New Sound Transit DE60LFRs, by Atomic Taco

In light of the most recent report on Sound Transit’s $3.9B budget shortfall, the agency is now proactively seeking public comment to address potential service changes and delays that will not only moderate revenue expenditures in line with the new budget forecast but ultimately fulfill the full delivery of the Sound Transit 2 Plan approved in 2008.  The proposed 2011 budget is available here in full (PDF).

From an e-mail release:

The prolonged economic recession is presenting significant challenges to Sound Transit.

The Sound Transit Board this fall, through the 2011 Budget process, is studying potential delays and service adjustments that will allow the agency to continue implementing the Sound Transit 2 plan approved by voters in 2008.

Come to a Sound Transit Open House or Public Hearing to review proposed responses to the national recession’s impact on agency revenues.  Learn about and comment on proposed service and project realignments proposed for 2011 and beyond.

According to the release, the Draft Service Implementation Plan affects the following routes:510, 511, 513, 535, 540, 545, 554, 560, 566, 599, and Tacoma Link.  You can view the full copy of the DSIP here (PDF).  Transit users are encouraged to attend one of a number open houses and public hearings over the course of the next two months to share insight on the service plan and budget.

102 Replies to “Sound Transit Seeking Public Comment on Budget Woes”

    1. The 566 runs from Auburn to Bellevue (and soon to Overlake). The 577 runs from Federal Way to Seattle. Did you mean to say the *Metro* King County Transit will take over operating these lines?

      1. No I said PT, would take them over. Ands the 566 already goes to Overlake. It was, soon to be Redmond, but not anymore with these changes.

      2. If Metro is operating those two routes, and contracts them out to PT, does that make it open game to contract out a whole bunch of routes to PT? (essentially turning PT into a quasi-for-profit business that also happens to provide some transit service inside Pierce County)?

      3. I don’t mean to sound dense, but whose employees will be driving the 566 and 577, under which union contract?

      4. The budget proposal stated that Metro currently operates route 566 under contract with ST, and that ST may have PT operate it instead and save close to $1 million annually by doing so. There were a couple of other routes with similar proposals.

  1. How much money could ST save by contracting service out to a private operator rather than Metro/PT? It sounds like Metro pays much higher wages than pretty much every other transit agency.

    1. Yes, how much money could ST save by hiring low-skilled, short-retention operators? Do we really want that answer out the hard way?

    2. Kinda depends. I don’t know how many agencies/corporations/companies there are around here that has the resources that Metro has. Not only do they have a big parking lot for all the buses, a huge pool of qualified drivers, mechanics trained to work on the specific fleet that ST owns, a scheduling department that knows what they’re doing (but might not appear like it since they’re understaffed) and on and on.

      I’d say maintenance is a huge issue. Since Metro operates a (comparatively) huge fleet of similar equipment, they stock spares for everything ST would need. A private company would have to build up an inventory from scratch (or if ST owned some of the inventory they could transfer that, not really sure). Plus when ST runs out of hybrids at East Base Metro just bills them to use one of theirs. And if Metro was no longer operating the 550, I guarantee you it’d get booted out of the tunnel (Metro owns the tunnel).

      1. Yet, if you click on the picture in the post, you’ll see a comment that says those buses were sent to PT for acceptance testing because they can do it cheaper that Metro, even though Metro will be operating them.

        BTW, I think the roofline of those buses looks funny compared to the previous coaches in the same series. And can anyone say what the K suffix of the coach number means?

      2. The “K” means it’s a bus operated by KC Metro. The ST buses that Community Transit runs have a “C” and I think Pierce Transit gets a “P” on theirs.

        The rooflines look a lot like the RapidRide styling,

      3. The K suffix is on all Sound Transit buses operated and maintained by King County Metro. There is also P for Pierce Transit operated and maintained coaches and C for the Community Transit coaches.

      4. Yet, if you click on the picture in the post, you’ll see a comment that says those buses were sent to PT for acceptance testing because they can do it cheaper that Metro, even though Metro will be operating them.

        Yeah, that’s my picture and I wrote that. I was answering the question of “How much money could ST save by contracting service out to a private operator rather than Metro/PT?”. Yes, PT can do just about anything Metro can do for cheaper, BUT they don’t currently have any hybrids and I don’t know if any of their mechanics are trained on hybrids.

    3. The Snohomish County ST work is already contracted to a private contractor. ST contracts it to CT, CT sub-contracts it to First Transit.

      1. I wounder how much all the agencies are spending on the process of contracts and sub-contracts?

        FT does it for cheaper than ST pays CT. So CT is making a bit of money off the deal.

      2. CT owns the land and building that First Transit operates out of, if FT had that additional overhead to pay it might not be much of a savings.

      3. First Transit pays their drivers considerably less than the other agencies. There are, however, costs beyond merely drivers, buses, fuel/lubricants/other supplies involved. It is my understanding that those additional charges include things like the facility that First Transit and at least some of its administrators operates out of, owned and maintained by CT, marketing materials that are on First Transit buses that are produced by CT staff, some elements of scheduling the service, and some of the financial tallying. It is unlikely that CT is making any money off of the deal.

      4. “FT does it for cheaper than ST pays CT. So CT is making a bit of money off the deal”

        Yup, that’s pretty accurate. Look up “Cheap” in the dictionary for the full meaning of that sentence.

    4. Hundreds of millions long term. It’s less about driver pay – tho’ it’s definitely higer than average at KC – and more about paying ongoing overhead for King County government as KCM’s oversight authority.

