click to enlarge

It took me quite a few minutes of staring at the map at right (and the schedule) to figure out the path that Route 102 actually takes.

Two things are frustrating about this kind of graphic design.  First, lumping a bunch of routes into one map makes a lot of sense from a printing-paper-schedules perspective, but not when done online.

Secondly, it’s been about two years since Community Transit — not exactly rolling in cash themselves — managed to produce exceptionally clear and attractive route maps.  In the original thread on this topic, commenter sachtu adds insult to injury by pointing out that CT contracted with King County‘s GIS deparment to produce those maps.   So it would be a matter of Metro metaphorically literally walking across the street downstairs.

127 Replies to “Unclear Metro Maps (I)”

  1. What’s even worse is that the whole system map uses the one color (dark blue) for all Metro routes. Why not at least color-code routes according to service levels, or where they go downtown? Maybe different line thicknesses as well? I know, I’m stating the obvious here.

    1. This is exactly what was proposed in this scan tour of western european system maps. The author proposes a cartographic style for systems of different size. He proses that small systems use “french” style maps. As the system becomes larger the routes should be differentiated. Metro currently uses a “classic” style which is the hardest to understand. In downtown they do use a french style map for the core routes but that is the only place. It would be good to see a focus on clearly showing the core routes before showing the peak only services.

      BTW I’m currently doing a scan tour of transit information systems in Europe for my masters project (at least 25 agencies in 11 counties are included). I initially became interested in this a few years ago precisely because Metro’s maps and schedules are so user unfriendly.

      1. Just one interesting note. Most transit systems in Europe used linemaps (ie straight lines with stop names along them). These the names act as the link to geography rather than trying to draw the routes accurately. So names like “University & NE45th” or “Campus Pkwy” are used rather than a map. Linemaps make it easily show how express routes or branching routes interact. Only a few systems (Edinburgh and Paris) attempt to make geographically accurate maps, everyone else uses linemaps.

        This is why stop names are so critical. It allows you to simply maps and rather than representing every turn you can simply list the names off.

      2. Many Euro systems use both, with the linemap the much more readily available version.

  2. Metro has not changed the look and feel of its transit maps since they began doing them in the 1970’s, when they were pasted up manually with cold type and graphic line tapes.

    And totally agree that on digital resources, each route should have its own map

    1. You nailed it Transit Guy!

      These are the same maps used by the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle in the County of William Rufus King.

      Perhaps those nice folks at Aldus could assist in a new map?

      1. He was “mapping” the company Aldus to the time period. BTW, it’s William Rufus DeVane King.

      1. Yeah that is a great example of how Metro can better integrate graphics and data they already have into communication with the public. It made the information so much more meaningful and understandable.

  3. I am going to be honest. I spent 5 minutes looking at the map and schedule and cannot tell what is going on. I do GIS for a living, and I am positive my boss would fire me for this, and just short of that take away responsibility and heavily ridicule me for this. I know metro maps are bad, but this is by far the worst I have seen. Glad I have routes memorized that I use, or I would be SOL.

    1. This is exactly been my entire point all along in this region. We (almost) have all the right pieces in place (and many are coming in the future), we just need a better job of letting people know what we have and how to move around on all transit modes.

      I live in the Mount Baker neighborhood served by so many bus lines less than a mile from my house (7, 8, 9, 14, 34, 38, 39, 42, 48) and yet few of my neighbors like taking public transportation. Mind you, I also live in an area of very well educated people. Yet when I ask why they don’t take the buses, it’s not that they don’t like buses and prefer trains, it’s because the King Country Metro website doesn’t make sense and it’s too confusing…not user friendly.

      I love mapping out trips I can take on the bus or any other transit form I can find, but these people aren’t interested in that. They want a simple, clear, understandable website and literature that they can go to and get all the information they need. Many of these people go to Portland frequently and love the nicely integrated Tri-Met site and maps available. Of course, that is one agency working for good transit for the entire Portland metro instead of multiple agencies.

      Something has to change in this region where we can have clear maps and clear schedules plus showing that transferring is easy between all modes of transit and agencies. People shouldn’t be afraid of taking transit. I wish more people could be like my friend who takes Tacoma Link to Sounder to Central Link to SLUT everyday from her condo in Tacoma to her job at Amazon. She’s from Beijing and was used to it as she used to take a bus to the subway, 2 subways lines and another bus to get to her job there. She didn’t mind it at all and we need to make Seattle people not mind doing that. They simply need the correct tools to do it. New maps would be a start.

      1. I hate trying to use the ‘trip planner’ on Metro’s site. Maybe, I just want to go from Fremont to Bellevue Square but it keeps asking me for an address. Well, maybe I don’t know the specific corner/address of my destination, but the website should be ‘smart’ enough to know what I’m asking and intuitive enough to give me the information I want.

      2. That is why I use google transit. Its much better than metro’s trip planner. For that matter it is just about the best trip planner out there.

