Oran, via Flickr
Oran, via Flickr

As mentioned briefly Friday, and covered extensively in the past, Metro is extensively revising bus service in Southeast Seattle in response to the arrival of Link Light Rail.  The main rounds of public comment are finished; the final staff proposal will be presented Tuesday, April 28, at 6:30pm in Room 1001 of the King County Courthouse to two King County Committees.  The citizen sounding board for this project will also present their recommendation, and of course the hearing will be open for public comments as well.  You can see the staff recommendation online, and the meeting will be on King County TV.  There are absentee ways to comment as well.

There will be two rounds of changes: the first, in September 2009, will eliminate several routes, scale back others, and use the savings to fund other improvements and help Metro assume responsibility for the South Lake Union Streetcar.   In February 2010, the completion of Airport Link will allow elimination of Route 194; half of these service hours “belong” to the Seattle subarea and will be repurposed to improve service there, as listed on the chart.

The Southwest King County proposals, on which I have much less to say, are available here.

Here are some reasons for the more interesting changes, both from current service and some of the earlier proposals.

  • Route 8 will cover local service on MLK, rather than the 48, both because the 8 will be more reliable when running South along MLK, and to try to mitigate the 48’s legendary unreliability.  Also, for UW-bound riders from the Rainier Valley, boarding Link and transferring to the 71/72/73 will actually be faster than the straight shot up 23rd Ave.
  • Although Route 39 service (downtown-Seward Park) might have been replaced by the 50 to West Seattle, this would have cost a lot of service hours and ran afoul of a series of negative comments from VA Hospital patients and staff.
  • Moving the 106 off of I-5 and on to Airport Way is thought to both improve reliability and open up new connections to jobs in Sodo.
  • The 107 is moving far inland from Lake Washington (where ridership was poor) to cover the 51st Ave S corridor, previously served by the 42.  At that distance from downtown the time savings of Link over buses will be profound.

Of course, the Council is free to ignore the staff’s recommendation.

27 Replies to “Southeast Seattle Service Changes”

    1. I don’t think that’s it. It’s to reduce redundancy, since redundancy is expensive especially if rail service is far more frequent than bus service.

      If anything, it’s to reduce the excess capacity that will be present on the bus side.

    2. No, Sound Transit said that years ago when the alignment was being planned, stating quite clearly that they would (or, rather, KC Metro) eliminate redundant service and that a good portion of ridership would be cribbed from those cut routes.

      It’s idiotic to think that light rail ridership magically manifests and is not an upgrade of various corridors taking riders from existing and redundant bus routes in addition to choice riders. Even more idiotic is looking at these changes and seeing nothing good, which there is plenty of.

      1. Ginning up ridership would be the case if a well used route that is time and money efficient gets cut and replaced with a transfer route to take Link. I’m sure some people will feel that way when Link adds 5-10 minutes to their trip. But, if the longer commute is more cost effective then I don’t see it as ginning up ridership numbers.

        Eastside and other outlying areas have long had to rely on going downtown first and then taking a bus back out to a final destination. I’m going to assume (hope) that ridership into downtown is going to be considerably higher as Link segments phase in. A significant number of riders won’t have downtown as their final destination. That should increase ridership on routes leaving downtown in the AM and going into town in the PM balancing capacity better than at present. So even with routes supplanted by Link overall bus ridership could increase.

    3. If they were cutting routes to gin up ridership numbers for LINK Sam, they would not even have any other bus on MLK Jr. Way. The 8 is covering the local stops, as remember, LINK stations are spaced at least a mile apart. I would like to have seen the 50 brought back, it was a bad move on Metro’s part in 2000 to cut the route. Crosstown routes need to be enhanced, and we will need fewer bus routes going into Downtown.

  1. I’m excited about Route 8, it’s a great bus north of Yesler, just infrequent. These upgrades fix that.

    1. I love the #8. It took 30 years to get a line running down MLK. I can’t comment on the part that will be added to replace portions of the 48, although it looks good. Having it run more often is great, too.

      Many people have been making many comments on the #8 on other blogs from the perspective of the little area that they use it on. People suggest that it is useless, parts should be replaced with a streetcar, etc., etc. I have been fighting blog wars to ask people to not monkey around with what is already in place.

      Bottom line is the #8 is one of the most used Metro routes. It goes on a cross town route that connects the growing SLU area with east (and now southeast) Seattle — all areas not served otherwise. Now it will connect people to light rail and run longer. I see this as building improvements on success.