  2. One thing that has confused me for awhile is why the 574 serves Starlake and Kent Des-Moines P&Rs. If someone were trying to get to the airport, and already driving, why would they stop at those stops, instead of continuing on to the airport parking lot?

    Those stops add close to 15 minutes to each round trip on the 574, meaning they require roughly one extra operator for all service hours. That adds up quickly.

    Shortening the travel time ought to additionally increase ridership and fare recovery.

    Additionally, does the ridership justify *both* the 574 and 594 going to Lakewood on weekends? Imagine what would happen to ridership patterns if, say, the 594 turned west to head to Tacoma Community College, instead, replacing some of the local service and testing the market for a future extension of Link into the north Tacoma neighborhood.

    1. Doesn’t the Port charge $26/day to park at Seatac airport? Even monthly parking is $350/month. Airport workers probably park at these park & rides and then commute to work.

      1. When I worked at one of the private lots, we had a fair amount of airport employees that used our lot. We ran a free shuttle and when they got back we cut them the best deal the lot offered. Usually it was flight attendants that were gone for 24-36 hours.

        That huge lot up by the Boeing building is for airport employees only, and they have to pay to use it. Then they get to ride one of the blue and white Port shuttles on to airport property

    2. Don’t people in those areas need a commuter service to Tacoma?

      Also, how does making two freeway station stops take 15 minutes?

      1. When coming from/going to Federal Way, the bus uses a direct HOV ramp. To get to Star Lake, the bus has to weave across all lanes and sit in lane 1, pull off the freeway, wait at the light, get back on, stay in lane 1, pull off at KDM, wait at a light again, then get back on the freeway and jump in the HOV lane until it has to get off at Spokane St. Not 15 minutes but not butter either.

    3. I think it’s Mostly for local transit connections from the airport, for the airport staff. Especally now that the 194 is gone. It seems like whenever i ride the 574 its someones shift change and theres always a handful of people getting off at both of those stops.

      I also think theres a case to be made for modifing the current Seattle Express service, especally when the Lakewood Sounder Line opens. One example would be to take the 595, add a stop at TDS, than turn the 593s into 595s to TCC/Narrows. As for the weekend, you need a minimum of 30 min headways to generate productive ridership on a route which would require a core frequency of every 15 minutes, which might be attainable if you merged the service with the 577/578 from Federal Way. Again this would require a major multi-agency corridor redesign which is probally due in the coming years. Forcing transfers on choice riders for the “last mile” is not a way to build ridership.

    4. One thing that has confused me for awhile is why the 574 serves Star Lake and Kent Des-Moines P&Rs.

      Exactly what Z said–route 194 mitigation.

      Additionally, does the ridership justify *both* the 574 and 594 going to Lakewood on weekends?

      Well if only the 574 went to Lakewood on the weekends, you wouldn’t have a way to get to Lakewood from Downtown Seattle.

      1. Yes, you would have multiple options for getting to Lakewood. One is Link + 574, of course. Another is 594 + 574 with a transfer in downtown Tacoma. Having both go to Lakewood is expensive duplicate service (with poor headway synchronization between 574 and 594), when PT is struggling to hold onto neighborhood service.

        Besides, it’s not as if north Tacoma and South Tacoma riders don’t have to transfer to get to downtown Seattle. Keeping service for the neighborhoods outranks preserving excessive one-seat ridership for Lakewooders.

      2. May I add my jealousy here that those south of the airport have good frequency to get to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, and those in the Link corridor do not?

        I know ST is looking for ways to cut, not spend more, so let me rephrase my 24/7 Link service suggestion in a more revenue neutral manner: Reduce frequency from 10 pm to 1 am to 30 minutes, and use that savings to cover most of the cost of keeping Link running at 30-minute frequency from 1 am to 4 am. Send the mainenance crew home shortly after 10 pm rather than shortly after 1 am. In the unlikelihood that a train gets stuck, let it stay there until the morning maintenance crew comes on duty. The next train can come along and rescue the passengers within 30 minutes, aligning the doors across from each other. The operator of the stuck train then eventually gets shuttled back to the O&M base, and starts up the back-up one-car train.

        The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that overnight Link service is cheaper than a cadre of shadow buses taking over an hour to shadow the Link route.

        Fare recovery due to more airport workers not having to drive to and from the airport should help make up some of the difference, and ST will have less ORCA-revenue-splitting to do with the night owl rides.

        If ST has already considered a plan like this, feel free to tell me I’m off base.

      3. From the DSIP pp. 104-105:

        The following list includes additional services that are not affordable at this time, but could
        be considered if additional funds and resources are available to meet future demand based on
        ridership trends. At this time, the list is not prioritized and multiple options may be listed for certain corridors.

        Central Link – Expand span on Sundays to match Saturday service (create a weekday and weekend schedule)

        Operate between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. at 30-minute frequencies

      4. Kaleci,

        The overnight service would terminate at Stadium Station. There might be come cost involved in extending the other night owl buses to reach Stadium Station.

      5. Well, then the problem becomes the connecting buses to downtown that don’t run every 30 minutes, but only twice a night.

      6. The night owl bus times can be recalibrated so that at least one comes down Third Ave every 30 minutes, lays over by Stadium Station, and then departs some time after each traincar arrives.

      7. There’s more of an answer than 194 mitigation.

        From a ridership perspective and a “who is your market”, there is no way 574 should be stopping at either PR. I believe those stops reduce ridership on 574 more than they increase it.

      8. Brent, the 30 minute frequency would damage the reputation of frequent service that Link is trying to build. People won’t move near Link stations or ride transit more if it’s no better than the existing buses. Flights do arrive at 11:30pm, and people are more likely to drive or take a taxi if Link has 30 minute headways rather than 15.