      3. I generally agree Adam, but Google Transit does a terrible job with LINK. Between downtown and Sea-Tac it’s always trying to push me onto a now non-existent 174 or combos such as 121/180 or 122/560.

        Google Transit also seems not to incorporate Sound Transit routes that aren’t operated by Metro. So the 550 is well-represented, but if I ask it to go from Seattle to Everett, it detours me via Port Townsend and Camano Island!

      4. Yeah, any idea when/if Sound Transit will make their route data available to Google?

      5. I think that’s up to Community Transit which operates ST’s 510s & 530s to/from Snohomish County.
        However, from what I got from Google Transit, they are still not accepting new partner (same message was shown when I last checked a year ago).

      6. It does horrible with LINK because Metro can’t get its act together and provide the information to Google. Metro has been dragging its feet so much that Sound Transit is stepping in and working to get the data to google on its own even though this is something that Metro should have done the day the line opened.

      7. You can type ‘Bellevue Square’ as the destination on Metro’s trip planner. Works for me. Or ‘Space Needle’ as the form indicates as an example, my office building ‘Seattle Municipal Tower’ works as well, so does ‘Southcenter’, ‘Seattle Central Library’ and numerous other landmarks.

      8. Unfortunately, Google Maps is absolutely useless for trip planning in Seattle. Works great in SFO, reasonably OK (not great) here in Chicago but wouldn’t waste time with it in Seattle.

      9. I completely disagree. The problem with google transit is they rely on agencies providing them data. If the agency doesn’t get around to do that it can’t work.

      10. Well, if that were the case then KCMetro’s trip planner would be equally as useless. What I find is that Google doesn’t have a setting for the distance you’re willing to walk and seems to have a default of 1/2 mile which then completely excludes numerous route combinations.

        I just checked a hypothetical route from Broadway and E John to the Target in Northgate. Google said I should walk to the Convention place station. WTF?

        In downtown, you can pretty much take any bus in the DSTT or most buses along 3rd Ave but Google would have you wait a long period for a specific bus.

        So, like I said, useless.

      11. I used to walk from Broadway and E John to catch the 255 at Convention Place a lot. It’s not that bad but I hear you on the lack of options in Google’s trip planner. No choice of “less walking vs fastest trip vs fewest transfers” and no “I need accessible trip” option. Google also erroneously says that a trip from Kirkland to Bellevue is free despite never touching a RFA route.

    2. This is an unusually bad case – the schedule seems to indicate the route follows the 101’s route before taking the path in the inset, while if you look at the map, near as one could tell the 102’s western end is South Renton P&R and there’s no reason it shouldn’t have a separate map or even separate timetable. That’s a matter of basic fixing of labels – add the 102 number to the 101 labels. (Frankly, I have a hard time figuring out what the 101’s route is either, partly because the main map doesn’t seem consistent with the Renton Transit Center inset.)

      Most of the time, I don’t have a problem following Metro’s route maps, even/especially when multiple routes follow the same path. (If, say, you’re travelling north on the 66 or 67 north of Campus Parkway, or south on the 70-series routes south of 65th or so, it doesn’t matter what route you take, which is why the timetables at the stops don’t differentiate. Which reminds me, even though they have slightly different northern termini, why isn’t that the case for the 9 and 60 on Broadway?) CT would use different colors for each route, which might be visual clutter certain people don’t need – and the only thing someone reading Metro’s “University District, Downtown Seattle” timetable needs to know is that the 74 turns towards U-Village and Sand Point at 50th. (And that the 66 is a few blocks away, but that’s another matter.) (Also, the 3/4 timetable could do a better job of showing the “Night/Sunday Route” on Queen Anne Hill, but I imagine that would be difficult. And then there’s the way which way is north changes, but that’s another matter.)

      Given that Metro has individual route timetables rather than CT’s bus book, I think a map showing every cross route would look cluttered in print, especially with routes that travel a long distance and cover a lot of ground like this. Can you imagine how many potential transfer routes would need to be represented?

      That said, some Metro maps do use stuff like different line hashings to delineate different routes. 5/355, for example.

  4. It’s not even a walk across the street. King County GIS is downstairs from Metro Transit. Both are in the same building at King Street Center but they seem to be holed up in their silos.

  5. what you have to know, and every commuter for the 102 knows is that the 101 and the 102 are the same bus except that the 102 goes to Fairwood and the 100 stops at the Renton transit center..

    These use to be the same route number but finally metro realized that there is no penalty for having two route numbers so that folks in the tunnel can tell which bus is which.

    Of the Metro maps, this one isn’t as bad as the one for the 70’s (the downtown to UW map!) gad I had a hard time with that one trying to figure out which bus stops on Eastlake.

    1. Great comment. Metro has a lot of very complex service and just adds numbers whenever it feels like it. Most locals know that you can take any of the 7X from downtown to the UW but it isn’t immediately evident.

