Metro Looking for Savings in Snoqualmie Valley

Snoqualmie Valley Fixed Route Service Map

Snoqualmie Valley Fixed Route Service

Metro is looking to save money on rural routes in the Snoqalmie Valley:

Residents who want to improve public transportation in the Snoqualmie Valley or have ideas about how Metro might better serve their communities are invited to attend two upcoming meetings. The meetings, which will include an opportunity to talk one-on-one with Metro staff, will help shape future transportation services in the valley. People are also invited to provide feedback about their travel needs via an online survey. The deadline for survey comments is Nov. 4.

[Meeting times and locations at end of post.]

The Snoqualmie Valley is the first of several rural areas where Metro is shaping future bus service as part of the County’s newly adopted Transit Alternative Services Plan.  The plan establishes a framework for how fixed-route bus service – along with potential alternatives to this costly service – might look like in less populated areas of the county as Metro looks for ways to get the most out of every available transit dollar. In addition to operating regularly scheduled bus service, Metro provides alternative services such as community vans, dial-a-ride transit, and ridesharing options. Other potential alternatives might include products such as community-access transportation, flexible transit services or shared taxis.

Fixed routes in the scope of this restructure include:

  • 209, an all-day local bus serving Issaquah, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend.
  • 215, an I-90 commuter express serving Issaquah, Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie and North Bend.
  • 224, a local bus serving Redmond, Duvall, Carnation and Fall City.
  • 232, a bidirectional, peak express bus connecting Bellevue, Overlake, Redmond and Duvall.
  • 311, an I-405 commuter express primarily serving Woodinville, but with some trips continuing to Duvall.

Judging by the schedules for these routes, the provided level of service is already being done with the smallest possible number of coaches, so any savings, of necessity, must come either from cuts or conversion to a cheaper form of service. None of these services attracts, or could ever attract, a particularly large number  of riders in the Snoqualmie Valley, so the goal in this area is necessarily coverage and connectivity, not high ridership; and Metro’s press release suggests they’re looking to save money, rather than make budget-neutral changes.

With that in mind, there are a few ideas which stand out based on looking at the map, after the jump.

  • Duplication of the tail of the 311 and 232. It seems like Metro could save money and maintain a good commuter connection for Duvall residents by terminating the 311 at Woodinville and arranging transfers from the 545. The tail of the 311 is, I’m told, very lightly used.
  • Shifting the 209 to serve the alignment of of the 215 on Snoqualmie Parkway, which would trade coverage of Fall City for Snoqualmie Ridge, a much larger number of people; it would also cut back the run-time, allowing, perhaps, for an couple more trips a day. Fall City would still have lifeline service from the 224, and the only attraction or employment center which would lose coverage would be Snoqualmie Falls.
  • Potentially, cut the 215 and use the money to operate more 218 trips. The I-90 corridor is very crowded out to Eastgate, but the 215 is very weak east of Issaquah. If the 209 were modified as described previously and the transfer were arranged well, this could provide a much more cost effective, but still usable two-seat ride, while slightly relieving crowding on the I-90 corridor.

Of course, any proposal to take away commuter one-seat-rides will, if experience is any guide, be met with howls of protest from not just the small number of people who are actually impacted, but from lots of other people in the area who probably don’t ride the bus, but like the fuzzy feeling of having it there. Given that the push to “right-size” Metro service comes in part from these exurban and rural areas of King County, it will be interesting to see whether support for right-sizing is still there where the rubber meets the road, as it will if Metro proposes any cuts to the commuter routes.

Metro again:

The community meetings will be held:

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Cherry Valley Elementary School
26701 Cherry Valley Road, Duvall

Tuesday, Nov. 13, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Fall City Elementary School
33314 SE 42nd Street, Fall City

I know we have some commenters knowledgeable about this. Chime in!

Comments

  1. Stephen F says

    Long distance express deadheads like the 215 really make me want to force transfers. Send them to Issaquah TC.

    • says

      All outbound 215s have a hard time point at Issaquah Transit Center that begs to be a forced transfer. This route would be an excellent test bed for Metro’s unimplemented “Connection Protection” feature, that informs drivers of connecting routes. Drivers of a truncated 215 (ideally a 40′ or 30′ coach) could wait at Issaquah for connecting routes (such as the 554, 214, and possibly the 556). I’m not sure if this saves money though since the 215 is really just an extended 214.

