Click to enlarge

[There is a newer edition of this map.]

[UPDATE 10:11 am: Oran has applied some fixes to the pdf for download.]

It has been two years since I first released my Metro Frequent Service Network map. The map highlights all corridors that have transit service at least every 15 minutes during most of the day. It was inspired by the maps produced by the transit agencies in Portland and Minneapolis. Today, I give you a brand new version of the map for your enjoyment and benefit. You may download it as a PDF for high quality printing (8.5 x 14 inch Legal size). The map reflects Metro’s February 2011 service change (tentatively) and Sound Transit’s June 2011 service reductions.

This map takes a very different approach from my previous maps. It covers only the city of Seattle, where most of the frequent service is. Gone is the “one-color-for-one-line-for-one-route” French style map. Instead, colors are assigned to the modes: bus, rapid rail, and streetcar. It is a diagram, not a geographic map, but the major water bodies remain to provide some clues and the lines follow the street grid to an extent. Other features include a table showing the time and days when frequent service is provided, a street index for downtown routes, a list of through routes, neighborhood labels in the background, and icons showing connections to Sounder and the ferries. If so desired, thinner lines can be used to depict routes with less frequent service (every 20-30 minutes).

It has been said before by many but I’ll say it again. I think Metro should promote the frequent service network. It is as significant an asset as RapidRide is and it is service that is already out there. At the very least, show it on the timetable covers and on the system map with a simple yellow highlight. In the long term, the network itself should be restructured to provide more frequent service in more places and be more comprehensible to the average user.

78 Replies to “Seattle Frequent Transit Map”

  1. Beautiful, useful, indispensable.

    This is about as complex as a NYC subway map, which seems appropriate.

    1. This is so much better than the useless maps at many bus stops showing every bus route on top of each other in the same blue color – making it nearly impossible to see where each route goes because of all the other lines. Nice job!

  2. This is fantastic! Thank you. When I first moved here I used Google Maps to get around, then I realized that if I just memorized the routes of the most frequent busses I’d be able to get around almost everywhere without relying on my phone. I had been using Metro’s frequent service page but this is vastly easier to use.

  3. This really shows gaps in the grid. Madison between 19th-23rd and from MLK to Madison Park is the first example that comes to mind. Great map overall! One question, is there really no frequent service on 1st Ave through Belltown?

    1. The 1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 36, jog from 3rd Ave to 1st Ave at Broad St (as the map shows.) The 15 & 18 might still be serving the rest of 1st Ave but I think in Feb they’ll start running on 3rd like the Queen Anne busses.

    2. To me, the most glaring issue is the gap on Fremont Ave between 35th and 39th (not marked). I would love to see the 5 rerouted to the Fremont Bridge for just that reason.

  4. This is great, although I think I still like the older layout more. There is something to be said for the one color for one route model, as well as having it one a mostly to scale map.

      1. Sorry I confused you when I alluded to the transit map. A citywide transit map would still be to scale but I’ll have to think about how to represent route lines on a map like that. There are two camps: one would like to use colors to convey a hierarchy of service, while one would like to use them to distinguish routes from each other.

  5. Great map. Knowing where frequent service operates is wonderful, makes it very easy to get around.

    Now Seattle just needs to work on the “rapid” part. The fact that it takes an hour to get from Ballard to Beacon Hill sucks.

  6. This has the 358 as “Does not operate” on Sundays, which isn’t true.

    Also, it would be nice (although not essential) if the table in the top right could communicate that 1/36 and 2N/13 provide < 10 min headways from Downtown to Mercer St.

    1. Similar error with the 372/522, shows no service on Saturdays. The 522 is still running, though at half hour headways.

    2. Fixed the 358. Thanks.

      1/36 and 2N/13: I did list that 36 becomes a 1 sometimes, but didn’t say where the 1 went. Due to Metro’s through routing, the 36 doesn’t always go to Queen Anne. Fortunately, 15/18, 2N/13 together provide a lot of service and didn’t need the 1’s “help”.

      Fixed the 372/522. You are correct.

