Count and Combined Headway of Buses Currently on Montlake and Pacific

We have been pretty adamant on our concerns about bus connections between SR-520, Husky Stadium, the UW Triangle and the rest of the U-district over the last few weeks. This connection must be done right and that means uninterrupted and high quality bus lanes between SR-520 and the intersection of Pacific St and Pacific Pl at the very minimum. A few reason why this is so important:

  • Current bus service on Montlake/Pacific/15th currently has a combined headways as low as 1.5 minutes.
  • The SR-520 HCT plan calls for three BRT routes, one new route and two upgraded routes (271 and 540), all traveling on Montlake/Pacific/15th Ave
  • Routes 43, 44 and 48 also travel on 24th/Montlake/Pacific/15th and already exceed service levels for RapidRide
  • Even with best case scenarios Montlake/Pacific and Montlake/SR-520 will still have an LOS of E in the afternoon (pg 15, Note this is an old design, the newest design will have a worse LOS).
  • Community groups don’t want a second bascule bridge built, even though all new space will be allocated to transit, carpoolers, bicyclist and pedestrians.
  • WSDOT is removing the Montlake flyer stop without providing new operating funds to mitigate this change
  • WSDOT is removing the ramps to Lake Washington Blvd which will worsen traffic south of SR-520 on Montlake/24th Ave
  • Husky Stadium Link station neccesitates fast and reliable bus connections to the rest of the U-district and SR-520 especially if transfers to Link are to be “forced”.

Below the jump are two graphics showing which bus routes contribute most to this extremely low combined headways. Routes 43, 44, 48, 271 and 540 are the lions share of the trips.

Service on the 271 and 540 will need to increase by roughly by 4-8 buses trips per hour per direction to meet goals set in the SR-520 HCT plan and a new BRT route would add 6-10 trips per hour per direction during peaks. Additionally if ST/Metro wanted to end other routes like the 255 or 545 at Husky Stadium roughly an additional 10-16 buses per hour per direction need to be accommodated.

All of this additional service put together could add roughly 20-30 new buses per hour per direction to Montlake/Pacific/15th, roughly doubling bus service from current levels. While nothing is certain, decisions made now must be able to accommodate a scenario like this and details of transit operations must be worked not now, not later.

Graphics after jump

North/West Bound Buses
South/East Bound Buses

27 Replies to “Montlake Blvd and Pacific St Bus Volumes”

  1. I’m continually confounded by the fact that Link, Bus, and the 520 rebuild are ALL the same issue, with respect to bus/rail interface, yet construction marches on.
    I would think this was all resolved months ago in finite detail.
    I’ve asked the question several times about the two bus zones being built in the Husky Stadium parking lot – which routes, or future routes serve them, how do they access it from Montlake, where and how many buses terminate at those stops, and where do the buses layover for time between runs? Still waiting for an answer.
    At some point it will be too late to just ‘slap some paint on the ground’ and say this was the optimal plan from the git-go.

      1. And the sad thing is, we see this at all levels of transport planning from HS in Florida to the Big Dig in Boston to connecting buses to/from urban rail systems. Too much politics, not enough planning.

    1. It’s a failure to look at things from a rider’s perspective. I’m glad STB keeps raising the Montlake/Pacific issue.

      1. They are not only failing to look at it from a rider’s perspective, they are failing to look at it from the operator’s perspective (I mean ST & MT as operators)

        The DOT should consider efficient transit operations to be part of their mission, and not just punt it off to ST & MT who don’t have construction responsibility.

        I am extremely disappointed that neither ST nor MT haven’t taken a more visible and vocal position as to how the design will function for riders and efficiency.

        What the design should have, in my opinion, is (1) efficient, reliable, non-delay-prone N-S routing for the “BRT” routes 43/44/48 – which by every definition are high volume, high frequency routes; (2) a viable routing for all-day 7-day/wk Eastside routes to serve U-District & Downtown — either with a Montlake flyer station, or a very reliable, no-conflict, easy U-Link transfer; and (3) a workable peak routing for direct U-District service.

        The present design offers none of these, and MT and ST are acting irresponsibly not to articulate the problems.

        Most riders don’t understand they are losing the function of the Montlake flyer station, or we would be hearing protests. And the HOV ramp routings have multiple traffic lights and a poor design for serving connections and avoiding traffic conflicts.

      2. I agree about ST/Metro. They need to be advocates for their riders and thus far I haven’t been impressed by what I have seen publicly.

      3. By the way, in point (2) I meant, either a Montlake Flyer station for riders transferring to U-Dist and the buses continuing downtown, or buses diverted to U-Link station for transfers downtown but an easy, reliable transfer. Neither are provided with the current designs.

  2. Did you add up the numbers and make the graphs by hand, or using some code based on certain stop numbers or something?

    It would be interesting to see similar graphs for the Stevens Way routes, which serve mainly northern areas (Seattle and Snohomish County) and may be decent options for Link connections.

    Good note about combined headways, too. I’ve often hopped on any random bus–including ones like the ST 586 Tacoma Express–to get from the Ubookstore (15th and 43rd) down to UWMC.

