST staff did look at the total trips (510 + 511) when creating the 512 schedules, so I wouldn’t expect overflowing buses on the 512.

      That said, if overloads do happen, we’ll be the first on Sound Transit’s case to pressure them to fix it.

      • Reyes Ojeda says

        Actually, the idea of consolidating the 577 & 594 on the weekends is intriguing. I can see the problem with the 578. But if ridership is low between Puyallup and Federal Way, then it may be worth the study to axe the 578 on weekends and divert resources to the 577.

        On a side note, you mentioned unsatisfactory productivity on the 577 during the weekend. If ST would make the 577 like the former 194 (without the SeaTac stop, of course), I believe ridership would increase. When I rode the 194, there were plenty of riders boarding/exiting along the busway and the freeway stations (especially at Kent-Des Moines). Im still bewildered, and somewhat angry, that ST short-changed many riders in the former 194 corridor.

      • asdf says

        I don’t think there’s anything around those freeway stations except park-and-ride lots and anyone that can drive there can just as easily drive to TIBS or Federal Way TC. Also, the one or two houses around there are still within a 10-minute or so walk from the A-line, so it’s not as if they’re cut off completely.

      • Brent says

        The Metro 181 provides half-hourly service most of the day between Federal Way and Auburn, with a lot more neighborhood service, including on Sundays.

        Puyallup is connected to Tacoma by the PT 400 and to Federal Way by the PT 402 seven days a week.

        Sumner has the 409 to Puyallup on weekdays, but I believe that will go away soon, since Sumner will be leaving the PT service area.

        Most of those are lower frequency than the 578, and weaker span of service.
        .

        As for comparing the 512 consolidation to 577/594 consolidation, I have to point out that ridership on the latter combo is higher, and any restructure would involve looking at the 574. Such a restructure is not as clear-cut as the connectivity, frequency, and capacity improvements that will come from the 512 consolidation.

      • J. Reddoch says

        Brent,
        When was the last time you took a PT bus to Sumner? When was the last time you looked at the 409 schedule?

      • Brent says

        I looked at the 409 schedule just now. Is it incorrect?

        If localities get out of their local transit agencies and lean on ST to provide those local transit connections, I don’t have any sympathy for that.

    • Brent says

      The only set of riders not coming out of this restructure as total winners is riders like Reyes who only ride the bus to commute between Lynnwood and Seattle, but commute off-peak. I hope ST has a contingency plan to increase frequency on the 512, as I expect this restructure will draw a lot more new riders than it will chase off. Hey, at 15-minute headway, potentially being ramped up to 12-minute headway, who needs to look at the schedule anyway?

      It’s the same phenomenon we’re seeing played out in West Seattle, where the detractors are telling us nobody will be riding Metro any more. It’s too crowded! (with apologies to Yogi Berra)

      • asdf says

        Depending on the time of day, people who commute between Lynnwood and Seattle off-peak are one of the biggest winners. On weekends, frequency to Lynnwood will improve from every 30 minutes to every 15-20 minutes. During the evening, frequency to Lynnwood will improve from every 60 minutes to every 20-30 minutes.

        Riding the bus from Lynnwood to a weeknight or Saturday night Mariner’s game will be much easier after the change than before it, especially for those that want to get home afterwards without an hour-long wait for the bus.

  10. Andy says

    I don’t mind the change BUT I do not like ST cut downtown Everett segment for #510. Since ST cut off the stop at Broadway & 38th near Memorial Stadium, there is a parking problem in Everett station. I was actually not able to find a parking spot in Everett station (both sides of the tracks).

    I understand the reason to replace #510 and #511 with #512 during off-peak hours. I also understand it makes sense to start #512 from Everett Station. However, please do not start/end #510 at Everett Station. Doing so, it will force people who live around downtown Everett to drive to Everett Station. People who take Everett Transit that only passing through downtown Everett, but not Everett Station will be no choice but drive to Everett Station. #510 should continue the current route in downtown Everett to provide peak hours service.

    • says

      Doesn’t SWIFT provide local routing through downtown Everett to Everett Station? SWIFT provides a high-frequency simple-to-use service.

