by mujalifah, STB Flickr Poll
by mujalifah, STB Flickr Pool

If the list version of the Southeast Seattle and Southwest King County Link-related service changes wasn’t helping you visualize what was happening, I’ve obtained .pdf route maps of both SE Seattle and SW KC.

Tuesday is the deadline for your last chance to comment on these changes before Metro starts making timetables.  You can comment in person, or by email or phone.

Thanks to Rochelle Ogershock and Jack Latteman from Metro.


In related news, Dick Burkhart, transit activist and representative of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, criticizes the plan for reducing connectivity of Seward Park to light rail, and generally doing a pretty poor job of connecting people to the train instead of downtown.

I’m actually sympathetic to Burkhart’s points; longtime readers might recall my August proposal to nuke the whole system and replace it with circulator routes.  However, Metro resources are far from infinite, and as I predicted then, such a radical change to the status quo would create a torrent of negative comments.  Even cuts to express bus service to downtown — the most obviously replaced by rail — provoked a firestorm of protest.

Part of this is due to an instinctive and well-earned distrust of authority in the Rainier Valley.  To make matters worse, Sound Transit took so long to even announce options for their fare structure that the early rounds of comment were polluted by a fear that the train would cost radically more than the bus, although that turned out to generally not be the case.

Furthermore, after to talking to some of the Metro planning staff, it’s an article of faith in some quarters there that “circulators don’t work.”

The text of Burkhardt’s letter is after the jump.  I’ve posted a specific reaction to some of the points afterwards.  Again, I agree with him in spirit but don’t think the service hours are there to fit his vision.  Taking those hours from elsewhere in the Southeast is, for now, politically impossible.


“While many of the latest SE proposed bus route changes make a lot of sense, some represent a loss over current service. There is also a major loss of potential light rail riders.

The prime example is the route 39, which would have significantly less service when it actually needs much more. Instead of 30 minute service for most of the day it would have only 45 minute service except during rush hour. This is a huge problem because it will provide the only east-west service to the Columbia City Station and the only service to the east of the Othello Station.The previously proposed route 50 should be re-instated, as this extends the 39 route to West Seattle, instead of downtown, with much more frequent service. The VA hospital should be asked to assist visitors  to get to and from the adjacent stops for the more frequent and reliable bus 36, instead of caving in to their demand for the only slightly closer bus 39 stops.

The area east of MLK into Seward Park is where there are potential ridership gains from a non-transit dependent population that would like to take the light rail. This is because taking light rail to downtown from either the Othello or Columbia City Stations is faster, more reliable, and more comfortable, even with bus transfers, than their current bus service. However with poor bus service and no station area parking, most will probably stick to their cars.

Our goal needs to be to better transit service to a much broader segment of the population, to dramatically lower car travel, especially when oil prices skyrocket again and we get serious about climate disruption.In particular this means 15 minute bus service, east-west as well as north-south, to all the light rail stations; plus much better coverage off the main north-south corridors.

In addition, a major fraction of bus 7 riders, who are the majority of southeast riders, may rarely use the light rail simply because of poor access, especially to the Othello and Columbia City Stations.This is a big loss of potential light rail riders – a loss both to them and to system efficiency.

In summary, the latest proposal is a backward looking plan, focused mostly on current bus routes and riders, not on creating a new system revolving around the light rail stations and their adjacent commercial districts.

While not unreasonable given established habits and given the resource constraints imposed by the major diversion of service hours to the South Lake Union Streetcar, it fails as a forward looking proposal, one designed to get dramatically more people onto the light rail and out of their cars over the next decade.”

Dick Burkhart (representing theRainier Valley Chamber of Commerce in this matter, also working with theOthello Station Area Community Advisory Team, Sustainable South Seattle, and theSierra Club Transportation Commitee)


Martin here again: in specific reference to Mr. Burkhard’s point about 15 minute service, that’s already in the plan for peak hours.  The sole exception is the 39 at Columbia City Station (East-West), and that can be seen as the direct result of the community’s desire to maintain the peak-hour 34 express instead.

When the 194 goes away in February, and thus frees up more hours, that will likely go to the 8 (providing N/S connections at 15 min through the day) and getting the 39 back to half-hour headways.

He’s absolutely right that the VA should figure out a way to get their patients over to Beacon Avenue and take the 36.

20 Replies to “Metro Service Change, Maps and Commentary”

    1. Route 578 is a Sound Transit Regional Express route, starting in a small way in June with one early evening trip. This route is intended to be a “shadow service” to Sounder Commuter Rail, which means it would operate at times when Sounder doesn’t. The routing between downtown Seattle and Federal Way Transit Center will be identical with existing Route 577, but the 578 will also serve Auburn Station, Sumner Station, and Puyallup Station. In June, it is operating an evening trip at 6:50 p.m., after the last Sounder departure at 6:15 p.m. In February 2010, the proposal going to the ST Board would expand Route 578 to hourly service during midday hours and be scheduled in tandem with Route 577. On weekends and during evening hours, plus peak hours, Route 577 would operate. Thus, Auburn will have weekday express service to/from downtown Seattle by way of Sounder and Route 578 until about 7 p.m.