      There are two schools of thought about this. You can either create new numbers for each variation of a service or you can have the same number but have different end destinations. The first is more accurate but makes it appear that service frequency isn’t as good as it might be (If you look at just the 71 for example it doesn’t have too impressive of service). The other way can create confusions especially if the routes branch rather than follow the same routes.

      It would be nice to see Metro do a better job of bunch routes together and showing that in a map. Downtown to UW, SR-520 and I-90 buses, West Seattle and Ballard. All of these places have multiple routes that more or less have common segments.

      1. There is a paper schedule of all 70/71/72/73/74 buses between UW and downtown, but I haven’t been able to find it online anywhere.

      2. The online metro schedule fails between UW and downtown — you have to check each of the five routes individually! But onebusaway will do the right thing and give you all the 70s leaving from a given stop.

        Of course, there’s sometimes an oddball commuter bus that will get you from campus to downtown even faster. The trip planner can find these, but what a pain!

      3. The 70-series timetable is called “University District, Downtown Seattle”, and it’s not online because of how Metro’s online service works – you punch in a route number, and you get a timetable. The system is based on the route number, not the origin and destination. The service has to choose between two maps. The 70-series isn’t a single timetable in the first place because each of the 70s is associated with another route that follows them on their trip beyond the U-District (71/76, 72/79, 73/77, and 30/74), although only the 30/74 actually share a route map so there’s no reason to at least indicate the shared routing of the others beyond a single transfer point showing the routes continuing on. The 70, which doesn’t share a timetable with anyone else, also doesn’t follow the same route as the others because it’s a trolleybus, using 15th instead of The Ave and 3rd instead of the transit tunnel. It’s an awkward case – does anyone know of another case where several routes follow the same route for a distance, then split off and go their separate ways, only they each join at least one other route for the duration? How does that transit agency deal with it?

        There’s also an “Eastside” timetable of (some of) the I-90 routes (I don’t remember which ones off the top of my head, might be all of them). I’ve been meaning to pick it up sometime so I know when I’m heading to Mercer Island whether to go to 2nd Ave and catch a 554 or the tunnel for a 550. (ST’s Get Ready to Ride guide doesn’t fit as well in the pocket of my backpack where I keep my timetables.) I think there’s also another timetable listing three Eastside destinations – maybe I’m getting them mixed up?

        The only routes that cross the Ballard Bridge are the 15, 17, and 18 – the 15 and 18 share a timetable, the 17 has a completely different route (down Westlake, not 15th) unless it’s the express and the 15/18 timetable should at least “include limited service on Route 17”. (Also, both 17s use 3rd and the 15/18 use 1st.) Don’t know if Adam was talking about something else. I don’t think there’s a single timetable for the 1st/SR 99/West Seattle Bridge/Harbor Island routes, and there should. (It also always bothered me that the 7 and 9 had separate timetables before the 49 was created, but they were both huge foldouts already.)

        I notice the 102 timetable linked shows ONLY the 102 schedule, not the 101 schedule – Metro has radically separated its timetables on its web site, implying that if you know what route you want to take, you want to take ONLY that route (which is a pain given the aforementioned proliferation of route numbers). Some ways to improve this:
        *Offer timetables as PDFs, including the aforementioned named timetables.
        *Have Trip Planner generate a map with all of the suggested itineraries. Use Google Transit for this?
        *Specify an “Anytime” option on Trip Planner. This generates a timetable for all the feasible routes from point A to point B that Trip Planner finds all day long. This would also allow you to simply punch in a neighborhood, as someone else suggested.

        I’m amazed the 2, 3, and 4 aren’t two different routes each, especially with how all three routinely through-route to the 13 instead.

      4. Have you tried the Point-to-Point feature of Metro’s trip planner? That does combine schedules and works really well as long as there is no transfer involved.

      5. I did not see that on the sidebar of the Trip Planner section at first – I was looking on the top bar. And of course, I have to go TO the Trip Planner section. Great job of organizing the site, Metro.

        Also, I can’t link to a particular schedule (there’s no code in the URL) and only the start and end points are listed, not any intermediate points. And any change in the bus stops involved results in an entirely new table, meaning among other things, I can’t actually create a schedule that contains all of the 15, 18, and 17X in one table. Which is helpful if you’re waiting at a particular bus stop and want to know when to expect a bus that will get you where you’re going, but mildly frustrating when you’re trying to figure out what stop to go to. I suppose I could hand-combine them… (And what eastern point WOULD I choose for I-90, since some buses don’t stop at Mercer Island P&R and some buses get off at Bellevue Way while others go to Eastgate?)