      • Andy says

        I don’t think people in Tacoma will be very happy as well if ST only stops at Tacoma Dome Station and ask people to take Tacoma link or walk to downtown Tacoma.

      • asdf says

        ST recently did just that with the 586. The combined frequency of Tacoma Link and the zillions of Pierce Transit routes that all converge downtown is something like a bus or train every 3-5 minutes most of the day, even with Pierce Transit’s budget crisis.

      • Andy says

        That is good for people who live in Tacoma.

        Here in Everett, we only have SWIFT that don’t go downtown Everett (only one stop and travel by south edge of downtown) and scatter Everett transit. For example, if I want to go Everett Station from the main entrance of Comcast arena. The best way is to walk 8 blocks instead of waiting for a bus. It comes every 20 ~ 30 minutes or so.

      • Brent says

        Doing some math from the 2013 SIP stats, 510 northbound Everett Station alighters outnumber those who continue on by more than 6 to 1. Those who get on southbound before Everett Station are outnumbered by station boarders by more than 8 to 1.

        That said, there are certain times a day that high ridership into downtown Everett should be expected. I’d expect evening counter-peak commuters to make use of a downtown tail, since most of them are headed to work. Mid-day, not so much. Peak direction (commuting to/from jobs in Seattle) would be close to zero, as people would be taking ET buses from their neighborhoods to the station, since all but two of ET’s routes go to the station. There is virtually no ridership demand for the tail to be on the 510 in peak direction. There probably would be good ridership on the tail of the 512 on counter-peak trips. But these would coincide with peak ET trips starting at the station, going through downtown, and out into the neighborhoods.

      • Andy says

        This is why it makes total sense to provide downtown Everett service during peak hour (#510) for faster trip. It is fine for #512 to start from Everett Station since people already expect slower service during off-peak.

      • Mike Orr says

        It’s arguably ST’s job to go from downtown to downtown. I went through Everett today (in a car), and it is quite a walk from Everett Station to the center.

      • asdf says

        ST has always provided neighborhood service in Redmond and, to some extent, they do in Bothell and Kenmore too, with regular stops along highway 522.

        One place where I wish ST did provide neighborhood service where they now don’t is Issaquah. There’s a large shopping center about 1/2 mile east of the transit center (*), which the 554 goes right by and doesn’t stop. There’s also an elementary school and some residential neighborhoods which currently have no transit service whatsoever that doesn’t involve a mile+ walk, in spite of the 554 rolling right by. If the 554 had a huge number of riders that would be delayed by these stops, I would say “ok”, but my experience riding it has been that this is not the case – even if the bus is reasonably-full approaching downtown Seattle, east of Issaquah Transit Center, the 554 is consistently almost empty. Denying whole neighborhoods bus service or forcing a 10-15 minute walk (or an up-to-30-minute wait for the 271) to get to the shopping center just to save the 5 people still on the bus 30 seconds of commute time doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

        (*) I once took the 554->209 bus to go hiking on Mt. Si. It would have been a much nicer trip if I had the option to make the connection at the shopping center, rather than the transit center, using the 10-minute gap between buses to grab some lunch to take on the hike. But if you have to spend the entire 10-minute gap walking there, that leaves no time left to buy lunch, so it doesn’t work.

      • asdf says

        Everett, though, is a different case. Once you’re already going to downtown Issaquah and Issaquah highlands, the additional cost of making regular stops along Newport Way is negligible. Whereas extending the 512 past Everett station to downtown Everett adds real service hours to the cost.

        I can see such a service maybe making sense for a few trips – perhaps during the reverse commute period. But sacrificing all-day frequency on the entire I-5 corridor just to preserve a one-seat ride into the center of downtown Everett would be a mistake. I’m glad that ST sees this and isn’t doing it.

        And I have walked from Everett station into downtown Everett once before and it’s about 10-15 minutes, depending on where within downtown Everett you’re going to and how fast you can walk. For those that can’t walk that far, the wait+ride time for Swift would also get into into the center of downtown Everett in 10-15 minutes as well.