      1. Honestly – we HAVE trains already, why not run them hourly or every two hours 0500-2300 with the current more intensive service during the morning and evening rush? Can we please look at the SF Peninsula rail service as an example of what “progressive” Pugetopolis ought to be doing?

      2. One huge difference between the Sounder lines and Caltrain is the corridors Sounder is on have a substantial amount of freight traffic. I think the Caltrain line sees only 1 or 2 local freight trains per day.

        Improvements to the corridor can increase the capacity for both Sounder and Amtrak but those tend to be fairly expensive as the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

      3. Great, the Sounder shadow should build ridership for the midday service to eventually justify running those extra trains.

  1. And I just love how ST completely ignores that there is a demand for weekend express service in the valley.

    The 564/565 have been sitting with M-F service since they started operating. Its time for their replacement (the 566) to run at least on Saturdays.

    Also, what exactly are they going to buy for Metro to operate? We already know that NFI 40ft coaches are a no-go. Methinks the “delay” in implementation is hung up on this question, since the holy (to ST) Gillig Phantom is no longer produced.

    1. At least it’s not those d*** MCIs. Takes about 10 minutes to load me and another 10 minutes to unload me!

    2. Well I don’t see why ST doesn’t either get the same models of LF coaches that have been bought for the ST service operated by PT or CT. There are also newer Gillig models ST might consider. Supposedly the current LF Gillig coaches are a direct evolution of the Phantom.

      1. I did neglect to mention that Gillig is fairly open to what I would call bespoke orders if the price is right. That requires creative grantwriting however, and considering how badly ST butchered their 9100 series order, I don’t hold out much hope.

        Maybe ST will go with the Gillig LF Suburban. Their LF is a quality product that seats something close to their Phantom model.

        ST says on their website that they won’t buy NFI 40ft coaches because they only seat like 35 passengers. After the PT piggyback order, they discovered that they weren’t appropriate.

        The gates are wide open, ST could go with just about anybody. If Daimler comes in with a suburban Orion 7 to the APTA show, you might see an order for the first Orions in Washington State since 1994. Conversely, you could see ST ordering NABI coaches. NABI has a parts office in Fife, WA (I wonder why), so they can say they’re a firm with a local presence. There’s also Millenium Transit Services who build (barely) something known to most as the RTS. I don’t think they’re planning to come to the APTA conference though.

        So to those of you who are like “Ack, I don’t care as long as it has round wheels and a seat for me” I apologize for being so long-winded about it.

        To those who are like “How dare you butcher ST’s reputation so brazenly, this is a blog to support transit, not knock it down” I say to them, tell your ST buddies to be a little more pro-user rather than “yay, I’ve got a comfy government job”. Also, to recognize the hard work of those who work for the agencies to which ST contracts, like Metro, CT, and Pierce Transit.

    3. I think ST prefers high floor coaches for their freeway express service because they have less interior noise and more space for seats but by that criteria I recommend ST getting double-deck buses like CT’s using for their commuter service. Those double-talls are excellent high-capacity and comfortable coaches with similar capacity to artics but with more seats.

      The only thing I like about the MCIs is the very low noise level because the thing’s so darn high above the pavement.

      1. I seem to recall something about ST buying some double-deckers (I would NEVER refer to them as “double talls” Uch Joyce, who came up with that stupid brand?) as options on the CT order being delivered in 2010.

  2. Hello from Australia, where Seattle’s travails have my detailed attention. See my response to this post at

  3. Crosstown routes over circulators any day of the week. Remove the diesel hybrid express 7s and keep the all-electric 7s to provide local access up and down the corridor and access to downtown in the event of a Link failure (broken switch, suicide, snapped wire, derailed car, stuff like that will happen). Circulators just make any Link failure even more catastrophic.

  4. I’m having trouble finding somewhere to put what may seem like a rant, so I figured this would be as good a spot as any…

    Central LINK isn’t really going to be “picking up the masses” as ST seems to think. I think most of the transit-dependent population is going to be riding the existing bus service until February 2010, and when ST sees their ridership is so poor, they’ll ask themselves why. When they find out its because of their fare structure, you might see some changes implemented.

    I know that probably 90% of the people on this board would fit into the “upper middle class” or white collar echelon, but trust me as one who is with the lower classes, they (the have-nots) will avoid LINK like the plague.

    The only reason I’ll ride LINK is for the amusement of something I’ve not ridden before. Otherwise I would find the bus more comfortable. Sit in one of those barely cushioned aluminum OTACO seats and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

    Its funny how little decisions can make or break a transit system. And lets hope that ST staff can come up with a good excuse for why LINK isn’t bringing in more than 15,000 riders a day.

    1. LINK will start picking up the Masses, if you call those who work at the Airport “masses” when the price of gasoline goes back up which it will. And as those who work at the airport or other locations along the line, move to places where they can walk to a LINK station. It’s going to take a while though for this to happen.

      The other group of Masses is going to be conventioneers who ride into downtown from the airport.

      As for riding for the novelty of it, I’ll be there. I used to take the kids on a “transportation holiday” and ride a bus downtown, the monorail over to the center, walk down the hill catch the street car to a ferry, over and back, then street car back to the bus and home. Makes for a nice long day but with plenty of places to either picnic or lunch stop. And all for far less money than the Disney ride equivalent. So adding a LINK section to the ride should be pretty easy.

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