ST 2013 DSIP Wrap Up: Eastside and South King

I-405 Corridor Restructure Proposal

I-405 Corridor Restructure Proposal

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.




Comments

  1. David L says

    The 158 and 159 should be gone.

    The KDM P&R is currently served by the 192. If that isn’t enough capacity, a couple 192 trips could be added, or the 190 or 177 (depending on needed capacity) could be revised to stop at KDM P&R. KDM isn’t an obstacle to getting rid of the 158 and 159.

    As for the East Hill portions, if we don’t want to force all riders to transfer, we could consolidate the 158 and 159 with the existing 157 and 161, which provide peak service to the Kent Valley and downtown from areas further north on Kent East Hill. I suggested one variation of this idea in my Renton/Kent restructure proposal a few days ago. This would result in a meaningfully slower ride for current 158 and 159 riders, but my sympathy is limited — riders always have the option to take the 164/168/169 (as appropriate depending on where they are) to Kent and transfer to Sounder.

    The 152 is a bit trickier. Auburn P&R is the issue. The 152 and 566 are the only service remaining for it, after all other service has been rationalized or moved to Auburn Station. Without the 152 all of the remaining Auburn P&R commuters would likely try to pack into Auburn Station, leading to overcrowding of Auburn Station and even greater underuse of Auburn P&R. I doubt commuters would want to park at Auburn P&R only to take a shuttle backward to Auburn Station. If some 180 trips were revised to reach Auburn P&R (rather than stopping three long blocks away), perhaps you could get some riders to transfer to Sounder at Kent, but I’m still skeptical.

    There are some riders on S 272nd St, but you could easily revise the 192 to serve them rather than providing duplicative, slower service originating at Star Lake P&R.

    • says

      158/159 are Title 6 issues, as the Metro representative alludes to.

      The 152 could be routed to S 200th LINK via Military Rd (skipping Star Lake). and truncated there, making local stops along the way, the corridor possibly expanded to 5am-7pm M-F, 9-8 Saturday service, 30 minute peak, 90 minute off-peak. It could be interlined with the 186 and the 915.

      • David L says

        How would Title VI affect a consolidation of the 158/159 with the 157/161?

        Also, the 152 no longer goes to Enumclaw. It now travels only between Auburn Station and downtown. If you mean “through-route” rather than “interline,” you could through-route your proposed 152 with the 186, but not with the 915, which is a DART route operated under contract. I still don’t see anyone as likely to take a winding route to a transfer from Auburn P&R rather than jamming into Auburn Station, even if the transfer is to Link rather than Sounder.

    • asdf says

      If you can drive to Auburn P&R, you can just as easily drive to the Sounder station at either Auburn or Kent.

      • David L says

        Auburn P&R provides needed relief capacity for Auburn Station. If you make Auburn P&R useless you’ll have to find a way to add capacity to Auburn Station or you’ll see total ridership suffer.

  2. says

    In the past, having taken some of the Kent expresses to downtown Seattle, while it may seem logical to truncate at Kent Station and then put everyone on trunk line express, when examined in detail these routes do a lot more.

    For one, after entering Seattle, some of them travel up to the Belltown area where there are a lot of employers. I don’t know about you, but having to get on a local bus, get on a trunk express which presumably stops in the tunnel, and then have to get on a third local bus to get up to Belltown (a place that, in my opinion, is tragically unconnected to the downtown, along with Seattle Center) creates a huge barrier to suburban workers who would take one bus, that leaves them near their car in a park and ride, but not three.

    I do congratulate Metro on the expanded 164/168 service. It turned it into a very dependable, and very usable service! One that a person can pretty nearly walk to without even checking a schedule and expect to get a bus in 30 minutes or less for most times of day.

    • Schuyler says

      Belltown is incredibly connected. Nearly every bus that goes to North Seattle goes though part of Belltown. Wait literally 2 min at 3rd/Pike and you’ll get a bus to Belltown.

      Also, if you consider waiting 30 min for a bus regularly acceptable, you’re delusional.

      • says

        Maybe it’s that there are so many options that it’s confusing.

        Also, I think in retrospect, they built the bus tunnel wrong.

        I should be able to stay in the tunnel, after getting off a Sounder or express bus and seamlessly change to a bus that will take me anywhere in the greater downtown area.