      One advantage of truncating the 215 at Issaquah would be the ability to cheaply add a return loop trip that serves the outlet malls, High Point Way (a little to extra service to a close hiking destination – promote it – if nobody uses it, delete the stop), downtown old issaquah, Gilman Village, etc… A looped trip like this would add connections to the highest population areas in eastern King County (Issaquah, Snoqualmie Ridge, North Bend, Snoqualmie) that also have a reasonable number of jobs.

      None of this makes the 215 a great route, this is simply about salvaging a little extra service out of a deadhead.

  2. Stephen F says

    As I’ve already been on a tirade this week for the 232 (and in the past), delete the RenTC-Bellevue portion. Productivity is only remotely acceptable in one direct any time it operates. The business park portion gets effectively 0 ridership. A few people (most I’ve ever witnessed with myself included is 5 people from RenTC + 51st and 40th stops picking riders up in the afternoon reverse-peak direction, morning reverse-peak was 2). Either force riders on the 542/545 + 566, or just extend the 566 to RenTC at peak, or extend the 566 at all hours. There’s no point to have ~0 butts in one direction. If Bellevue is serious about serving the 112th portion, reroute an existing underperforming 200 series bus that could actually provide better coverage during more hours.

    I am agnostic on what happens to the 232 between RenTC-Duvall. I’m sure it underperforms grossly, but it serves an important function for Duvall dependent riders.

    • Stephen F says

      RenTC should be RedTC…oops.

      BTW, added benefit of the 566 extension to RedTC would be an express service for Redmond riders that is suprior to the 232 and RR-B. And, the extension is almost free. I know it would drive greater ridership and revenue for the route over termination at OTC. Plus, the induced ridership of the corridor as a whole. I don’t think it would really be poaching.

      • Stephen F says

        There isn’t from what I understand, but space along 83rd could easily be accommodated, especially now that the 542 has vacated previous on-street spots. Layover space is not an issue and even if it were, City of Redmond Public Works would great right-of-way.

  3. Bellinghammer says

    Typo: surely you mean to force Woodinville transfers from the 311 to the *522*…not the 545.

    • Bruce Nourish says

      Confused. The 311 would continue to serve Woodinville to Downtown. Eastern segment would be cut.

      • says

        I’ve always thought the 311 should continue to Woodinville Duvall Rd & Avondale, drop it’s passengers there, and then deadhead back to the base/another trip but this really depends on the deadhead times from Woodinville vs. this loop. (i.e. If you’ve already driven out to Woodinville and need to go back to the base, why not take passengers to WD Rd & Avondale where they can connect to, and fill up, 232s. (Another spot for “Connection Protection”)

        My experience of driving the 311s is usually driving out to Duvall from that point with a relatively empty 60′ bus and seeing an empty deadheading 60′ foot bus, and a close to empty 232 driving back from Duvall. It all seems desperately silly.

        There is a small commercial center at the intersection I’m referring to so passengers aren’t being dropped off in the middle of “nowhere”. The only downside I see is the need for some capital improvements. Pedestrian facilities are almost non existant and you’d want some lighting and a shelter to make it safer/more comfortable. Still, you’d save a ton of money.

  4. Matt the Engineer says

    Imagine a bus system where you pay by the mile. Tap on, tap off.

    Under such a system, considering our service to Duvall wouldn’t raise my blood pressure.

    • says

      That would be ideal, along with back door readers and fare inspection, but I’d be content with a two tier system in King County that basically broke down to Local bus service in dense areas, and Commuter service.

      Confusion would be eliminated since fare placards would be either Local service ($2.50) or “Premium” (or whatever you call that tier) $3.50.

      Long distance commuter runs like the 212, 214, 218 would be the $3.50 tier while “locals” (48, 234, 235, 255, 44, all trolley routes, etc..) would be $2.50. Obviously there are many gray routes but I’ll let the planners in my fantasy world figure that out.

      • goodluck says

        “Long Distance” is a grey term. 255 is “longer distance” than 218, 212, and 214. While it may serve more intermediate riders, it takes over 3x as long as 218. Perhaps route distances and end to end travel times should be compared for an average speed. Avg speed above X = premium service.

        Although I think Matt’s idea of pay per mile is a good thought.

        Sidebar: In the tunnel, just have everyone tap the ORCA reader/buy a $2.75 ticket to $3.00 ticket. For those riding light rail, they tap off at their destination. For those on busses, there is no tapping off for fare redemption, you pay the full fare. Keeps buses moving. Put fare inspectors at the bottom of escalators if theres reason to believe people dont have valid fare payment.