      6. Also, it occurs to me that a West Seattle-Downtown timetable would be REALLY unwieldy. Just counting the routes that go from West Seattle Junction directly gives the 21, 22, 54, 55, almost the 116/118/119, and 773/Water Taxi. That’s if you don’t throw in the 37 and 57, which go there indirectly; the 56 and 775/Water Taxi, which also go to Alki; and the 113, 120, and 125, which all take different routes to White Center that skip the Junction, where they meet back up with the 22 and 54.

      7. I liked the way that Bellingham dealt with the system of having a bunch of routes that run together for a long while and then fan out — the part of the routes that overlap are signed as part of a different colored line (red line, blue line, yellow line, etc.), and people know that they can get relatively frequent service if they’re traveling to somewhere that’s before the end of the colored line.

    2. Why doesn’t Metro split route 5 into two different numbers? Having one go to Shoreline CC and another to Nortgate are two completely different destinations. I don’t know why Metro can’t bring back the number ‘6’ but calling ‘5’ to two different places can be confusing to newcomers.

      1. But on the flip side it does make it easier for people using it on the common section which is south of NE 105th.

      2. I drive the 5 alot, and yes this becomes a problem, when I past 105th and someone comes up a says “you missed your turn!”….and I say “did you read the sign on the front of the bus.”

        Yes, it is be confusing for some people, but it really shouldn’t be. Why is it so hard that people can’t tell the difference between “5 Shoreline” & “5 Northgate”? I even make anouncements every trip at the N 103rd bus stop. Usually I’m a Shoreline bus, so my announcement sounds like this…..”103rd & Greenwood Ave, transfer point to route 75. As you may have noticed the sign on the front of the bus says Shoreline, so we will continue north to Shoreline. If you destination is Northgate, YOU ARE ON THE WRONG BUS!” It usually works, but not always.

        I think it works fine as it is now, because if we did change the Northgate leg to the 6……it would take people the first two shakeups to realize that the 5/6 between downtown and 105th was the same.

        I always tell people that get on the wrong bus or going the wrong direction, that looking at NOT just the route number but the destination and if the bus is express or not is the most important part of riding the bus. Alot of confusion could be solved by people not just looking at the number and getting on that bus.

      3. Or perhaps they could use what I remember from when I lived in Tacoma years ago (don’t know if Pierce Transit still does this): add a letter to the end of the route number (i.e. the 5 to Northgate could be route “5A”; to Shoreline it could be “5B”).

        Of course, that may cause confusion when RapidRide goes live and we have routes actually named, “A”, “B”, “C”, etc.

      4. No, PT doesn’t really do that any more (there’s only two routes I can think of that do that: the 212/212A and 53/53A)

      5. In Tacoma, some of the suffix’s and odditys i can think of were:

        16 A/B (N 11th/N 21st)
        27A (S. 19th)
        33/34 (which shared most of a common segment From downtown along center to diffrent terminals)
        41A (Portland Avenue/Roosevelt ave)
        45A (which was an extension on pacific to Roy Y)
        46A (which stayed straight on pacific avenue and dident serve larchmont)
        49A (Old downtown-S Tacoma line with a diffrent end terminus)
        61A/B (two totally seperate routes save for some common running on 11th. Although weekends saw the 61AB where both were combined for a 2 hr long run)
        210 A/B (210A Steilacoom, 210B Washington – Combination of the current 3 and 212/214)
        400/400A (Puyallup-Tacoma via River road or stewart)
        402A (Meridian via Forest Green Blvd)
        500X (Federal Way Express)

        There were a few others for Peak Xtra service back in the ‘day too as some routes served 2 schools, and had buses leaving from each school at the same time so it got designated an “A”.

        Using one or two suffix’s is good in my opinion when the majority of two routes share the same routing. Of course, you could go way too far the other direction like Minnapolis, where for a long time many routes had five or 6 suffix’s for diffrent end terminals. A lot of that has been cleaned up over the years though.

      6. Yeah I think the big key this should only be done if a majority of the route is shared and they branch only at the very ends of the route.

      7. Or the 75, which sometimes turns into the 330 to Shoreline in Lake City rather than going on to Northgate Transit Center/Ballard and vice-versa…it’s always fun to decide downtown whether or not to catch the 41 (NTC only) and hope to meet a 75 there (or wait up to a half-hour if you miss it), or a 41 (Lake City) where the 75 is more frequent but the 41 is not.

        Last year I did a round-the-world trip in which I did not once travel in an automobile; my longest wait anywhere was on the very last leg from NTC home, waiting on that 75…. :)

      8. Whats wrong with the 75’s? That’s why people need to read the destination, along with the route number. If the bus is going from UW to Ballard it will say “Ballard via Northgate.” If the bus is one that stops at night or Sundays at NTC it will just say “Northgate.” If it will continue as a 330, it will say “75 Lake City”, if it only goes to Lake City then you know it will become the 330. The only thing better I can think of is, if the 75 becoming a 330, said “75 Shoreline CC via Lake City”, then changed to 330 at Lake City.