        For example, today I am considering transit for a concert. I will either take a reverse Sounder from Kent, or the 150. If I get in early enough, I like to travel up to Bambino’s for a calzone. From what I see in Google Maps, I guess I have to walk out of King, and then cross the street to the #1 bus. Ok, and is this the best way back from Benaroya?

        Seems to me the right way to have built the bus tunnel would have been all the way through Belltown to Seattle Center and then out to I-5.

      • David L says

        Yes, you walk out of the station (King Street if you take Sounder, Westlake if you take the 150) and catch a bus on the surface.

        But you have a lot more options than the 1. At either place you should only have to wait a couple minutes for a bus to Belltown.

        From King Street, you can go to the island stop and catch the 5, 24, 26, 28, 33, or 40.

        From Westlake, you can wait at the Pike/Pine stop, where you can get the D, 1, 2, 3, 4, 13, or 16. Or you can wait at the Pine/Olive stop (Macy’s), where you can get the 5, 24, 26, 28, 33, or 40.

        In short, the transfer is about the easiest possible.

      • says

        @David: I think you kind of confirmed half of JB’s point: exit Sounder or the tunnel and go to one of a handful of surface bus stop and catch any bus… unless it’s one of the few that doesn’t go to Belltown (off the top of my head… is it just the 66 and 70?). Different routes turn off of 3rd in different directions and on different cross streets. I don’t think any routes list Belltown as an intermediate destination, though some list Seattle Center.

        If I was giving myself directions to Belltown I’d tell myself to walk to the nearest northbound stop on the 3rd Ave. corridor and take any non-U District bus. But without knowing the north end bus network it’s just number soup.

        Metro’s downtown frequent transit map (the big rainbow map) groups the routes into colored lines based on their routes through greater downtown. If the route names/numbers were generally aligned to those groupings it might help a bit — the Belltown routes are the purple, red… orange? Screw it, my color vision is clearly not up to this map’s demanding standards. Anyway, you know what I mean, it would help if these route groups had durable identities and it was obvious at a glance which one an approaching downtown bus belonged to.

        Our routes’ durable identities tend to be based on popular destinations further out. I wouldn’t say tails exactly because a lot of routes have weird tails, but… if we “sent the 5 down Dexter” it would still be the 5 because it goes to Greenwood. Under a system where downtown designations were more durable it would flip from “forest-green-1″ to “lime-green-5″ or something.

    • Mike Orr says

      I asked about an all-day Kent-Seattle express at the Westwood open house. The ST rep said there have been other calls for it, but the main problem is ST’s limited budget which can’t cover an entire new express route. I asked about rerouting the 578 through Kent rather than Federal Way, which would make it more into the “Sounder shadow” it proports to be. He was pretty skeptical about that, saying it would make “a very long route even longer”. I didn’t bother asking why he thought it would be longer, since if it went on KDM Road to I-5 it would be the same distance as it does now. I brought up the idea that Federal Way seems to be overserved (with extraordinary service compared to the rest of south King County) while Kent has nothing except peak-only Sounder and the hour-long 150. He was skeptical about that too. I guess that means ST things Federal Way deserves its privileged status and will not consider any cuts to it.

      Re the rumored Kent restructure, I asked the Metro rep about that and he said, echoing Bruce’s description above, that the grant supplementing the 164/168 will expire soon, and the restructure is about preserving that service by taking from other routes. So it wouldn’t be any improvement for East Hill or KK Road, just preserving the status quo.

      • Stephen F says

        Well I’m dismayed to hear that the restructure only maintains the current arrangement in effect. That’s tragic for Southeast King County riders. Also, the 566 could be extended in place of the 578 to Puyallup. It’s an underserved gap in the valley and the PT 400 links up to Tacoma. People in Kent can’t effectively get to Tacoma at present. I would saythe 180 should be extended as well. :-/

    • Mike Orr says

      Forgot to mention, the main complaints about transferring at Intl Dist for Belltown/SLU/Seattle Center seem to revolve around the slowness of going through downtown and Belltown. There are lots of buses but it’s essentially a big bottleneck. That seems to be a general problem Metro/SDOT need to address. I agree that the DSTT should have gone north through Belltown to Denny Way. But the prevailing thinking was that it should connect to the I-5 express lanes instead.