        BTW, the last train to Westlake leaves at 12:05pm, which is not enough time to get off a 11:15 flight, grab your bags and get to the station before it leaves. :( If you take the 12:25 to Mt Baker, it would arrive at 12:46, which is hit-or-miss with the last regular 7. There’s a 7 to Atlantic Base at 12:52, but the next 7 downtown is at 1:49. So you have 50/50 chance of being stuck in ghettoland for an hour. In other words, the late Mt Baker trains aren’t very useful for people arriving from late flights.

      9. Mike Orr,

        What about the airport workers who get off shift after midnight or start work before 5 am? That’s a decent chunk of people who could take Link, and would get used to the 30-minute frequency, if they could ride regularly.

        I doubt Link could provide regular service more often than 30 minutes apart during those hours because the special slowdowns for maintenance would be too frequent.

  3. Re aw:

    “BTW, I think the roofline of those buses looks funny compared to the previous coaches in the same series. And can anyone say what the K suffix of the coach number means?”

    K means King County Metro

  4. As a near-West Seattleite, I am painfully aware of the lack of ridership on the 560 west of the airport. The proposed reduction seems reasonable, especially given that it is just as fast to catch a bus downtown, then transfer to Link, to get to the airport. There are several other 2-seat paths that are also quite good (e.g. 128 / Link). From Southpark, my best bet is still to backtrack on the 60 to Beacon Hill Station :<

    I'd go further and say keep an eye on 560 ridership east of the airport. Even though it uses the freeways, I've found that segment to spend a lot of time stuck in traffic. Until it can easily make use of the HOV lane and skip Rainier Ave in Renton, it will be an unpopular route.

    When I first moved here, the 560 served Southcenter Mall. Sometime during Chairman Nickles' tenure, that stop went away. (He seemed to have it in for that particular mall.)

      1. I once rode 560 all the way from Sea-Tac to Union Station in Downtown Seattle in its early days. Now THAT was a circuitous run!

      2. That was the 570. There were two routes. 560 Sea-Tac to Bellevue and the 570 was Sea-Tac to Int’l Dist. Then they merged the two routes and cut off the Alaska Junction-Int’l Dist part.

    1. As a driver who drove the 560 last shakeup, there are problems when the route terminates at Burien Transit Center. I would have to refuse riders who are headed to West Seattle Junction/Faunteroy Ferry Terminal/White Center, since they would face TWO transfers (once at Burien TC to rt 120, and another at White Center to a 22/54/128), and SINCE STRANDED TRANSIT (nickname for ST) reluctance (actually REFUSAL) to provide an ORCA one day disposable option, riders are forced to pay twice and transfer twice. If the 560 terminated at White Center, that would be more manageable, with just one transfer (does not solve the problem of double pay, but 1 transfer is manageable).

      1. What’s wrong with getting a normal ORCA card? What makes the one-day so special (other than for out-of-towners, but I doubt that makes up much ridership on this route…)?

        We want more people using standard ORCA cards, after all.

      2. And besides – I believe that was a regional decision (i.e. all agencies) to not get one-time use ORCA cards since they could easily be hacked.

      3. … to postpone offering vistors’ cards because they didn’t trust the security of the initial implementation. I don’t know who made the decision though.

      4. I believe it was a regional decision made by all the agencies. I don’t believe there is a transit overlord.

      5. I still see a fair amount of people paying cash on ST Express, atleast two or three per trip i take…. Availability and Daypasses are two issues. Of course if you went to printed magnetic transfers available from the farebox (like vancouver BC) than that would solve that problem.

      6. I understand the availability issue (and even the daily cap), but I’m not sure the equipment necessary for one-time-use tickets is easier/cheaper. The Muni ones in SF were out of TVMs too, just like the normal ORCA cards. Getting more TVMs should definitely help.

        What I don’t understand is how the disposable cards help any issue other than out-of-towners. If you live here, you should have a normal ORCA card. Period. More TVMs, more stores to reload at, more normal ORCA cards. Heck, I like the idea of the $5 credit when you get one (that alone should eliminate the need for even a disposable).

        I’m not sympathetic to disposable cards just for a free transfer – as it is there should be a fare penalty for not having an ORCA card. The time savings for eliminating cash and automated transfer calculation more than justify it.

  5. Maybe the service reduction on the 540 is justifiable by ridership. But the stated justification (being able to transfer to the 522 at Montlake Freeway Station) makes it look like one of the departments didn’t get the memo that the freeway station will soon be closed permanently. (I know they did, but the public appearance is rather bad.)

    Whatever happens with the UW 520 routes, I hope they can be timed to provide even headway the way the 71/72/73/74 were timed to do (until an audit failed to ask the right questions, and now Metro seems to stuck with the goof-up, by inertia). Frequency getting from UW to Evergreen Point freeway station, and vice versa, will become key.

    1. It won’t “soon” be closed permanently. That’s still years away, when they finally actually close the bridge. Sometime our economy will get better and ST revenues will go up and transit use will rise, and the 540 will be restored.

  6. The proposed reductions on ST 540 and ST 545 demonstrate why it is critical to retain the Montlake Flyer freeway station when the 520 bridge is rebuilt.

    In early 2011, tolling is to begin on the 520 bridge, which will increase the demand for transit service.

    After tolls, ST 540, which orginally was a 7-day/week all-day service, and had previously been reduced to 5-day/week, will now lose ALL eastbound service before noon and ALL westbound service after noon, and probably all evening service as well.