    • Scott Stidell says

      Singapore does pay-by-the-km (or a close approximation with a zillion zones). It makes for very odd fares, but of course use of the smart card is ubiquitous so you never think about it. Tap on in front when you board, tap off in rear when you leave. Couldn’t be easier.

  5. djw says

    Would be sad to see the 209 not serve the falls, but I admit I only use that particular service a couple times a year for recreational purposes.

    • aw says

      If the 209 got rerouted to Snoqualmie Parkway and then continued on SR-202 through Snoqualmie to North Bend as Bruce suggested in the post, Snoqualmie Falls would be a fairly short walk from the intersection.

  6. David L says

    There is no question the 311 tail should be cut, with the 232 handling all peak service from Duvall. I think there’s enough peak demand from Duvall to make at least three 232 trips to Redmond worthwhile. (By the way, StephenF, the reverse-peak 232 trips exist only because they barely cost anything. Most of them would otherwise be deadheads between peak-direction 232 trips. The few that wouldn’t are only going a little bit out of the way from their deadhead routes to and from Bellevue Base.)

    I don’t think the 224 needs to exist at all, unless things out there have sharply changed in the last eight years. I drove its predecessor, the 929, a couple of times. There was never more than one person on the van. Productivity stats are consistent with that. We can’t serve every rural part of the county, at least not with fixed-route service.

    The 209 has a better case for existence, but I think it should be rationalized with the 215, in the same way the 143 and 907 work. Provide just enough extra time for the 215 trippers to allow them to start or end in Issaquah and drive in-service in the reverse peak direction to or from North Bend along the current 215 route (which is substantially faster than the 209 route). Run the 209 (whether along its current route or the 215 route) only in the midday when there are no 215s. By doing this, you could run the 209 with only two daily full-time runs rather than four, with no loss of frequency and only a bit of loss of coverage.

    • EB Operator says

      “I don’t think the 224 needs to exist at all, unless things out there have sharply changed in the last eight years.” Things *have* changed sharply in the last eight years. King County approved Redmond Ridge and Trilogy and now there are thousands of new residents that live in an Urban Planned Development that are served by a single route with no weekend service and weekday service that is so infrequent that few use it.

      • says

        The 224 is an enormously expensive route to run. I drew it’s predecessor, the 929, on the ATL almost every day for an entire summer. It’s a great country drive all by yourself but it’s a horribly inefficient route. Those hours would be better spent focused on connectiong Redmond Ridge to Redmond Transit center. That said, I don’t think I’d following up one mistake (King County approving Redmond Ridge) with another (funding horribly inefficient bus service to the hinterlands of the County in perpetuity)

        Truncate the 224 and focus the hours on connecting Redmond Ridge (and possibly Duvall) to Redmond and promote the hell out of that route. If it’s utilization doesn’t get better, can it.

      • David L says

        Isn’t it odd how certain routes sometimes stick with a certain operator on the ATL? As a part-timer out of Atlantic, I drove 2/1T off the ATL literally every day for a period lasting most of a shakeup.

      • Carnation Resident says

        The 224 is the _only_ MetroBus route which serves Carnation.

        I commute via bus to Seattle twice a week and sometimes more often. Cutting the _only_ bus to my town would make me cry and generally screw me royally. The 224 only runs on weekdays and only a couple of times per day at that. I can’t ride a bicycle down highway 203 to Duvall to catch a bus—I would be roadkill in a week.

      • Bernie says

        Redmond Ridge and Trilogy are nowhere near Duvall and Carnation. There’s nothing near Carnation but a large dairy farm (OK, that’s exaggerating a wee bit). Route 224 goes over Novelty Hill neatly bypassing those developments in favor of dense corridors like West Snoqualmie Valley Rd. and Big Rock Road. Half of the route is in a flood plain. The 2010 Performance Report gives the 224 the dubious distinction of being the only regular eastside route with it’s performance metrics in the bottom 25% for all categories. It truly is the biggest loser. It’s staggering that with all the “talk” about cost cutting and efficiency this route wasn’t, at the very least, converted to DART service years ago.

        FWIW, The Snoqualmie River Bike Trail stops a fair distance south of Duvall. However, that section of 203 has decent shoulders for cycling. Admittedly, it’s not something I’d brave in the dark.

      • aw says

        Bernie, the SVT goes right into downtown Duvall. It ends a little way north of Woodinville-Duvall Road.