      • Mike Orr says

        By the way, a second Link tunnel would address it. The 5th Avenue streetcar might address it if its speed is upgraded significantly beyond the status quo.

      • asdf says

        “Forgot to mention, the main complaints about transferring at Intl Dist for Belltown/SLU/Seattle Center seem to revolve around the slowness of going through downtown and Belltown.”

        At first glance, this seems stupid – after all downtown and Belltown should be just as slow whether you transfer or not – but when you delve a little deeper, this complaint does have some merit.

        In the northbound direction, going through downtown on an inbound bus is usually considerably faster than doing so on an outbound bus(*) because the inbound bus is all people getting off, which means both doors open at every stop and no change fumblers or clueless people asking the driver for directions. This advantage is especially true if the inbound bus is half-empty to begin with. For instance, I have consistently observed the 554 getting from the International District to Westlake much faster than the 510/511 routes, even though they nominally take the same route and serve the same set of stops. Hence, forcing a transfer means switching from a bus that would have gotten through downtown faster to a bus that would get through downtown slower.

        In the southbound direction, you’ve got an outbound bus through downtown and Belltown whether you have a forced transfer or not. But the unpredictable-ness of the travel time downtown does make it virtually impossible to time a connection when you finally make it to the south end of downtown. If you’re connecting to something that runs very frequently, like every 10 minutes, that’s no big deal. But if you’re transferring to the Sounder that only departs every 30 minutes, this unpredictability does become a big deal – you essentially have to plan for the worst-case travel time through downtown every day and on days where the worst-case doesn’t materialize, you don’t get home any faster – it just means you wait longer at the station.

        Nevertheless, while I do sympathize with this argument, I do not believe it is compelling enough to justify the enormous expense of running extra buses from Kent to downtown that simply duplicate the Sounder. Ultimately, the connection is just the price you have to pay for living so far from work, and it will become a big better when the extra Sounder trip is added next year. If you don’t like it, you always have the option of biking through downtown (this is often faster than a taxi in the downhill direction during rush hour), or you can pay through the nose for parking and drive all the way.

        (*) This only applies to routes on the surface. This does not work for inbound routes in the tunnel, which will merely get stuck behind outbound buses in front of it.

      • Mike Orr says

        The main problem is the congestion on the surface streets and the traffic lights. I wasn’t talking about one-seat rides, but saying that a grade-separated route or a significantly improved streetcar (with signal priority and a transit lane) could address it.

  3. mic says

    “Excuse me, but that’s my seat”.
    The 158/159 gather their ridership from far reaching neighborhoods off Easthill. By the time riders get to the CR station, they’re pretty comfy reading a book or snoozing. If they work anywhere north of about James, they will need to catch another bus in Seattle. This is a pure creature comfort choice on the part of the riders. One seat, v. Bus/Rail/Bus. It’s that double queue and wait thing in the elements that drives behavior, and as Doug at MT knows, it’s a huge influence. Throw in the higher fare and small diference in ‘Total Trip Time’, and you’ll face pitchforks over making it a feeder bus. (ref: longtime E.Hill resident, past Chair Kent Transit Advisory Board, S.Base driver)

    • David L says

      So rather than cancelling the one-seat routes entirely, let’s rationalize them, and offer people the choice of a fast transfer or a one-seat ride that’s a bit slower. Combine the 158, 159, 157, and 161 into just two routes, with about five trips each way for each one.

      • mic says

        So you want to reduce the number of trips from Lake Meridian P&R from 19 to 10, that take 4 different routes to end up in the same place in Seattle? ARE YOU NUT’S :)

    • Brent says

      It’s the frogs-in-slowly-boiling-water problem. The slow boil is the elimination of 158/159 trips one by one as ridership drops. With the new peak-of-peak 20-minute headway on Sounder coming, expect the number of trips to keep declining. These routes are in a death spiral. So, is it worth it to preserve the local portion of the route, or will the route be burnt out from using most of its platform hours for expressing and deadheading, eventually getting their last trips cut altogether?

    • Mike Orr says

      Let’s not forget the potential riders who are not served by peak expresses going downtown, but would be served by improved local or express services to other places. They don’t get counted because they’re not existing riders, and many of them don’t even realize it’s possible to petition for unserved corridors. The debate skews toward downtown commuters because the existing service is biased toward downtown commuters, not because the majority of trips are to downtown.