    Remaining service for Kirkland & S. Kirkland riders is provided by the Montlake Flyer freeway station.

    After tolls, ST 545 Sunday service is being reduced to hourly and mid-day service headway reduced to 20 minute service. When the Montlake Flyer station and its ridership is eliminated, will the next steps be to reduce weekday headways to 30 minutes and Saturdays to 60 minutes?

    The single most significant thing that can be done to ensure the long-term viability of transit service across the 520 corridor is to force WSDOT to retain the Montlake Flyer station. Otherwise, ridership and frequency need to be split between riders headed downtown and riders headed toward the U-District. If there aren’t enough on each branch, it will force infrequent service.

    There are no safe operating funds, nor is it reasonable to expect transit agencies to operate buses with low ridership and low efficiency – the results are evident in ST’s plans for ST 540 and ST 545.

    Retaining the Montlake Flyer station is essential for the efficiency and effectiveness of transit service on the 520 corridor.

    1. “critical to retain the Montlake Flyer freeway station”

      This is starting to look vital. We have no idea whether transit revenues will be good, bad, or horrible in the future. The flyer station is a cheap way to ensure mobility no matter what happens with the UW-Eastside routes. This is something the anti-tax people could support too.

      1. Count me as one of the anti-tax people that supports this. We’re already on the hook for an uber expensive lid. Lets get some value for our dollar$ and incorporate the flyer stop on top of the lid. Not only would this be good for transit but the extra people will make the park area more vibrant and safe; especially in the evenings.

  7. Man the 545 news is bad… 60 minute headways on Sundays? That’s just awful. It’s too bad about the 554, too, but it seems like that’s less of a core route than the 545. The other cuts seem reasonable; combining the 510 and 511 during low-ridership times is a great idea.

    1. “It’s too bad about the 554, too, but it seems like that’s less of a core route than the 545”

      Hmmm… I haven’t ridden the 554 much on weekends, but I suspect that it’s at least as busy as the 545. That said, there is always the conspiracy theory that the 554 runs through Mercer Island and keeping it on weekends retains 15 minute service to downtown Seattle. Just a thought.

      1. Mercer Island gets 15 minute service on midday weekends with just the 550. The 554 just adds another option.

        I like the aspect of the 554 changes that has it going from 15 minute headways over part of the route to 20 minutes over the entire route. Less variations is good. Maybe they’ll see fit to assign a 60′ bus to some of those runs. They can get a bit crowded, meaning a few standees. On event days, it can be overloaded.

  8. I like that ST and IT might partner to develop Seattle-Olympia express service, but I wonder if extending the peak-only 592 is the best way to do it. While the stop spacing of the 592 would benefit end-to-end commuters (592 doesn’t stop in Tacoma) and it would keep total trip time to 90 minutes, it wouldn’t do much for the significant demand heading to Olympia. 592 offers only one reverse-peak trip from Seattle, and I’m convinced that demand for a Seattle/Tacoma/Lakewood/DuPont/Lacey/Olympia service would be better served by all-day service in both directions. As an intercity-length trip, I would rather have hourly service in both directions to/from Olympia than have 15-minute peak-direction service only.

    1. The way i read it, the grant only extends the handful of trips to DuPont the rest of the way to Olympia. I’d also guess that they may run in revenue service on their return trip to Lakewood as well (since they alreay do from DuPont). Anything on that corridor will help, its too bad that more cant be done right now though.

      1. That DuPont-Lakewood reverse peak service is just a partially scheduled deadhead. ST did the same thing a couple of shakeups ago with the 577. If the operator makes a northbound trip to Downtown and turns around to go back and make another trip northbound, you might as well put it in service since it doesn’t cost anything and only bring in revenue, albeit a small amount. However the first timepoint is an estimated timepoint which is actually the last timepoint of the northbound trip.

        For some reason though they chose not to do.this with the afternoon service. That pissed me off since I was trying to get from Federal Way to Downtown, waiting for the tardy 578. I saw a 577 pull in and off-load passengers and then the operator changed the sign to “South Base”. Looked at the AVL data and it turns out he actually went downtown and back to FW before heading to SB.

  9. If ridership doesn’t justify a lot of direct service between UW and the eastside once UW Station opens, campus commuters might have to get used to hopping on the train to downtown, and then tranferring to another bus headed east, to get good frequency. That wouldn’t be horrible, considering the trip will be 6 minutes plus transfer time, and then about 12 minutes (off-peak) for the bus to pass Montlake.

    The problem remains, though, that the plan to not have buses serve UW Station leaves campus commuters with a difficult time connecting to the station.

    So, the alternative will then be keeping the 7x’s running downtown, and taking 20 or so minutes for that trip.

    What is the point of UW Station if buses don’t stop there?

    1. What is the point of UW Station if buses don’t stop there?

      High capacity high frequency trains that serve the SE corner of campus. Sure it’s a bit of walk to some destinations on campus, but everyone in the Business school lives in a frat anyways.

      1. The Husky stadium Link station isn’t close for most UW riders other than the Medical Center.

        Today they can use 43 & 48 along 15th Ave to get to Montlake and transfer to 255 & 545. That option will be eliminated when the Montlake Flyer station is closed. If they are close to Link, they can use Link, else they have to take a bus downtown first to get to Eastside destinations. The Montlake Flyer station provides a lot more options.

      2. Sure it’s just a bit of a walk. Every morning. Every evening. Waiting for the crossing light. After walking to, waiting for, and catching a bus to the southeast corner of campus. And then finally catching the train downtown. Tranferring. Waiting. Backtracking on a bus caught in gridlock just to get back past the campus.

