Last week, I wrote two in-depth posts about two of the more interesting proposals in Sound Transit’s 2013 Draft Service Implementation Plan, the I-5 north corridor restructure, and the Westwood Village 560 restructure. In this post, I’ll wrap up the last change proposed in the DSIP, and share some thoughts from Metro about potential Sounder-related restructures. But before I do, you should know that today, at Union Station, Sound Transit hosts the last open house on this first draft of the SIP, followed by a formal public hearing. The open house is from 10:00 to 11:30, and the hearing from 12:30 to 1:00.
The biggest proposed change I haven’t yet discussed is the introduction of peak-only Route 567, an Eastside “Super Express”, running from Kent Station to Overlake Transit Center, with only one stop, at Bellevue Transit Center. This idea seems like a straightforward and sensible response to ST’s ridership data on this corridor, which shows strong demand between Kent Station and those two Eastside employment centers, but weaker demand for other stops and during off-peak hours. These trips would be scheduled to connect with Sounder trips, effectively turning Sounder’s schedule into a pulse for Kent Station. This enhances mobility by giving commuters on connecting feeder services convenient and fast connectivity to more destinations.
Speaking of feeder service, I discussed with ST and Metro staff the possibility of squeezing more efficiency out of the South King bus network by better leveraging Sounder for trips to downtown Seattle. Metro currently operates three commuter express routes in Auburn and Kent which, in part, compete for riders with Sounder — 152, 158 and 159. The 158 and 159 serve loops in East Hill and Timberlane, then serve Kent Station and Kent-Des Moines P&R before heading to downtown Seattle via I-5. The obvious thing to do with the 158 and 159 is truncate the service at Kent Station, although the trick will be to figure out what to do about KDM P&R, which is far to the west, away from Kent Station by I-5.
Meanwhile, the 152 begins at Auburn Station, then heads northwest to Star Lake P&R (which is served by numerous other routes) and then Seattle on I-5. It seems to me the thing to do here is axe the I-5 segment, then split the local route into two new routes: one on 272nd St, running between Star Lake P&R and Kent Station, and one on West Valley Highway, running from Auburn Station to Kent Station.
More after the jump.
Here’s Metro’s email response to my questions about possible restructuring of these routes:
Given that the 158, 159 and Sounder serve downtown Seattle there is duplication to some extent. However, the 158 and 159 serve the Kent Des Moines Park-and-Ride and other places where connections to/from Sounder would not be convenient. As early as this fall we will speak with Kent East Hill riders, as part of possible service changes in the Kent East Hill/Covington/Maple Valley area. This could result in providing connections to Sounder rather than providing a one-seat ride to downtown for some riders.
Several years ago Metro improved service on two all-day Kent East Hill routes (164 & 168) through a State Urban Mobility Grant. This service has performed well, particularly the Route 164 which operates between Kent and Green River Community College. When the grant expires there is an interest in maintaining current service levels and restructuring some of the direct commuter services. Restructuring could free up resources to make this possible.
We have attempted to reduce the number of Kent East Hill peak routes before. The outcome has been to maintain the direct connections to downtown. Since that time, the number of Sounder trips has increased. Additional issues, such as the higher Sounder fare, will also need to be taken into consideration.
Route 152 is similar to the 158 and 159 situation. Ridership on the Route 152 has declined over the last 12 years, which has corresponded with the gradual ramp-up of Sounder service. Over this same period, Metro has significantly reduced service on Route 152, which is now down to just 5 AM/5 PM peak trips. Further reductions and/or a restructure of Route 152 is possible and may be included as part of the above mentioned process. Route 152 also provides unique coverage to Kent Valley employers, serves Auburn Park-and-Ride and the Star Lake Park-and-Ride. It is likely that some sort of continued coverage to these places would need to continue.
One form of commuter express restructure that’s periodically floated in the comments, but not likely to happen, is any similar truncation to the First Hill express routes (e.g. 193) with the opening of the First Hill Streetcar next year. The resulting three-seat ride would be considerably slower than the current one-seat-ride, as the First Hill expresses serve the doorstep of the major medical centers; Sounder’s faster travel time would be offset by the transfer penalty and travel time on the streetcar, along with the additional walking required from Broadway.
This thread is open for any DSIP-related discussion.
Thanks to the Sound Transit and Metro staff who took the time to answer my questions for this series of posts.