      • Mike Orr says

        “ST has always provided neighborhood service in Redmond and, to some extent, they do in Bothell and Kenmore too, with regular stops along highway 522.”

        And Bellevue Way. These were all Metro routes that were converted to ST Express without a local shadow. Or at least Bellevue and Kenmore were; I’m not sure about Redmond. In Bellevue’s case, ST asked the residents whether it should have stops on Bellevue Way, and they said a few.

      • Mike Orr says

        Hmm, I guess the 372 is a local shadow in Kenmore and Bothell, but I think it came later. If Metro does upgrade it to full-time in a 71/72/73 reorganization, I wonder if ST would still find it worthwhile to keep the 522 there. Although, ST is in better financial shape than Metro, and it has more of a mandate to provide intercity service.

  11. Chetan says

    I also don’t like the idea of eliminating the 510/512 in Downtown Everett. Everett is an urban center, we should cut service right before the bus makes it there.

    Also, would it just make sense to consolidate the 510 and 511 into one route all the time? The only freeway stop that ads that much time is the Ash Way stop, and plenty of CT buses already stop there.

    Consolidating these routes all the time and not getting rid of the service in Everett could make it easier for people in the I-5 corridor to commute to Everett and Lynwwod, not just Downtown.

    • Reyes Ojeda says

      Chetan, ST’s plan for the 512 is what used to be permanent when ST first began operation. The 512 would travel from Everett to Seattle without any direct access ramps (also making a stop at the Alderwood Mall!). On top of that, service was at 30 minutes. ST made the 510 & 511 (which were peak-only routes at that time) regular routes because the demand for service kept growing. Expanding the 512 is, in a way, reverting back to what the 512 was “back in the day”. It’s sorta defeating the purpose of making the 510 & 511 routes permanent in the first place.

      If there was weak ridership in this corridor, then ST should go full throttle with this plan. But buses are full, and ST should expand service instead of consolidate.

      • asdf says

        Improving frequency to Everett from 30 minutes to 15 minutes and improving service to both Lynnwood and Everett from 60 minutes to 20-30 minutes in the evening is not a service cut. It’s like a large expansion except it doesn’t cost anything.

      • Brent says

        Some buses are full, especially in peak hour. Those will benefit by the added peak runs.

        Off-peak, the buses are rarely full. They were particularly empty (both the 510 and 511) on Saturday morning, the last time I rode.

      • asdf says

        “Off-peak, the buses are rarely full.”.

        My experience has been that this is not the case. I have very commonly seen 510/511 trips mostly full on weekends. I can even recall a few times when I chose the 510/511 to the U-district over the 71/72/73 in part to get a seat, only to end up standing anyway.

        The increased frequency brought by this change should increase ridership, so crowding may continue to increase too, especially on event days.

      • Mike Orr says

        That’s odd, when I’ve ridden the 510/511 on weekends it didn’t have that many people. They must come in random bunches, like I-5 bottlenecks.

      • Reyes Ojeda says

        Yesterday’s UW-OSU game is a perfect example of what I fear will happen if the 512 proposal is implemented. Last night as I stood outside of my workplace along Olive Way, I saw the 510 going by with standees filling half the coach. The 511 was overloaded from front to back. The 510 was 30 minutes late, and the 511 was 40 minutes behind as the following coaches were virtually empty. Everett has enough demand for its own separate service, as does Lynnwood. Combining the two would be overload-mayhem.

      • Mike Orr says

        Reyes: how do you explain to somebody going to/from either Lynnwood or Everett, why they should wait half an hour because they just missed the bus and the “other” bus doesn’t serve their stop? The biggest thing that frustrates riders is waiting at a bus stop. Two small freeway stops doesn’t compare to that, nor does standing on a bus. If people are walking/driving to the bus stop, they can control their arrival time with some effort or a smartphone, but they can’t control their arrival time at all if they’re transferring from another bus. If both routes were 15-minute frequency I’d have no problem with two routes, but it’s important to get to that 15-minute (or at least 20-minute) threshold even if it means combining routes.

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