        You were saying something about making that “last mile” inconvient on another thread just a few minutes ago.

      3. The UW’s class scheduling system guarantees that students have to walk clear across campus multiple times a day anyways, so it’s not really that big of a deal.

        By 2020 the Brooklyn station should be open, giving better access to the U-District and north campus and all the new student housing that’s being built along Campus Parkway. After that they’ll be able to completely re-structure bus service in the area.

      4. I’m not sure what hole is at the CSE building (I haven’t been up there in awhile), but the station (and its hole) is immediately to the WSW of Husky Stadium and much closer to the medical center than anything else on campus. I imagine the station most will use for upper campus will be the Brooklyn station, but of course that’ll be another 4 years after the Husky Stadium station opens. It’s a shame it’s not all opening at the same time but that’s how they’re staging it.

      5. @Carl,

        The point of this whole (admittedly off-topic) debate is how the 520-Montlake interchange will be designed: to funnel buses directly into campus and put UW Station out of reach of buses, or to enable a bus stop at UW Station that would add an extra minute or two for those bus riders heading on to or off of campus but not transferring at the station.

        If we could simply flip a switch later, and have the buses suddenly able to switch approaches, we wouldn’t be so adamant about fixing the problem now. But ST/Metro/SDOT/WSDOT have to make a decision in the near future about the design of the roads around UW Station. Unfortunately, they are erring on the side of more expensive bus service and less use of Link. I think they are making a serious error that we will stuck with for decades to come.

        Metro/ST’s calculations of travel time downtown don’t take headway into consideration, and value trips downtown absolutely over all other trips. Nor do they consider whether the HOV lane is open in the right direction, as Council Member O’Brien pointed out a month ago.

        Instead of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that people will just take a 1-seat ride downtown, Metro/ST/SDOT/WSDOT ought to be figuring out a best-case approach for buses to UW Station, seeing what it would take to make truncation at UW Station as smooth and quick as possible, and then asking the public if they are willing to make whatever sacrifices are involved in the consolidation of 520 bus routes to UW Station.

        Keep in mind that, in the long run, we’re probably just talking about Kirkland buses and maybe, possibly, Overlake buses.

        The sacrifices we’d be asked to make are an extra minute of travel time to campus, switching from a gridlock-prone bus to a comfy train for the last three miles from Kirkland to downtown, better connectivity for neighborhoods that have buses that go to campus, much better headway between UW and Kirkland, better headway between downtown and Kirkland (via UW Station), better fare recovery at UW Station, and lower operating costs for Metro and ST (which, I guess, is why the moderators have tolerated this thread ;)

    2. Why would buses like the 540, 542, 555 and 556 disappear when UW Station opens (although there are severe reductions in 540 service proposed in the DSIP). When tolling is implemented on 520, it will be a big driver for increased service on all 520 routes.

      1. When UW Station opens, a lot of us are interested in exploring the possibility of having all the 520 routes terminate / pass through there, rather than continuing to downtown. This would save lots of money, and take lots of buses (and passengers) off of that super-congested section of I-5.

        Unfortunately, the proposed cuts to the 540 suggest that ST might have a different plan in mind, at least for some routes: have the Eastside routes go to downtown, and force UW riders to head back up to UW Station.

      2. Tolling of 520 is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2011. That should lead to an increase in bus ridership across 520. You would think that ST would maintain or increase service, but ST is proposing to reduce service on both routes 540 and 545 in 2011.

        It is not the plan to shift bus routes from Kirkland (255) and Redmond (545) which presently go to downtown Seattle to terminate at UW/Husky or in the U-District. Those routes will continue to go to downtown Seattle, but they will not be able to serve a Montlake stop under the WSDOT plan for the new 520 corridor. That stop is eliminated, and the design of the ramps does not permit the bus to serve the stop on the lid and then re-enter the freeway (or vice versa).

        In addition, the design does not make the transfer to Link at UW/Husky for riders headed downtown convenient or attractive. The nearest bus stops are located at the main entrance to UW Medical Center, and they are planning to make the bus stops convenient for the bus riders headed to UW Medical Center and south campus, not Link.

        Retaining a Montlake Flyer stop will create far more routing and operational efficiency and flexibility, than the forced bifurcation of service which the WSDOT 520 plan imposes.

      3. People that would transfer at the Montlake Flyer stop could transfer at Evergreen Point, Yarrow Point or 108th NE freeway stops instead. Yes, there would be fewer buses to choose from that are going to campus, but part of the 520 plan is to increase bus service (i.e., with the 542).

      4. The bitter pill to all this is that because of the 520 project, getting between UW and the eastside will take longer even after North Link and East Link open than it took before Link started up at all.

        Transfering on the eastside between infrequent UW buses and frequent downtown buses is certainly no substitute for being able to get all the way to Montlake and walk or bike from there, or taking a frequent Montlake Blvd bus to Montlake Freeway Station.

        Yes, those headed from UW to Bellevue or Redmond will have a 1-seat ride the long way around, after we add an extra ten minutes of daily walking to and from the station. But don’t worry. Students can handle lots and lots of walking, and have time on their hands to walk between transit stops. People going downtown are busier, and therefore need a 1-seat ride.

        So, lets keep the 59x’s, CT commuter routes, and eastside buses running downtown in perpetuity, in recognition that downtowners are busy people and have no time for transfering, while people headed elsewhere are less busy people, and can walk long distances between bus stops and Link stations to do their transfering. We also don’t mind paying higher sales tax so that *nobody* will ever be “forced” to ride the train.