      “Throw in the higher fare … you’ll face pitchforks over making it a feeder bus”

      That’s the hole Metro has dug itself into. By treating peak expresses as normal routes for so many decades, and by putting peak expresses into many neighborhoods that have no local service, it cements in people’s mind the idea that peak expresses are normal basic service and should have low fares because of the poor. That completely misses the fact that most suburbanites do not work in Seattle so the peak expresses do nothing for them. Especially, the working poor who most need low fares do not work in Seattle because their jobs are in the Kent Valley, Renton, Pacific Highway, etc.

      So Metro should raise the fares of peak expresses to Sounder/Link levels. But that would run against this equal-fare assumption, and it would also play havoc with route numbering. The peak expresses are scattered throughout the 1xx, 2xx, and 3xx range alongside local and trunk routes. So people can’t predict from the number whether it’s a premium-fare route or not, unless all the premium routes were renumbered.

      • asdf says

        I remember reading somewhere that if you add fixed-route service to an unserved corridor, you have to add paratransit to that corridor too, which makes it very expensive. Similarly, if you add fixed-route service all day to an area that used to have it only during the peak, you become burdened with the cost of providing paratransit service all day too. By contrast, peak-only expresses to downtown which duplicate other routes don’t require any additional amount of extra paratransit service beyond what’s already mandated by those other routes.

        So ADA is actually providing Metro a financial incentive to choose the buses-that-parallel-Sounder approach over more local service to the Kent neighborhoods. Not exactly what the law’s framers intended, but that’s the way it works.

  4. mic says

    “Would you like to Super-Size that express trip?”
    I’m finding the 567 super duper express troubling on several levels.
    1. Pulse it with CR sounds great. Are we now marketing a quick trip from Lakewood to Microsoft HQ, with only a few stops along the way? Talk about the mother of all sprawl routes.
    2. Killing stops in Renton also kills some additional on/off pairings for many routes at the expense of adding 5-10 minutes to the route and all of it’s daily riders just passing through. That’s a tough trade off, but ST seems to lean on capturing unique Origin/Destination pairs with high productivity on many of it’s lines, while skipping the local function of mobility. (my same bitch about Link stop spacing) Maybe it’s not a terrible thing for a regional system, but often times the local riders get shortchanged in the trades that MT/ST are making.
    3. Metro went through a culture change in the 90′s trying to get back to a ‘Hub and Spoke’ system where it could, and less in the business of providing custom bus services. It’s a smudgy line to cross.
    Is ST/MT getting back into the business of creating additional unique lines that only run a few times a day, and blurring the overall transit network with two providers of service in the same area, where before you only had to learn one systems frailties?

    • David L says

      The 566 will still run every half hour during the peak, and the 560/566 combo will still run every 15 minutes between Renton and Bellevue. So some riders may have to wait a few minutes longer for a transfer, but the mobility for Renton riders is still there.

    • Brent says

      mic,

      You wanted improved productivity on Sounder. ST has a plan to deliver. As Seattle-Kent commuters alight in Kent, their seats are filled with Microsoft-Auburn/Pierce commuters.

      Do you want productivity or not?

      • mic says

        What I want is irrelevant. It’s what current and future (hopefully many more as a result of all this building) want, and will support with their decision to ditch the car and let public transit worry about the trip.
        I’ve tried to point out the mode choice rationale that every customer makes. If they howl, it’s for good reason.
        Why charge more for a bus/rail/bus trip, than the current bus trip, when the ‘total trip times’ are nearly identical?
        This discussion applies equally well to riders from Issaquah to Seattle or U-dist, or from Everett to King Co destinations, or Federal Way.
        Riders vote with their feet. Make to many bad productivity choices and your pan of boiling water will be sterile.
        I’m all for route consolidation, stop consolidation, feeder routes, trunk service, and damn near anything that gets people to ride transit.
        Bring it on, but I need to see more riders overall in the region, not modest gains over decades.

      • David L says

        Why charge more for a bus/rail/bus trip, than the current bus trip, when the ‘total trip times’ are nearly identical?