      9. The 75/330 thing is really weird. It’s the only route I’ve seen like that, where a bus routinely serves part of a route then switches to another route. I suppose Metro will just have to decide whether it will remain long-term, and if so give it its own route number.

        As for reading the destination signs before getting on a bus, it’s a good habit to learn but it’s not how people’s subconscious minds work when they ride buses every day. They see a number or maybe a bus just comes at the expected time, and they’re already in the door or in their seat before they realize they didn’t check the destination sign. I’ve had that happen in the U-district, where “49” looks very close to “43”, and then the bus doesn’t turn on Campus Parkway and I think, “Did the driver miss the turn or did I get on a 43?”

      10. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people ask 49 drivers in the U-District if they’re going to Ballard. *headslap* And 67 drivers routinely announce at 42nd that they’re now a 65 going through the campus and if you want to go downtown, you need to catch a 66. (No one says that you can wait for Campus Parkway, cross the street, and get on a 70-series…) It seems some people don’t even look at route numbers. (I can see if a 43 driver didn’t change the sign, but the 49 never turns into the 44!)

        I would number the entire Shoreline-Lake City-University District 75/330 trek the 330, but leave the remaining 75 trips as is. If I were to break up the 75 anywhere, it might be Northgate.

      11. The 5 is weird. The leg to Shoreline goes north of 145th St, so it shouldn’t be a one-digit number anyway, but a 3xx. It should be the 354 or 356. 350 is available too. Reserve the 5 for the Northgate leg.

        Of course, none of the other one-digit numbers even travel north of the Ship Canal.

  6. Gary may be right, but the casual user would not know that the 101 and 102 are the same, I could only infer that based upon review of the schedule and map. Should I really have to make an educated guess looking at 2 pieces of info as a casual user? I think not, this could be a lot clearer, and I think that is what we all generally agree upon here.

    1. Existing 102 riders know it’s the same as the 101; good luck getting any new 102 riders. Isn’t that what Metro is in the business of? Increasing customers? Good luck getting that in the Fairwood area…

  7. Several years ago, I was helping my boss figure out how to get somewhere on the bus. I tried to explain to him how to read the Route 233 map, but that map is even worse than the 101/102. I actually opened up the map in Paint, erased the route 232 segments, and emailed it to him. Then it was easy to understand!

    Adding the snow route lines made these maps even more difficult.

    1. That is a case where different types or colors of lines would be a big help – in fact neither route shares more than BTC and a short stretch of 520, so why are they even on the same map?

      Whoever put in the snow route lines should be fired. In some cases there’s no need for them because the snow route is the same (44, 49, 70-series), or has only slight deviations (11). Some routes with different snow routes downtown (like the 66) have the main map crammed so a hastily-put-together downtown snow route map can be shown below the “Downtown Seattle see detail map” box. (There isn’t room on the 66 timetable to extend the downtown map to Jackson St. Similarly, some other snow routes go beyond the limits of the old map; how they deal with this varies.) Then there’s the confusing, hastily-slapped-on labels for snow routes… and no distinguishing between local and express snow routes…

  8. It would be nice to have timepoints numbered or lettered on the time schedule with a corresponding graphic locating the timepoint on the map. For example, on the 7 route, 3rd and Pine would be “A”, 5th and Jackson would be “B”, Rainier and McClellan would be “C”, Rainier and Alaska would be “D”, etc. Timepoints “A”, “B”,”C” and “D” would then be marked on the map for easier understanding.

      1. I suspect most transit agencies do that. The main exception being the big ones. LA’s version of Metro simply marks timepoints with circles with X’s in them; Santa Monica Big Blue Bus uses letters in triangles.

  9. I agree with Jason that the SNOW designations are just awful graphical noise. I understand that Seattle is still traumatized by its blizzard experience, but are these really necessary to have in every timetable? Why not just the winter ones?

    The combination of snow routings, express vs. local, the prevalence of couplets downtown, and different am/pm routings all serve to make understanding the system very difficult indeed. Showing all of these variations on each map is perhaps necessary, but God it’s messy.

    How could anyone not from around here understand the southern sections of the Route 71 map, for instance?

    1. The snow route routes were there before the Snowpocolypse. But sadly they weren’t really followed, and the entire system more or less collapsed. For instance, I live on Queen Anne, and the 2 and 13 that were supposed to keep running stopped running and we were supposed to get close to home on the #1.

      Of course, nobody told us about that as evidenced by the woman in high heels (really?) complaining at a police officer at 3rd & Pine that she’s been standing there for 2 hours, her feet are freezing, and where was the #2. Hearing that, I walked over and took the SLUT (it was still running the first day) and walked up QA hill from Lake Union.

      Now I know more about which routes go where and that a #1 would have taken me closer than the SLUT, but most people just know their own bus. No #2 means no bus. I wonder how many #1’s passed her by, and how she finally made it home.