      5. People that would transfer at the Montlake Flyer stop could transfer at Evergreen Point, Yarrow Point or 108th NE freeway stops instead.

        Not to mention that it’s a two mile walk from Montlake to Evergreen Pt. and that’s not even an option until there is a pedestian path across the Lake on the 520 corridor.

      6. People that would transfer at the Montlake Flyer stop could transfer at Evergreen Point, Yarrow Point or 108th NE freeway stops instead. Yes, there would be fewer buses to choose from that are going to campus, but part of the 520 plan is to increase bus service (i.e., with the 542).

        Except that for the many of us transferring to the 43/48 at Montlake to go south this makes for a 2 transfer, 3 seat ride. Coming from Redmond on the 545 there’d be a transfer at Evergreen point to something headed to the U-District, then getting off again at Montlake to transfer yet another bus.

        Many people using the Montlake Flyer stops are not going to the U-District. Having to transfer twice when the first bus is passing within yards of the second transfer point just seems foolish.

      7. Carl/aw: I know there isn’t currently a published plan to shift all the 520 routes to serve UW Station when it opens, but there should be. Further, I think it’s premature to say definitively that such a shift won’t happen, given that the changes aren’t going to happen for 6 years.

        Why do I want this to happen? Let’s compare four possible scenarios once U-Link opens.

        1. Keep the Montlake flyer stop.
        2. The flyer stop goes away, and all the 520 buses exit at Montlake and stop at UW Station (sometimes continuing further north).
        3. The flyer stop goes away, and all the 520 buses continue on to downtown.
        4. The flyer stop goes away, and the 520 buses are split between downtown and UW (e.g. 545 vs. 542, 540 vs. 255).

        Case #3 is what Brent describes. Anyone who wanted to transfer to Link/points north is forced to take an 8-mile, 20-minute detour, just because we needed to give people a 1-seat ride to downtown. And we’ll pay for that with service cuts elsewhere, because all those extra service hours sending buses to and from downtown will add up.

        Case #4 is simply the usual split headway problem. Instead of having (e.g.) 10-minute service on one route, now you have 20-minute service on two, and for anyone going to Seattle north of the ship canal, only one of them will be suitable.

        Case #1 is what we have now. Why don’t I like this? For one, getting from the flyer stop to Link is not trivial — according to Google Maps (1), it’s about a 10-minute walk. And also, I think the existence of the 542 speaks for itself. The flyer stop basically sucks. The 44 doesn’t go there. It’s not ADA-accessible. It’s noisy and isolated and just plain unpleasant. In comparison, a stop at UW Station would fix all of these problems and more.

        STB actually <a href="https://seattletransitblog.com/2009/12/10/montlake-flyer-stops/"summed this up pretty well in an article back in December.

        (1) From Hop-In Grocery to Husky Stadium, it’s 12 minutes… I’m guessing the Link entrance will be a bit closer.

      8. Case 5: delete the flyer stop, but include a stop and HOV ramps to the west of Montlake Ave. to allow a freeway stop for downtown and Northgate buses.

      9. Let me summarize why retaining the Montlake Flyer stop provides the most service options and flexibility – more service for riders and lower operating costs for the agency:

        1. Not all riders using the Montlake Flyer stop are headed for the U-District. People do transfer to/from the south here.

        2. I assume that as part of the 520 rebuild the stop would be made ADA-compliant and more attractive. There should be easy, convenient pedestrian connections to both north- and south-bound buses on Montlake – with the southbound stop better located than at that Hop-In grocery, and better transit reserved priority lanes. The lid is big enough to create this. If creating a good connecting environment is a priority at Montlake, it can be done.

        3. The majority of Eastside ridership is headed for downtown Seattle, not the U-District. That’s why the 255 and 545 have substantially more service than the 540 and 542. Direct service downtown isn’t being eliminated with a forced transfer – if that were the plan, then the connecting stop at the Husky Link station would have to be closer – they are not designing it that way.

        4. Forcing a connection at Evergreen Point to a low frequency bus will damage the attractiveness of using the bus. This new bridge was marketed to the public as a bus transit corridor.

        5. The schedule cuts to the 540 show us that headways on direct service to the U-District will be poor. The 540 originally had weekend service. Not enough ridership, so it was cut. The 540 originally had night-time service. Not enough ridersip, so it was cut. The last bus is like 7pm. The 540 currently has 30-minute bi-directional service. It is being proposed to eliminate eastbound service before noon, westbound service after noon, and have daytime service at 60-minute headway. Note this probably means deadheading empty buses. The Montlake Flyer station, together with frequent 43 and 48 service maintains many more service options.

        1. Keep the Montlake flyer stop. — This is the best choice by far. It doesn’t preclude direct U-District service during high demand periods, but it lets the Montlake flyer provide 7 day 18 hour service, as well as other service like the 242 and 555 coming from I-5 north.

        2. The flyer stop goes away, and all the 520 buses exit at Montlake and stop at UW Station (sometimes continuing further north). — I don’t think this is realistic because the majority of the traffic is headed downtown, and the connection at Husky station is poor. It also doesn’t work very well for football games ;-)

        3. The flyer stop goes away, and all the 520 buses continue on to downtown.

        4. The flyer stop goes away, and the 520 buses are split between downtown and UW (e.g. 545 vs. 542, 540 vs. 255). — This is the plan.

      10. 1. A stop at the Link station preserves this.