      1. My only gripe about the 8 (I ride it from McClellan & MLK to SLU) is the little detour it takes up Jackson to 23rd, down 2 blocks to Yesler, then back to MLK. This easily adds 5 minutes to the trip.

      2. Yeah everyone gripes about that. I think it had to do with a concentration of service providers and possibly special needs. That’s a fine 5 minutes extra from my POV. Or maybe the focus on 23rd and Jackson back 10 years ago when that was the pioneering ‘new’ development. That’s changed.

  2. I have a comment about West Seattle’s reduced connectivity to the outside world, AGAIN. The #128 which is the only route with direct service from West Seattle to the Southcenter mall area is now routed to the Tukwila Station. Exactly what does that help us get to? It looks like we will have to bus to the Station, disembark and wait for the shuttle service (the re-routed #140) to arrive and then get to the mall area. The #140 only runs every 30 minutes, so if the connection is missed, it could be a long wait.

    Oh, or we could ride the bus downtown first, that’ll be FUN when the viaduct comes down, then go BACK south to Tukwila. OR, WAIT, I could now DRIVE as that is the easiest way to do it. Anyone got any other bus route options to get from West Seattle to a major shopping destination?

    1. You can always go shop downtown?

      For me to get to Tukwila after the change, I’d have to take the 48 or 8 to Mt. Baker Station, Link to Tukwila and then transfer over, and I live in the Central District.

      Of course, I could always shop downtown. The number 2 takes 20 minutes to get there, and I live in the mid-20s East, just off MLK.

      So no, West Seattle isn’t the only place getting hosed by Metro.

    2. The proposal for the 128 just says “Revise routing to serve the Tukwila International Boulevard light rail station.” Maybe I’m missing something, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate that service to Southcenter won’t be maintained – they’re usually pretty specific about streets that won’t be served after a change.. So you’ll just gain a link to the light rail, which seems like a good thing.

    1. The CSB is a screened set of volunteers from Southeast Seattle that have spent time analyzing public comments and discussing the tradeoffs involved. Their recommendation is not final and public until the 28th.

      1. So they analyze public comment from where? Is there a contact person or method? How do they work with METRO?

      2. If you’re an actual bus rider, there were survey takers that showed up early in the year that polled regular riders about existing bus service. There were also a few public meetings, from what I gather.

      3. There were two tabloids sent out to every neighborhood in the affected area with an enclosed survey, numerous announcements on the Metro website (echoed here), multiple open houses, specific outreach attempts to local institutions and non-English-speaking groups, etc.

        People could respond by mailing the survey, doing it online, filling in a comment form at an open house, or calling a phone number.

        Metro collected the data with the Sounding Board.

  3. Aha! THANKS for the information! For some reason it just wasn’t clear to me that route #128 wasn’t going to terminate at the Station. And yes, I prefer to shop downtown, but downtown doesn’t have some stores that I sometimes need to go to. For light rail access, I’ll start downtown.

  4. The changes in the 48 are problematic for a number of reasons.

    1. There are currently 6 routes per hour (per direction) going down MLK (4 on the 48 and 2 on the 42). The 8 is expected to run every 15 minutes, thus reducing the number of trips by two.

    2. While light rail is convenient, the stops are far apart. Riders along MLK and not at a light rail stop will either:
    A. Get on a bus, get on light rail, get on another bus
    B. Get on a bus and then transfer at McClellan

    3. Garfield High School students – What happens to them? There are HUNDREDS of students who currently get on the 48 in the mornings and afternoons. Ending the 48 at McClellan is going to create a huge bottleneck:
    A. In the mornings at McClellan
    B. In the afternoons at both Garfield (where it already is) and at McClellan again

    4. The expectation here is that people will use Light Rail, but let’s not forget that the fair is per mile. It will be cheaper for people to continue to use Metro. Forcing people into the higher cost option is unacceptable.

    5. While light rail is great, people who live between stations have to wait for a bus (up to 15 minutes) and then get to the train from there. Any time savings made by being on light rail are lost by the transfer. Remember the light rail will run less than every ten minutes during peak hours, but at every 15 during non-peak. So if a person has to wait ten minutes for the 8 and then another ten minutes for the train, is there really a time savings? Especially for those going to the UDistrict who would then have to transfer again downtown?

    Yes, the 48 is a notoriously long and bad route, but it serves my family (carless) at least four times per day. One some days, that is as many as 10. We’d have to add significant times to our day for travel, thanks to new light rail coming to town.