      1. I lived just off 26th and Union during Snowpocalypse. I took a photo of a stalled pair of 2s on the hill at 20th and Union and sent them to my friend on QA and said “I believe we have something of yours…”

    2. It also seems like after each shakeup at least one 71 gets lost on the northern part of the route too!

    3. OKAY, look at the map… the legend you know red lines mean snow route so pretend it’s not there. Next, the black solid line between downtown and Campus Pkwy is local service. If the bus is NOT express that is the roue (71,72,73) or the 70 at all times. If it IS an express, the dotted lines don’t really matter, because the bus won’t stop and you will get from point A to point B which ever the bus goes.

      Really they should just put one dotted line between the tunnel and UW to show there is express routing, but in the mean time……just think. Express? No, then look at the solid black line. Yes, then pretend all the different dotted line aren’t there and just enjoy the non-stop ride. I know, driving these routes it might seem easier for me, but I think thats the best way to read the map easier.

      1. Sadly, which express route is which DOES matter. I hate it when I’m running late, it’s around noon, I decide to catch a 70-series to make up the difference, only to find myself on a glorified 66. Note that the buses do NOT help with this – they all say “Downtown via Univ Express”. Never mind that the buses are not express routes in the University District (let alone on campus), only once they leave it! God I can’t wait for U-Link to open!

        What they SHOULD do is have the buses go up to 65th and take the normal lanes of I-5 when the express lanes are closed or running the other direction. This can be a pain at rush hour for the reverse commute buses, travelling up 7th in the afternoon (as I can attest to as a sometime 64 rider), but I can’t help but think it would be faster.

    1. Well the normal route isn’t actually that bad, it’s just the snow route. I think Metro should have just made the snow route a separate map.

      1. I was going to agree, but look at the south end of the route. What is “Symbol C and D routing”? Does it teleport from Spring to James on regular and “B” routing?

        I actually used to take this bus, but gave up believing that it had a regular route. I’d never knew if it would run up Spring (near my old work) unless I asked the driver.

      2. My point is merely that they took a very short and simple route (SPU-Downtown) and added many layers of noise. Snow routes, snow shuttles, and 4 different ‘terminus points’ (which aren’t usually termini anyway, since #13 usually continues as a #2 or #3). That map is unnecessary complexity at its best.

      3. Point well taken Zach. Metro calls a lot of these ‘route tweaks’ they make as Variants.
        I call them ‘mutations’, which I think is closer to the truth and adds another layer of confusion for anyone thinking of ditching the car and trying the bus.
        KISS – Keep is Simple Stupid.(Maybe a good add for the glossary of terms)

      4. Yes certainly! This is why rail service is often so easy to understand. It starts at the same exact place and ends at the same exact place every single time. It might be cheaper or easier to operate service in a variable way but if you want to make service easy to understand you often have to give up something else.

    2. The solid line south of James shouldn’t exist. I don’t see the reason for it. SB 13 trips going to base should be signed “13 Intl Dist via Downtown”. I’m tempted to say the 13 should be two different routes.

      The snow route isn’t that problematic, though if it is just delete it and say “Board Route 2 in event of snow; use the 17 to SPU”.

  10. This issue would be resolved if we implemented a system where we had two classes of bus service. 1) Hub to Hub service; 2) Hub to Neighborhood service. It would work if Hub to Hub service was one route and Hub to Neighborhood service were multiple routes that didn’t overlap each other in a confusing way. By implementing a truly hub based model we could also accomplish rapid service between hubs. Yes, a transfer would be required at a Hub. But with a hub based model, we could create a system of predictable routes and potentially create a system of frequent service Hub to Hub routes with consolidation of existing routes.

    We have many examples of poorly coordinated routes in the system, for example the 143 also goes from downtown Seattle to Renton Transit Center, but it runs on 3rd Ave and not in the tunnel. Like the packed 101, during the evening commute it takes 44 minutes between downtown and Renton TC.

    1. I feel the same way about the 550/554. One of the joys of transit for me is being able to say, on any given trip served by multiple routes, to say to myself, “I’ll just go to the stop and take whichever one comes first.”

      I’d love to be able to do that between downtown and Mercer Island on the 550 (tunnel) and 554 (2nd avenue), between downtown and Renton on the 101/106 (tunnel) and 143 (3rd avenue) and so many others… but alas, no.

      1. That’s why I always get off the 70-series at U-Street station. The exit through Benaroya Hall exits to 2nd in addition to an elevator to 3rd, so it’s easier to check the 554 schedule. But as I said above, what I really need is a timetable for both.

    2. Yes, that would be more efficient and allow the buses to run more frequently. (No more long parallel routes to the same destination.) But so many people want their nearest bus to go downtown that it’s almost impossible to do politically.