        2. Fair enough. But it seems kind of like a waste to go to all this effort and expense making this stop nicer, when it’s still going to be a 10-minute walk away from UW Station, which will (arguably) be the single most common source/destination for Montlake riders. (And one of the next most common is the 44, which is also a 10-minute walk away most of the time.)

        3. That’s true today without U-Link, but once we have that (and North Link), who knows? Also, I know for a fact that there are a whole lot of riders from north of the ship canal who use the downtown stop, not because it’s closer or faster than Montlake, but because the three-bus transfer (the extra bus is for the hop across the Montlake bridge) is annoying and unreliable. If the stop was moved to UW Station, that wouldn’t be a problem. Finally, as the STB article stated, I don’t mind running extra peak service directly to downtown, but off-peak, I have no problem creating a forced (easy!) transfer to Link.

        4. A forced connection at Evergreen Point is the last thing in the world that I’m advocating. So long as there’s always service from UW Station to points east, this won’t be necessary.

        5. Again, this is all true today, when there’s no U-Link.

        Option 2: I’ve already responded to your comment about most riders heading downtown, but what do you mean, the connection at UW Station is poor? I’m proposing that we take the money we would have spent on the flyer stop, and instead use it to make a super kick-ass bus stop that’s as integrated with the Link station as possible. And compared to building a lid, we’ll probably still save money.

      11. I also want to reemphasize why I’m taking the radical position (the flyer stops are bad) rather than the agnostic one (they’re fine but I won’t push for them):

        – They’re very bad at their stated goal, namely, providing connections from 520 to UW and the rest of North Seattle.

        – Their presence will make it easier for Metro/ST to make bad planning decisions.

        – They’re a waste of money. Their capital cost would be better spent improving UW Station bus connections, and the extra operating costs due to the bad planning decisions they enable (e.g. not terminating off-peak 520 buses at UW Station) would be better spent on just about anything.

      12. Aleks: The Montlake Flyer stations provide connections to the south (Central District, Capital Hill). These riders will have far less service if they can only transfer to/from U-District buses.

        U-District isn’t generating enough demand to warrant much weekend or evening service, or even daytime service to Kirkland, hence the reductions in the 540 and limited 542 schedule. When the Montlake Flyer stations are closed, there will either be no service at all, or only infrequent service (think hourly headways) for both U-District and for other riders transferring at Montlake.

        The Link station is not expected to be a major destination. The ridership planning says that only 20% of the people alighting at the UW Medical Center stop will be headed for Link (40% to UW Medical Center, 40% to lower campus.) Frankly, you may be able to walk from the Montlake lid over to UW Link as fast as the bus gets you to UW Med Center and then backtrack to UW Link.

        Eliminating the Montlake Flyer station will mean fewer choices for all riders presently transferring or boarding at Montlake, will likely mean hourly service and limited span of service evenings and weekdays, could mean reduced headways on service to downtown Seattle as well if there are limited funds, and is estimated to increase operating costs by $5-6 million/year, according to a Metro planner I talked to the at one of the working group meetings. Metro wanted to get those funds back, but there is not yet any agreement to do that, and the project lacks all the funds needed, so good luck.

      13. I’m curious about those ridership estimates you’re quoting. Do you have a source? I don’t doubt you, I just haven’t heard it before, and I’d like to see what other assumptions they’re making. (In particular, I’m guessing that it has to be pre-North Link; there are probably lots of people who currently transfer to the 41 from downtown, or the 48 to get to Roosevelt/Green Lake.)

        The core assumption you’re working with is that headways will be split. The core assumption I’m working with is that headways *should not* be split; instead, with the possible exception of peak hours, all the 520 buses should go no further west than UW Station. You say that there isn’t enough UW ridership to justify more than hourly service; I say that, if you force everyone to transfer at Link, there will be enough ridership to justify current service levels.

        As far as your point about the Montlake-Link walk being no longer than the UWMC-Link walk, that won’t be true if we actually spend the money to make UW Station a real bus station as well. All the buses that go near the medical center should pass right next to the station. The 44 wire should be extended to loop around the station. And, for crying out loud, there should be station entrances on the other side of Montlake Blvd, both north and south of Pacific. It sounds trivial, but making this connection super easy is what will get people to use it.

        Harvard Station in Boston is a fine example of how easy you can make multimodal connections if you try. Most buses actually go *inside* the station, and a few others, which come from the wrong direction to go inside, still have a stop which is steps away from the entrance.

        In fact, Boston in general is a good example of how to integrate buses with rail. Yes, there are express buses, and they go directly to/from downtown at peak times (though they also cost $4/$5 a ride, to match the fact that they are a premium service). But for all-day service, the suburbs have bus service to Harvard, or to Kenmore, or to Forest Hills, or to Ashmont, or to Oak Grove/Wellington, or to Wonderland. They don’t do this because everyone from the suburbs only wants to go to these places; they do it because it’s easier and more cost effective to have them take the bus to the subway and the subway to wherever they want to go. And riders are okay with that, because the subway frequencies are high enough that they actually get to their destination *faster* than if they took a bus the whole way.

        That’s why I don’t find your “ridership at UW is low” claim to be very convincing. Once we finish U-Link, if that claim continues to be true, then all it means is that we’ve done a terrible job at system planning.

      14. Go to this website http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR520Bridge/6392workgroup.htm and click on Transit Connections – Bus Stop Locations
        On the first page it will tell you that 60% of riders are headed to Med Center and south campus, 20% transferring between buses and only 20% going to Link

        I don’t know how I would feel about truncating Eastside routes at the UW Link station. If there were a dedicated, fast, conflict-free route, a convenient transfer, and a place to wait for a bus out of the rain, and it saved operating costs, I would support it.