    1. By hand. I wanted to do several more “screenline” graphics for this but I just didn’t have time. When I went to UW I would always jump on random buses on stevens way to get to class a few minutes early or get to the Ave.

      1. Whether you can get to class early by taking the bus across campus depends on where you’re going and what time of day it is. :-) During class changes I could usually beat the buses from Pend Oreille Rd (McMahon/Clark/Padelford/Communications) to Grant Ln (Meany/Gerberding/Architecture) by walking through the Quad and across Red Square.

      2. I was going to the civil engineering building from north campus so it usually was faster, although not that much faster.

  3. Are you counting the 43’s the continue as 44 to be 44? It looks like there’s a drop off in the NW 43’s at 7:00 even though there’s still 2 buses per hour.

    1. Yeah there is some weirdness with interlining. Someone should correct me if I’m wrong but the 43 and 44 are only interlined in the early morning and late evening as well as on the weekends.

  4. You said “WSDOT is removing the ramps to Lake Washington Blvd which will worsen traffic south of SR-520 on Montlake/24th Ave ”

    I disagree. The current plan MOVES the Lake Washington Blvd ramps Westward to 24th Ave (currently the small connector bridge to MOHAI used often by bicycles). It doesn’t eliminate the ramps. How will this worsen traffic on Montlake? (WSDOT says they kept them in to prevent worsening traffic on Montlake)

    1. I didn’t know this. Is there a link to any info on the WSDOT site about how this will affect the Lake WA Blvd bike route? I bike across 520 on 24th every day, just crossing E Lake Washington Blvd is a pain. Is there a plan or more specific details about the location of the offramps? It seems crazy to dump a whole load of cars directly into a heavily used bike route.

    2. That is only for exiting traffic. All traffic that wants to go East will now have to use the Montalake interchange. That is why it will make traffic worse.

      1. Two points:
        A) It isn’t just for exiting traffic. HOV vehicles heading East will be able to use the 24th ave bridge for access. And we know that adherence to the HOV will be 100%, with no violations, just as there is now on SR520 Westbound in Medina. (esp. since you’ll be able to visually see any enforcement vehicles before you commit to go that way)

        B) Even if you aren’t using the HOV, it’s far shorter to traverse through the Arboretum to reach the Montlake interchange than to take 23rd/24th. Unless they end up tolling Lk Wash Blvd through the Arboretum, I expect that most Madison Park/Valley/Leschi residents will use that route

        So, will traffic South of Montlake (“SoMo”?) be worse? Probably. But is it because of the Lk Washington Ramps?, or just because they’ve designed a completely UNWORKABLE interchange? Just take a look at this:

        My primary motivation to comment is that WSDOT wants credit for “Removing the Arboretum ramps” and I don’t think they did.

      2. I think it is good that WSDOT removed the ramps, with that said they should use the money they saved to ensure that transit doesn’t get stuck in any congestion. That was my point. There needs to be transit lanes on Montlake and possibly 24th south of the interchange.

      3. The current plan does not have any ramps from the Arboretum per se. GP traffic to Eastbound 520 has to stay on Lake Wash. Blvd. all the way to the Montlake Blvd InterCluster (or approach from the South on 23rd/24th).

      4. I don’t understand why you think they “removed” anything. If we sink the I-90 bridge and then build another one 1000 yards north, how will that impact congestion?

        “they should use the money they saved..”??? where did they save money? They are already $2,000,000,000 in the hole for the West side, which is why they’re currently planning on replacing the floating bridge only to the West high-rise.

      5. The current plan does not have any ramps from the Arboretum per se.
        Well, if that’s true it’s an improvement. Maybe the only way funding politics work is to build a dysfunctional structure and then fall back on transit to bail it out. Lanes change; minimize the lanes added and transit will, in the long run, be the only solution.

      6. Maybe they shouldn’t have taken out the Arboretum ramps entirely. Reappropriate some of the Thomson Expressway ghost ramps (now removed IIRC) into a second bridge with fewer community impacts that helps solve the bus access problem.

      7. Pat the fact is they removed the ramp from lake washington blvd to SR-520 eastbound from the design. All past designs had that onramp. This one does not. You can argue about semantics but I don’t have time for that.

        This forces all northbound traffic to go through the Montlake interchange rather than bypass it. In 2008 the eastbound Montlake ramp had a volume of 11,290 AWD and eastbound Lake Washington Blvd ramp had 5,210 AWD (page 80). WSDOT’s current design will increase eastbound ramp volumes at Montlake by ~50% which certainly will hurt signal operations unless the interchange is significantly widened to handle the extra traffic.

  5. 30 buses an hour at peak is nothing to sneeze at. There can’t be many state highways with more buses than that.

    How’s that compare to the I-90 express lanes, I wonder. It can’t be too far off. This has got to be one of the busiest bus corridors that WSDOT controls.

    But I can’t jump in and blame them too much. Sound Transit and Metro seem to be pretty damn quiet on the matter of this major bus backbone and soon-to-be major transfer point.

  6. That analysis showing such a huge number of buses going over 520 sounds to me like a great argument for future 520 rail, to all those who have been arguing it won’t be needed. Cause you could have 1.5 min headways for buses between UW and Montlake just for buses that are going to head over the bridge. Pretty crazy.

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