      • Bernie says

        The ROW does but unless they’ve done a lot of work since I last rode it several years ago you can’t get past where the ox box in the river comes up almost to the highway which is about two miles south of Duvall. That area floods all the time and even the stretch south of there but before it crosses 203 was riddled with sink holes.

      • aw says

        I walked that section last year. The river is trying to take away the trail there, the trail narrowed but you could get through.

    • Aswede1013 says

      Why not run the 215 from Issaquah to the end point on it’s rout now and the 209 from Issaquah to the outlet stores on it’s rout now on a loop a loop b rotation with a 30 or 40 ft coach hourly or every hour and a half like the old 249 alternating the loop.

  7. says

    Oddly, the bus has never really been a popular method to get to Snoqualmie Falls.

    Fall City/Preston is a major trip generator for the 209. Sno Ridge does not generate much ridership, the clientele is too upper-crust.

    What the locals have in the valley is a dial-a-ride service that runs all the way to Monroe, known as the Snoqualmie Valley Dial-A-Ride, funded through tribal transportation dollars (the Snoqualmie got several benefits from becoming a federally-recognized tribe several years back, above and beyond their casino).
    http://www.poststat.net/pwp008/pub.49/issue.1136/article.4712/

    • Matt the Engineer says

      I’ve often considered how useful it would be to continue on to Snoqualmie ski resort during the winter. Then I realize how wasteful of Metro funds that would be. This applies stongly to the Falls as well.

      That said, any chance ST3 could include bringing back the ski train? I’m only mostly kidding.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        On the other hand, maybe it wouldn’t be so wasteful. Run one bus up in the morning, and two back in the afternoon, a few days per week during the ski season. Snoqualmie would certainly help promote and advertise for this service, and might even chip in to the costs. Charge more then regular fares on those routes, and this might even be revenue-positive. We’re sending the buses most of the way up there anyway.

        My parents used to spend good money sending me on a bus from near San Francisco to go skiing as a teenager. Even as an expensive, private service they managed to pack a large bus every week.

    • asdf says

      The revised 209 could still make at least one stop in Preston without adding to much time. Same with the Exit 20 Tiger Mountain Trailhead stop – I would be disappointed if that stop got cut. Only Fall City would be the big loser here – travel time to Issaquah by bus would increase from about 15 minutes to over 2 hours as you meander through Redmond and Bellvue via 224->245->554 and be a lot mess frequent to boot.

      However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that Snoqualmie Ridge has no ridership potential whatsoever. Even if everyone there has cars, realistically, the same is probably true for Fall City also – there is nowhere in the Snoqualmie Valley that has enough transit for one to seriously contemplate living without one. However, even if everyone has cars, I’m sure there are some two-adult-one-car households, for which bus service would be a nice convenience. And it would also save some parents the occasional burden of shuttling their kids around.

    • says

      To be clear, the 209 does not go to Snoqualmie Ridge, only the 215 does. If you’re saying the 215 doesn’t receive ridership because Snoqualmie Ridge is “too upper crust”, I think you are mistaken. It may be inefficient to serve the ridership that exists there because of the distances involved but there are quite a few riders out there.

    • Aswede1013 says

      “Sno Ridge does not generate much ridership, the clientele is too upper-crust”

      We still need a way to get to the Sno Ridge not just on a peak trip the police station and the library are now up there and are not served by anything other than peak service.

  8. asdf says

    I’ve traveled through the Snoqualmie Valley on the bus a few times for hiking purposes, as it provides access to destinations like Mt. Si and (if you have a bike), Rattlesnake Ledge and the Iron Horse Trail.

    So, for me, routing the 209 through Snoqualmie Ridge rather than Fall City would be great – if the travel time to North Bend could be cut from 2 1/2 hours to 2 hours, I would definitely use it more.

    One thing Metro could certainly do to make sure I almost never use it would be to cut the Saturday trips. I work on weekdays, so only the Saturday service on the 209 is of any use to me whatsoever.

    There is one tweak that Metro could make to the 209 today that should be a no-brainer, regardless of what restructuring we do. The Saturday morning trips from Issaquah to North Bend are currently mis-timed with the 554 so that the connection at Issaquah Transit Center takes 40 minutes until 11:00 when the 554 switches from hourly to half-hourly. The wait time used to be only 10 minutes, but then ST cut half the Saturday morning trips on the 554 and Metro forgot to adjust their schedules to keep the 209 timed with the 554 trips that remain.