        Because the current bus fare is inappropriately low for a set of routes that are so expensive to run.

        Metro needs a special fare for long-distance commuter service that requires extensive deadheading. Many other agencies already have one.

      • David L says

        Sorry, got the discussions mixed up between this thread and the other Kent thread. ST, not Metro, should charge as much for bus service on a route this long as it does for the Sounder trip.

      • Bernie says

        The idea that commuter express buses are exorbidently more expensive to operate just isn’t supported by the numbers:

        Sound Transit service operated through Community Transit will be approximately $115 per platform hour. Pierce Transit’s baseline rate to provide ST Express service is $127 per platform hour; King County Metro’s baseline rate is $138 per platform hour.

        I think KC Metro’s base rate is right around $130/hr (hard to find current info). Fares on ST Express are $3.50 if they cross a county line and cost per boarding is around $8 which puts the fare recovery percentage well above that for KC Metro. Almost all buses have to deadhead at the beginning and/or end of the route. Express buses deadheading in the reverse peak direction and then traveling in HOV lanes are far more efficient than buses in stop and go traffic serving 1/4 mile stop spacing. Finally, if you look at the Metro route performance numbers the EX buses are pretty much the same a any other bus serving the same area.

      • David L says

        Sound Transit service operated through Community Transit will be approximately $115 per platform hour. Pierce Transit’s baseline rate to provide ST Express service is $127 per platform hour; King County Metro’s baseline rate is $138 per platform hour.

        Overall ST Express service cost is not a valid baseline for commuter service cost. Almost all ST routes are two-way, all-day service, cheaper to operate than one-way commuter service.

        Almost all buses have to deadhead at the beginning and/or end of the route.

        …but express buses have to do it every trip, while local buses have to do it once each at the beginning and end of the service day.

        Express buses deadheading in the reverse peak direction and then traveling in HOV lanes are far more efficient than buses in stop and go traffic serving 1/4 mile stop spacing.

        That’s only true if you are looking at dollars per mile. If you’re looking at dollars per rider, it’s the reverse.

        Finally, if you look at the Metro route performance numbers the EX buses are pretty much the same a any other bus serving the same area.

        …despite the fact that they are running only in the peak, when ridership is highest, and you’re comparing them with local buses that run during the midday and at night (I know weekends are tracked separately). Not only that, expresses typically cherry-pick the corridors with the very highest ridership, so even their peak ridership is higher than the equivalent locals.

        If the number of platform hours/miles required to run express service was similar to local service, productivity on the express routes would be vastly higher than it is on the locals.

      • Bernie says

        Almost all ST routes are two-way, all-day service,

        Yeah right, Federal Way, Issaquah, Everett, strong all day bidirectional service. Reality check. Other than the 550 almost none of the routes are bidirectional demand. It’s true that most are in service the reverse peak direction; contradicting your own statement that they have to deadhead multiple times. Of course they serve peak and in the case of ST “cherry pick” routes. Serving real demand rather than dragging around an artic with three people in it midday is why they are efficient. Again, back to reality; the actual cost of running our express service isn’t out of line with the rest of the transit system.

      • David L says

        Bernie, you’re still conflating the bulk of ST Express, which is two-way all-day service, with commuter express service like the 152/158/159 or the 567.

        Even if one direction has weak demand (which, incidentally, is not true of the 510/511 or most of the 554), all-day express service is still cheaper to operate per trip or per in-service hour/mile than comparable one-way commuter service. It is also likely cheaper per passenger at peak times when ridership is comparable. It spends much less time deadheading and doesn’t demand a bunch of extra equipment and drivers used only during the times when all the other equipment is also in use.

        Nevertheless, long-distance express service remains more expensive per passenger than high-volume local service, even if it’s all-day. Look at cost per rider metrics on (for example) the 550 and the 3/4 and you will see that. I think it’s completely reasonable to charge a higher fare to carry a passenger 15 miles than half a mile.

      • mic says

        I love how intercity commenters love to use miles per anything when bashing the suburban metrics.
        OMG, 15 mile trips to Seattle, taking …. 30 minutes.
        How is that any different than 30 minutes on the 70 from the U-dist, or 30 minutes on the 2 from Madrona? (don’t count the deadhead) It’s not. Buses are charged by the hour. drivers by the hour. Most maintenance scheduled by hours. About the only thing by the mile is fuel.
        Why should a bus from Kent, costing the system 1 hour, or $125, charge a premium over the same bus in the city, taking an hour?