    1. pds,

      I’m actually pretty sympathetic to your position, but let me play devil’s advocate:

      3. The 8 still gets you within about 3.5 blocks of Garfield, for kids who really don’t want to transfer. It’s also a less crowded and more reliable bus.

      4. The fare differential is not as clear-cut as you imply. For peak-hour full fares, Link is actually cheaper.

      5. In the off-peak, where the 48 takes about 45 minutes to the UW, you’re right that the time savings of going downtown will evaporate. Then, you’re looking at one additional transfer at McClellan. On-peak, however, the 48 takes well over an hour, and the train will run every 7-8 minutes. From Rainier Beach, Link+71/72/73 is about 50 minutes, so a very short hop on the 8 is still probably going to be a bit faster, especially if you’re intelligent about going out roughly when the 8 is due to arrive.

      All that said, if you live on MLK, can’t walk to LINK, are not headed downtown, and tend to travel off-peak, in general your service will be worse. Unfortunately, in a zero-sum service reallocation someone’s going to lose out. Fortunately, I’ve seen some of the data and it’s not as large a number of people as I first thought.

      1. “All that said, if you live on MLK, can’t walk to LINK, are not headed downtown, and tend to travel off-peak, in general your service will be worse. Unfortunately, in a zero-sum service reallocation someone’s going to lose out. Fortunately, I’ve seen some of the data and it’s not as large a number of people as I first thought.”

        This applies to most non-commuters in the Rainier Valley. Let’s be honest, the system is built for traditional commuters, which in the Valley is simply not the majority of people. We are using public transportation to take our children to school, to buy our groceries, to visit friends and family, etc.

        I know. I’m one of them.

        And yes, people can walk to light rail. But have you ever walked more than a few blocks with groceries in your backpack and your hands? And with children? I do it at least once a week. It ain’t fun.

        Are you elderly or disabled? I met some grandparents who are horrified about the new changes, but they rely solely on public transportation. They aren’t sure what they are going to do.

        My point here is that light rail will be great for commuters. It’s going to require more transfers and time for those who rely solely on public transportation.

        But hey, the there are winners and losers in every game. It just so happens that the losers here are the people who are most dependent on public transportation and have no ability to make other choices.

      2. pds,

        I do try trudging a half mile with a toddler about once a week, so I know what you’re saying, but I think you overstate your case a little bit.

        First of all, we’ve established that about 75% of MLK is within a half-mile of a station, including tons of public housing. The rest ain’t exactly Medina. So plenty of poor and working-class people trying to get up and down MLK are going to be able to get along without a bus just fine, and in fact most of their trips will be improved.

        Second, I think you’re neglecting that all that bus service goes somewhere, and there will benefits for people on those routes. In particular, things get a lot better in Skyway. If it were really the case that commuters to downtown weren’t that important we could do some really interesting things by diverting service hours from the 7 to a circulator route, as I’ve advocated before, but I think you’d find that a pretty unpopular move.

        Finally, with all due respect to those grandparents it’s bit hysterical to imply that they have no options (“aren’t sure what they are going to do”). There will still be fairly frequent bus service along MLK, more so after February. We’re talking about another 10 minutes or so for those who lose out. It’s true that it’s another transfer, but when the transfer is to light rail it’s a low-floor vehicle that isn’t hard to board at all.

    2. “5. While light rail is great, people who live between stations have to wait for a bus (up to 15 minutes) and then get to the train from there. Any time savings made by being on light rail are lost by the transfer. ”

      Why transfer? Why not walk? The stations are a ways apart (about a mile each, right?) but that means that if you are on MLK you should never be more than 1/2 a mile from the nearest station.

      Now, admittedly this may not save a lot of time, but a half mile walk is probably faster than standing at the bus stop for 15 minutes waiting for the next bus. Or, just start walking along the bus route, and catch the bus if it happens to come along while you are walking to the Link station.

      Some people cannot walk that distance, but for those who can, it’s kind of strange to even think about taking a bus for such a short distance.

      1. litlnemo,

        The station distances are 1.1, 1.5, and 1.4 miles, so approximately 1 mile (25%) of MLK along the route is more than 1/2 mile from a station.

      2. Even so, not everyone is that far away. I just found it odd that walking wasn’t even mentioned as an option. The number of people who can’t walk to Link, hopefully, won’t be too large.

  5. Gotta love the proposed ST 578. Sounder is going so great, they’ve decided to add a bus to its route! I guess we get light rail, at least.

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