    Another tweak that would also make the 209 service better is if the 554 could add a stop at the Newport Way shopping center. This stop would make it much easier to make a quick stop for lunch or to run into REI to buy or rent some gear I may have accidentally left at home. With the 554 almost empty as it goes by, the number of people that would be delayed by the stop would be almost zero and the amount of the delay itself would almost be almost zero.

    • says

      Are you referring to the Issaquah Commons?

      Because in my experience, while the 554 is nowhere near as full as it is past Eastgate (outside commute hours it doesn’t really pick up that many passengers at Issaquah TC), it’s hardly “almost empty” as it goes through downtown Issaquah, and having it turn down Maple St NW would be a fairly substantial change.

  9. Bernie says

    Sigh, KC Metro bus service to Snoqualmie, Preston, et al. You really expect me to vote for increased taxes because Metro has already cut to the bone and no efficiency can possibly be found? The budget needs to be scaled back to about $400k. Of course lots of important and worthwhile routes will be cut as grandstanding. Then after a year or two of reality the really important core routes will emerge.

  10. says

    It’s hard to make changes to “lifeline” service in rural areas, such as those served by the 209 and 224. Though ridership numbers typically fail all performance metrics, there are people who depend on these routes and will be very vocal about it if you try to take it away from them or make any changes. Though I don’t live in the area, I’ve been on both routes many times and would like to think I’m relatively familiar with them.

    Many many times I’ve seen comments suggesting that these routes should be run with cutaways instead of buses. Personally, I don’t think the vehicle choice will change anything beyond costs, so if Metro needs to downsize the vehicles, then so be it.

    The schedules desperately need to be simplified. Headways on the 209 range around 45-90mins, while the 224 ranges around 105-160 mins. With the 209 running 21.8 miles and the 224 running 28.1 miles, that’s easier said than done obviously. If the schedules were set at a consistent headway like every 60 minutes (if I’m being optimistic) or every 90 minutes (if I’m being more realistic), that would improve things.

    I could support the 209 being moved onto Snoqualmie Parkway, but other modifications would need to be made. The 209 would still need to serve Preston, and can do so by stopping at Preston P&R on the Exit 22 offramp. Then, the 224 would need to be extended from the current terminus at Fall City Library to Snoqualmie, terminating at the Railroad Ave/King St stop (next to Northwest Railway Museum).

    As Brian Bradford already mentioned, Snoqualmie Valley Transportation also operates through the valley, serving residents in a corridor stretching from North Bend to Monroe via Snoqualmie, Fall City, Carnation, and Duvall. Maybe Metro could work out some arrangement with SVT so that the 224 could be truncated in Duvall and a new DART route would run from Duvall to Fall City (or Snoqualmie) along the current 224 route, with a timed connection of course for simple transfers.

    • says

      The SVT service was originally started as a rural ACCESS service delivery experiment, combining a senior center shuttle with intra-valley ACCESS services. This was funded through Transit NOW. The Snoqualmie Tribe was able to get tribal transportation funds to expand the service to what it is now (where you can generally get picked up with 2-3 hours notice, particularly if you’re between snoqualmie and north bend). The service will take you as far as the Mt Si Trailhead, and I believe the truck stop a little further up the way.

      Metro’s trouble with serving the valley is that development has not followed the bus routes. Fall City north to Duvall has significantly more development than the stretch between Fall City and Snoqualmie. Likewise, the Redmond-Fall City road has been expanded such that it would be fastest to get to Seattle from Fall City by driving to Redmond.

      • asdf says

        According to Google Maps, driving from Fall City to Seattle via I-90 is 2 minutes faster than going to Redmond and avoids tolls to boot (http://goo.gl/maps/4JGE4).

        Of course, if you’re traveling by bus, these figures are irrelevant. Which route would be faster by bus has everything to with which route has a bus that deviates less, goes in a straighter line, and runs more frequently. So, with the current schedule, going through Issaquah is much better. With a different bus schedule, going through Redmond would have been much better.

      • aw says

        It really doesn’t matter what is quicker to get to Seattle. Yes, it’s possible to get to Seattle from Fall City on either the 209 or the 224. It don’t matter. From Fall City, what’s important is to get to Redmond or Issaquah or Carnation or Snoqualmie or Preston. Or Bellevue, Kirkland, North Bend or Duvall.

        Running the 224 directly from Fall City to Redmond would miss the whole point of the route. It might be quick, but there would be even less population to be served going that way.



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