    3. This would work great as, say, cross-town buses as Hub routes: imagine a route that intersects North Link, Rapid Ride and a Ballard (or farther north) West Link. If you lived between any of the rapid lines you could go in either direction as you liked; possibly as easily as seeing a bus down the road and heading to its side of the street. Frequencies would be higher as routes would be shorter, and the cross-town travel difficulties would be ameliorated somewhat. If transfers are quick, easy, require little walking and are frequent, they quickly become second nature.

      Slowly, I think that we need to get used to the two-seat idea; in many locations it’s common and it is something you get used to. When I was (much) younger, the area I lived in had two direct downtown buses (the 41 Sandpoint and the old 25 Lake City); several years ago they cut that to none and you required a transfer to get downtown. Of course we whinged but you do get used to it. We’d all like the thing to pick us up at our house and deliver us exactly where we want to go, but that doesn’t always happen, does it?

    4. Holy mackarel, why the HELL does the 143 exist? It’s basically 101 + 149. And it’s another example of a bad map; it took me a while to figure out that the 149 didn’t go downtown, which would mean both routes are COMPLETE duplicates of one another. There is a 143 label next to I-5, but it’s easy to miss, and the Downtown Seattle inset map says “DOWNTOWN SEATTLE”, not “DOWNTOWN SEATTLE Route 143”. Oh, and the snow route ruined this one too; the main map exactly duplicates the Downtown map, and if there’s a deviation a) it’s in an area with no stops anyway and b) damned if I can figure out what it is.

      Hub-to-hub service would probably be a good idea for the 70-series. Metro seems to think transfers to hub-to-hub service are okay when the hub-to-hub service is Link. Maybe this will become more popular or otherwise politically palatable as Link gets built out (especially with the creation of natural hubs). RapidRide will help too – I imagine Ballard, for example, will become like this when RapidRide D opens. The 15 and 18 can be truncated (one of them maybe even eliminated), the 17 split.

  11. Today my work buddies and I took the bus from University Place to Convention Center to eat at Bambooza. (We didn’t take LINK because we were told that officially we have to pay to take LINK…even in the tunnel…by a Metro official.)

    On the way back, all we wanted was any bus going from the Convention Center station to University.

    However, there are three lanes separated by gates. I stood at the back and was ready to cross into either, but I was accosted by a security person with the “May I Help You?” attitude. I tried twice to explain it to him, but it didn’t seem to register (oh, yea, this is Seattle…).

    So I stood in the 150 lane (middle) watching buses go by which I could have taken.

    Why the poor design of making tunnel shuttlers wait for a less than optimal time when there are more than one class of bus they could take?

    1. LINK doesn’t go to Convention Center.

      I’ve been in the same spot as you. The setup is aimed at commuters and it’s russian roulette if you just want any bus. I recommend walking.

    2. I just stand on the mezzanine railing and see which bus is arriving for which bay first. You can always make it down the stairs and onto the bus in time.

      1. Yes that is what I do. This is a perfect example of why we need real-time information at the stations.

  12. It would appear that some of the efficiencies are degrading service. Metro does not seem to have much of a cartography budget.

    On top of that, since this map shows the 101, I wanted to mention that 101 service has been reduced to starting at 8:30 on Sundays, and being hourly during much of the morning. The Sunday 101 route could probably serve more hours, with better frequency, if it were to terminate at Rainier Beach Station instead of going downtown. Yes, the travel time from South Renton P&R would increase slightly, but the service would be available more hours and more frequently.

    1. And serving South Renton P&R before Renton TC adds almost 10 minutes to riders destined for Renton TC. It would make so much more sense to terminate the route at S. Renton P&R. But yes, it’s clear that between MLK and SoDo the 101 is duplicate service, and it’s unfortunate that there is no bus service from the southern sections of MLK to Rainier Beach.

      1. This one drives me crazy. I used to take the 101 to the Renton TC and transfer to the Highlands on the 105. They are staggered in a way that one would always miss the 105 by a couple of minutes and have to wait another 15-20mins for the next bus. I actually tried to get of the 101 at SW Sunset and Rainier and walk to the Renton TC to see if I could make the 105. Usually ended up watching the same bus I just got off of arrive at the TC just as I did on foot.

  13. As someone who works for a state govt agency it’s probably due to the fact that Metro does not have the staffing, funding, or computer/software needed to upgrade the maps. People are so antitax and cut government that it will not be getting better anytime soon.

    1. I’d be willing to bet you that they could take a little bit of money and “crowdsource” the production of these maps and databases. And quite frankly, if they thought with a bit more innovation such as putting LCD or LED screens with route schedules or announcing next arriving buses in transit centers or even at bus stops, that would reduce the need to print things.

      Or put a “print on demand” kiosk if someone absolutely has to have paper.

      The hundreds of thousands of dollars they spend on printing these schedules could be better used. Not to mention the savings in dead trees and carbon.

      1. Metro’s budget for printing paper timetables was cut by $250,000 this year. So, we may see those print-your-own kiosks sooner than later.