      • David L says

        Mic, very few passengers are staying on the 3/4 for an hour, and only the very shortest commuter trips last as little as half an hour. The 159 (which we’re discussing here) takes almost exactly an hour from 2nd/Pike to Lake Meridian, and an hour and a half to Timberlane.

        In that same peak hour and a half (not counting deadheading) during which the 159 carried 45 passengers on a good day, a 3/4 (which is not deadheading at all) probably carried 150 passengers.

      • Bernie says

        completely reasonable to charge a higher fare to carry a passenger 15 miles than half a mile.

        And we do; up to 55% more. Perhaps ST should charge more for it’s extra long routes but in the spirit of fare simplification they decided on the 1 vs multi-county structure. It’s the same with KC Metro local buses. If your only riding 15 minutes you end up paying Metro the same fare as if you transfer 3 times and are on the bus for an hour. Bottom line is that taken as a whole our express commuter buses serve a high demand and because they don’t spend most of their time starting and stopping they aren’t much different than local service. The cases you’re trying to isolate are just as prevalent, if not more so, with local service. To be fair across the board buses would have to charge like taxis or airlines and that’s just not practical.

      • asdf says

        “OMG, 15 mile trips to Seattle, taking …. 30 minutes.
        How is that any different than 30 minutes on the 70 from the U-dist, or 30 minutes on the 2 from Madrona?”

        It’s the single-direction nature of the trip, combined with the mileage that makes it expensive. Simply put, when a bus is operating all day, both directions, it only has to deadhead once at the beginning and end of the day. But for single-direction-peak-only routes, after every service trip, the bus has two choices – it can either deadhead back to the start point, or it can deadhead back to base, with another bus deadheading from the base to handle the next trip. Either way, the bus has to operate at least as many deadhead miles as passenger miles. Since they cost essentially just as much, this makes the productivity of a single-direction-peak-only route half as efficient as the passenger load would indicate. In other words, a full bus that is put into service just for the peak and only in the peak direction is no more efficient than a half-full bus which operates all-day in both directions.

        Because the 70 to the U-district operates all day in both directions, it does not suffer the ineffiencies of the 152/158/159 routes. Even single-direction-peak-only routes that operate shorter distances, for example the 76, are still more efficient than this because for shorter routes, most of the running time is not spent moving, but loading passengers on and off the bus – by deadheading, you avoid this and also allow the bus to take a faster route in the deadhead direction than in its service direction. Longer express routes, however, are already taking the fastest possible route when in-service and longer freeway stretches combined with few stops means the moving, not the stopping comprises most of the time – so the deadhead direction is only marginally cheaper than the service direction – maybe even more expensive than the service direction when you consider that the service direction at least pays for some of the costs with fares.

    • Mike Orr says

      “Are we now marketing a quick trip from Lakewood to Microsoft HQ, with only a few stops along the way? Talk about the mother of all sprawl routes.”

      Lakewood – Microsoft will still be a 2+ hour trip, which nobody will consider quick or convenient. It’s also the least likely trip. Shorter trips are more likey: Auburn – Microsoft, Puyallup – downtown Bellevue. Also the opposite commute, Bellevue – Auburn for industrial jobs. What this route does is leverage Sounder for destinations on the Eastside, which is nowhere near a Sounder station. It “extends” Sounder in the way a Lynnwood-Everett shuttle or Des Moines-Tacoma shuttle would extend Link. It’s also akin to BART buses that go from the termini to further destinations. That’s a relatively cheap way to extend the usefulness of rail lines.

      As to whether it’s better to bypass Renton or not, I don’t know so I’ll defer to ST’s judgment. As others have noted, Renton won’t completely lose Kent – Renton – Bellevue express service.

      • asdf says

        I used to ride 566->560 to get from Redmond to the airport and I can tell you that the streets of Renton are a mess. There are tons of stoplights with very long waits, plus a long line of cars to get back on the freeway again at the end. It is literally impossible to make a single stop in Renton, under the current street network, without delaying the bus a minimum 10-15 minutes over the alternative of staying on the freeway.