        But that’s not what is being built. The buses aren’t terminating at the Link station, and there’s no place for them to layover, so there are no operating cost savings. The buses will be stuck in Montlake Blvd congestion, bridge openings, left turn on Pacific St, before dropping you off across from the hospital. It is nothing like terminating the bus at the Link station, with a dedicated lane.

      15. Do that many people really use the flyer station? I find it so unpleasant to wait in front of a freeway with the cars zipping by, that I go the other way (43 south to downtown or north to Campus Parkway) to avoid it. That and the 520 & I-5 traffic bottleneck, although of course the new bridge will solve that problem. :) And if I get off at the flyer stop, the 10-minute wait on Montlake Boulevard is even more unpleasant than the 10-minute walk to campus due to the auto congestion in front of you. Fortunately my usual destination is Bellevue so I can take the 271. I would hate to live someplace where I had to use the flyer stop; I would probably transfer downtown instead or go up to Campus Parkway even if it did take longer. (And of course with Link, I could walk to UW station and get downtown quickly and transfer.)

      16. Mike, this is just anecdotal but I see a lot of people using the flyer stops for the 545 and 255. As an example, one morning a couple weeks ago I got to the stop to catch the 545 to Redmond. All the shelter benches were full, and there was a solid line of people standing along the curb. When the 545 pulled in everyone piled on, filling the few remaining seats at the entire aisle. This was at about 9:15, for a bus that runs every 10 – 15 minutes.

        For more concrete numbers, take a look at page 129 of the 2010 SIP [PDF]. The relevant numbers aren’t in the draft 2011 version yet. This shows the eastbound flyer stop with 557 boardings on route 545 alone, the second-most after Westlake with 631. Next closest is only 354. Going west, the flyer stop has 398 alightings, again second only to Westlake with 461. Third place is at 297.

        All this despite how unpleasant they are.

      17. the 10-minute wait on Montlake Boulevard is even more unpleasant than the 10-minute walk to campus

        I guess that’s where we differ. I’d always opt for the 10 minute walk over a 10 minute wait irregardless of how “nice” the bus stop was. The flyer stop ain’t great but it’s not like Evergreen Pt where you actually are looking out at all lanes. It’s only the buses that are “wizzing” by. Eliminating the steps and the damn uncertainty about which bus to catch up top vs. down in the pit are a huge improvement by putting the flyer stop up on the lid. It also helps the buses reenter traffic because they get a downhill run at it.

    3. “What is the point of UW Station if buses don’t stop there?”

      UW station mainly exists for train riders to get to classes, the hospital, and Husky stadium. There’s no residential or business development around it. It could be a significant transfer point but WSDOT and the UW are not designing it to realize this potential. In any case, Brooklyn makes a better transfer point because it’s within walking distance of things travelers typically want while they’re waiting or can combine a trip for (cafes, burger joints, newsstands, drugstores).

  10. I sure hope the cancelling of the 535 on Sundays and holidays is only temporary. That goes completely against Sound Transit’s stated goal of improving transit along the 405 corridor…

    1. having all the 520 routes terminate / pass through [UW Station], rather than continuing to downtown. This would save lots of money, and take lots of buses (and passengers) off of that super-congested section of I-5.

      The big problem with the I-5 stretch is crossing all lanes of traffic to exit at Mercer. This is partially fixed in the redesign. Buses will be able to access the Express Lanes (peak direction only of course) and the center on ramp to SB I-5 is being move to the outside. It would be better in my opinion if it didn’t offer access to I-5 at all. Eastside traffic heading south of DT should be using I-90. We can hope that the Mercer Mess do-over will help; I’m dubious about that. Also, WSDOT plans to eliminate one or more of the present DT exits. This might even allow another through lane? One thing that really needs to be done is continue the HOV lane of the Express lanes all the way through to SB I-5. That might also involve closing or reconfiguring an exit. I think one left lane exit is HOV only? Perhaps that could be extended with an HOV bypass to SB I-5.

      1. The current design for the 520 & I-55 interchange still shows the WB 520 ramp merging with SB I-5 on the inside of the roadway, meaning that buses to downtown still have to merge all the way across by the time they get to Stewart (not Mercer). These buses are not going south of DT.

        It’s also shown at the 2:00 mark in this animation.

      2. The current design for the 520 & I-55 interchange still shows the WB 520 ramp merging with SB I-5 on the inside of the roadway

        Damn, I’ll have to plow through all the WSDOT crap again. I was sure they’d fixed that in one of the “plans” but, instead of being fixed this stuff seems to be changing faster as we get closer to destruction. Not tying the 520 project into the Mercer Mess project sort of dooms both to failure.

  11. All transit systems in Puget Sound should take a long hard look at which people should be using their cars rather than being subsidized by buses and trains.

    All transit seems to be doing is giving away money from taxpayers for what seems like vaguely analyzed returns from less traffic or pollution…it’s not really clear anymore what the supposed benefits to society are from all the public transit in the case when a private automobile could do the job better.

    1. All legislatures in the Puget Sound should take along hard look at which people should be using transit rather than having their cars subsidized by free parking and first-priority, dedicated-revenue-source highway infrastructure investment.

      All highway investment seems to be doing is giving away money from taxpayers to those who are wealthy enough to afford to drive cars to work and live far enough away for that to be an attractive option…it’s not really clear anymore what the supposed benefits to society are from low-density residential suburbs and private automobiles when transit systems and promotion of higher density have proven to be effective and far more sustainable lifestyles.

      Two can play this game, John.

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