    2. Eric,

      Community Transit operates under similar constraints, at yet they managed to create attractive maps.

    3. Why not give it to UW Geography students as a class project in a GIS course? They do this sort of thing all the time.

  14. Why don’t they call these types of routes “102A” and “102B”? They’re the same route, for the most part, and “A” goes to Fairwood, while “B” goes to Renton. The University buses could be 70A, 70B, 70C, etc. 43 & 44 could be 43A to the U-district, 43B to Ballard, etc.
    It seems like that sort of system would be much less confusing to a newcomer.

    For that matter, why not let the 102R go to Renton, and the 102F go to Fairwood? It’s even easier to figure out and remember.

    1. They kind of used to do this; a good example is the old 7, which went (in the 1970’s anyway) to the various termini now served by the 70, 71, 72, 73 (and 76, 77 and 79 expresses). You’d catch a “7-Wedgwood” or “7-Lake City.”

    2. Why would you need to do 101R or 101F?????? How is that any different from the signage “101 Renton TC” and “101 Fairwood” thats the way it used to be and still people couldn’t figure it out. Thats why it was renumbered on one leg. Why put the first letter of the destination next to the route number when the destination is displayed in big letter??????

    1. Ugh! Some people would take one look at that and say “Forget it! I’m taking a cab!”

  15. I had this exact problem figuring out which direction the 101 and 106 go on those lines, and whether they both went to the park & ride and transit center, and what to tell my friend where to pick me up at.

    1. So that when someone looks at the map they can see they are all a common route to Eastgate P&R. The P&R is where most people get on/off anyway.

    2. What he said. I mean, someone earlier in the thread called for MORE condensation, leading me to mention a similar situation with the 15 and 18.

      Why does the 212 exist? The map makes it FAR from obvious where it goes, but it just stops at Eastgate P&R. Why couldn’t it be replaced by more 225/229 service, or 217 service, or rerouting the 554? Or conversely, why not just truncate the 225/229 to Eastgate P&R or the Freeway Station? And why do we need THREE different types of snow route lines?

  16. Some of the same people on this blog who claim that ORCA is simple to use and understand for beginners are now saying this route map is almost incomprehensible? That’s a little backwards.

    1. Erm, ORCA has some advantages, but “so simple a child could use it” is not one of them. But most of ORCA’s problems stem from the complicated fare structure and how ORCA is implemented here, not the ORCA system itself.

  17. Here’s one more idea for saving printing costs:

    In the June print run, label the schedules that have changes from the old pick as “Updated Schedule” in a white diagonal bar across the front.

    For schedules that don’t change, have a black bold at the top of the front saying: unchanged from schedule for February to May of 2010. Perhaps these unchanged schedules could maintain the Feb-May color scheme. It may be necessary at some point in the future to additionally say something like “Check green schedules for updated fare information.”

    Then print fewer of the unchanged schedules.

    Also, it would be cool if we could print these schedules from home or the library. Just make sure they look okay in black-and-white.

    1. I have another idea. Display a map and schedule near the front of the bus. I would bet at least a quarter of those that take schedules don’t really need them for later – they just want to look at the map and figure out where to get off.

      This would also help for when a bus is out of schedules.

    2. This might be one way to use colors to differentiate routes – get rid of color-coded timetables and do what Kitsap Transit does, and only publish new timetables when the route changes (or when timetable kiosks run low). Switch to a green, yellow, and red theme, same as the buses and new bus stops. That’s three colors right there, and if you need a fourth some of the buses are purple instead of green. While you’re at it, switch to the same font as the new bus stops, Helvetica is looking old and generic.

      Metro’s online system for timetables is moderately ingenious, but it doesn’t work well for a system as complex as Metro’s. All Metro timetables should be available as PDFs. A Metro timetable smartphone app would be nice too.

  18. It occurs to me that one reason Metro doesn’t use colors like CT does is because the only color it wants to use is the one for the current timetable, to give the timetables a “red” theme (to take the current one).

      1. Yep. Going from 2-color to 4-color (or more than that) is a significant expense, even at the volume they do and with the discounts they get.

      2. It occurs to me that smaller transit agencies are better able to use color and fancy pictures. CT and ST put all their routes in a single book (impractical for larger agencies), Santa Monica Big Blue Bus has only 13 or 14 routes, while LA’s version of Metro, near as I can tell, doesn’t use color at all. Metro needs to print more stuff than CT or ST, and while the cost per timetable goes down as you print more of them, the total cost still goes up.

  19. Not printing enough schedules and not updating maps and map creation software seem to me to be false economies – making transit harder to understand reduces its utility and desirability.

    1. But if you don’t actually make money with more passengers…

      In other words, what’s the real system goal? Not what I suspect many of us would like it to be, but in the eyes of the County Council and Metro management? If increased ridership/utility/desirability aren’t the goals they’re trying to achieve…

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