        And nothing short a massive investment, which has zero chance of ever happening (e.g. dedicated bus lanes and TSP throughout the entirety of Renton) will ever change this.

      • asdf says

        I should also not that while this restructure will make the 566->560 route to the airport more difficult, I don’t think I would miss it. The past several years, I’ve used 545->Link instead. Even though it takes a little longer on paper, the high frequency of both routes makes it a lot more reliable. The last time I ever tried the 566->560 route, I came really close to getting stuck in Renton and having to call a cab to avoid missing my plane. I never went that way again.

  5. Bellinghammer says

    Serving Renton well is an admirable but elusive goal, and I wish there were a way to get in and out of Renton TC in a reasonable amount of time. On any express route for which Renton is a midpoint, any deviation off of SR167 or I-405 is a huge waste of time. The local street grid in Renton (Grady, Rainier, etc) is a disaster of land-use planning, worse than I’ve seen anywhere else in Puget Sound. ST is doing the sensible thing by letting the majority of current peak-hour riders bypass that slog. The 560 will have to pick up any peak slack between RTC, the Landing, Kennydale, Newport Hills, and BTC…and the 566 will still be there off-peak.

    • mic says

      So is the joke on Renton? When the downtown Transit Center was being kicked around, and ST was looking for projects around the region to spread the wealth, the buzz word was downtown revitalization. Park and rides = bad.
      TC’s = good.
      I’m sure glad Renton is ‘ahead of the curve’

      • Brent says

        Renton has an all-day super-express to Seattle, that fizzles out to emptiness over the course of the day, or bubbles up from emptiness, depending on the direction. It has an express to the airport. It has two express routes to Bellevue. It has an express to Kent with pathetically low ridership. (You want productivity, mic?)

        The transit center is surrounded by parking garages.

        If Renton had done more to improve transit lane priority and signalization, more riders might be willing to put up with slogging through Renton. As it is, job centers are just not opting to be built in downtown Renton.

  6. Stephen F says

    As a former Kentian/Covington kid, I have been asking to have these services axed. Ridership on all the expresses (except 5am stuff) is abysmal. Local expresses to Kent Station would be much better and utilising exising Federal Way/I-5 services than the current express routes. The 166 serves as a great link to RR-B, KDM P&R, and Kent Station. The service hours on this route should be increased. A frequent 166 or walk + RR-B + Link isn’t that bad from KDM. KDM shouldn’t be sticking point West Hill, Kent, or East Hill. But please, for the love of God, get rid the Seattle – suburban Kent expresses, they are horrendous.

      • Brent says

        Yes! The future Benson-RBS RapidRide would serve the largest non-mall job site in the valley — Valley Medical Center — which the neighborhood-to-Seattle expresses do not. It would also give Rainier Valley residents a quick option to get to this job center. Invest in this route. Stat!

        As a side note, Metro confuses transit centers with final destinations. The 140 misses Valley Medical Center by, what, a mile? For all Metro can tell without looking at the ORCA data, those riders going to Renton and transfering to the 169 were headed to jobs in downtown Renton. Take a walk around downtown Renton and tell me where those jobs are.

        Out of curiosity, what would it take to have the 566 make a stop each way at Valley Medical?

      • David L says

        The 161, one of the four redundant East Hill commuter routes, does hit VMC.

        It would be hard to get the 566 to MVC without either a major capital project or major delay for the bulk of the riders. Northbound, it could serve a freeway station at the S 180th/SW 43rd exit, but to do so it would lose use of the HOV lanes on 167 for several often-congested miles. Southbound is even more difficult. You would have to do some kind of long loop, because the corresponding 167 exit/entrance is at SW 41st, which doesn’t cross the freeway. I think it’s a better option just to get people to VMC from Kent on the 169.

      • mic says

        Exactly 4 times a day in the morning.
        Hospital shifts don’t work that way, nor do visiting hours.
        Most everyone else arrives by ambulance or car.

      • Mike Orr says

        Bailo and the urbists agree on something! In other news, lightning struck Mt Rainier twice, flying pigs were spotted in a farm in Skagit County, and scientists have discovered that the moon really is made of green cheese.

      • Stephen F says

        Agreed with Bailo, but skip VMC. Provide secondary feeder for VMC instead. The deviation is huge. An hour from Kent to Renton is fully unacceptable. Nobody takes the 169 unless they absolutely have to. Sigh. That whole area is awfully hard to adequately serve. Maybe just burn it all?

      • Ses says

        Well first off, the 169 needs an increase in capacity or more frequency, Its packed full almost all day long with barely any standing room during some periods of the day. I live up on Benson and usually the only reason i take the 169 is to catch the 140 to Southcenter or Tukwilla Station since the 155(Benson-Southcenter) is such a fail of a bus with service till 6 PM and hourly service. The 169 takes you no where(Renton Transit Center is not a destination) and it should continue on to the landing and eventually rainer beach station. It takes like 25-35 minutes to get up the hill to Benson from the transit center, when it only takes 7-10 minutes by car. The 169 needs the 120 treatment or BRT real soon. RR H? ;)

      • David L says

        The 169 is the single corridor in the south end that needs help the worst. It’s beyond odd that both the 140 and the 164/168 common corridor were upgraded to 15-minute service before the 169. The 169, whether extended to RBS or not, would make a well-used RapidRide route on the very first day.

      • Stephen F says

        David, it’s not very odd for the 164/168, the 140 is, however. East Hill through just before Meridian and GRCC have great ridership. Yes, the 169 needs a massive overhaul. But, the 140 is the outlyer here. It’s going to receive miserable ridership for the investment. It should have never been a candidate for RapidRide. It will “rapid” worse than RR-D and is a bus to nowhere. I can’t tell if the Landing is still going to be incorporated or not, but that’s likely to be the best generator of traffic aside from Burien to Link.

  7. asdf says

    Casual observation has suggested that ridership the Bellevue->Overlake segment is not great during the peak and nearly zero off-peak. This route also duplicates Microsoft shuttles which run from OTC to Bravern and OTC to Lincoln Square every 20 minutes, all day.

    Between the Microsoft shuttles, the RapidRide B-line, and unpredictable traffic on 520 leading to all sorts of random delays for anyone getting on the bus in Bellevue to go south, perhaps the Bellevue->Redmond segment should just be eliminated entirely to save money. The savings could be re-invested to fund additional trips on the remaining portion of the route.

    • David L says

      The original 565 started and ended in Bellevue. At the time, that was a poor solution just because it was inefficient — at hourly frequency, it resulted in 50-minute layovers on the Bellevue end. Thus the Overlake extension was almost free. Since then, with all the restructures, I don’t know whether you could save money by cutting the Overlake segment or not. As you point out, it would certainly not hurt reliability.

      • Stephen F says

        As a former rider of the 566, there would be no value in cutting the segment. That portion drives 1/3 to 1/2 of the traffic. It would be better to delete Bellevue-RedTC section of the 232 and extend the 566 to RedTC to get better all-day ridership. It would be a RR-B Express + regional route.

      • asdf says

        But assuming most of the riders of the Bellevue TC->Overlake TC segment are Microsoft employees, they would still have the Microsoft shuttle available while, midday, runs more frequently than the 566 anyway. During the peak, I agree that there is enough demand to keep this segment alive, although maybe every 15 minutes, rather than every 7.5 minutes. Off-peak, though, I think the MS shuttles, combined with the B-line would be good enough.

        In any case, the 566 does not and has never extended to Redmond TC, so riders from there would need to transfer to get to Bellevue TC regardless, unless they happen to be traveling while the 232 is running.

    • asdf says

      With peak-period trips every 7.5 minutes and midday trips every 30 minutes, I don’t see how cutting the Overlake tail couldn’t save money. A round trip from Bellevue TC to Overlake TC and back easily takes 30 minutes, more if you allow extra time for congestion on 520.

      The Overlake tail of the 566 made sense when the B-line didn’t exist and Microsoft’s Bellevue shuttles didn’t exist because Microsoft’s Bellevue buildings didn’t exist. And in another 10 years, EastLink is going to make the 566′s Overlake->Bellevue segment even more redundant.

      I vote we just get rid of it now, except maybe a few select trips during the peak, and use the money saved to improve service in other ways. For instance, we could run the remaining portion of the 566 more frequently or add extra trips on the 545 to alleviate overcrowding. We could even restore some of the 2010 service cuts to the 554.

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