  7. Oran, all I can say is that Metro and Sound Transit are simply STUPID for not hiring you and we here in the Puget Sound poorer as a result. If you were working in one of their departments that produces these materials, we would be a better transit city most certainly. This is nothing short of amazing! Thank you for creating this masterpiece.

    1. No, no, no! Those black and white maps from 20 years ago that are printed in the timetables are much better.


      1. I asked Metro to shade the ride free area on schedules, using no more colors than they already do, and after a year and repeated pestering them to get their verdict, they decided it would make the maps too hard for vision-impaired people to read. They didn’t even bother telling me they’d ruled out my suggestion–I had to keep asking. Trying to improve transit shouldn’t be such a chore.

    2. Not only that, but it highlights just how ridiculous Metro’s rider materials are. Oran does these maps in his SPARE TIME as a hobby and Metro can’t seem to get these things out even though it’s their JOB. Metro’s website is equally as atrocious.

      Then again, it’s Metro’s inadequacies that spawned projects like One Bus Away, so I guess there’s something to be said about ingenuity spawned from desperation, but c’mon Metro…

  8. It’s also interesting to contemplate what a < 10 minute version of this would look like. There would be Link, the 7 on Ranier, the 1, 2 & 13 through Downtown, Belltown and Lower Queen Anne, the 3 & 4 to the Central District, the 10 & 49 on Pine/Pike to Broadway, the 8 & 43 across Cap Hill, the 60 & 49 on Broadway and the 15 & 18 to Leary. It's pretty much a map of everywhere we want/are going to build high-capacity express or local service.

    I'm surprised, incidentally, that the 70 isn't 10 minutes all day.

    1. Add to that the 43 & 48 from 23rd & John to 45th in the U-District. At least 8 buses/hour for most of the day, though they’re not evenly spaced and often come in pairs.

    2. The 49 never has a 10 min. headway. It’s ALWAYS 15 mins, which makes no sense to me. You’d think it’d run more often at peak hours (isn’t that what we pay peak fares for?) and less often on nights or weekends. But it’s always 15 mins. The 43 runs every 10 mins. at rush hour.

      1. Trouble is you get unreliable schedules like the 8 and 48; that’s why it was split in the first place. Is demand on the 49 as high as the 7? As of a couple years ago, I heard the 7 was the only Metro route turning a profit.

      2. The 49 performs slightly better than the 7 at peak and night. No Metro route turned a profit from 2003-2009. The highest farebox recovery on a route is the 4N during peak with 71% fare/operating cost. The 7 is around 35%.

  9. Absolutely fantastic, Oran. Great idea to just focus on Seattle: the proportions of everything you chose are excellent.

    1. Frankly, this map of Bellevue would look pretty pathetic, outside of rush hour at least: 550, 240/222 (sort of) between Factoria and Bellevue, 230/253 between DT Bellevue and Crossroads, and the 230/234 from Bellevue to Kirkland (again, sort of).

      Not a slam against Bellevue – I’ve lived over here since I was born (except for 11 years on Queen Anne) and transit has only improved over that time. Still, a long way to go.

    1. Seriously, you should sell printed copies of these (while of course providing a free PDF version too)!

  10. Visually, the absence of routes in central and east areas of Seattle, amongst others, is striking.

    1. It’s also striking when trying to get home at 11. My wife ended up hoofing it 3 hours across Seattle. I doubt she’ll leave home without a car for another decade.

      1. The lack of late-night service in Seattle is… impressive. In a bad way. And it sure pops out at you in these maps.

        From everything I’ve heard Seattle really does have a nightlife, making this exceptionally odd.

  11. Speaking of “color-coordination” (someone mentioned it earlier), has anyone heard if the area’s transit companies are going to get together and start doing this to the transit lines in the future? In the next 10 years, we will have at least 3 streetcar lines (SLU, FH, Tacoma and most likely more), 2 light rail lines (Central and East), 2 commuter rail lines (North and South), a monorail line and 6 BRT lines (A-F).

    Currently, the BRT lines are all color coded, the monorail has a red and blue train car and the SLU Streetcar has red, orange and purple trams, but the rest are just called by their line names. I’m wondering if someone is going to take control of all this and number or color coordinate them all? That will be one nice map for Oran to create when that project is complete.

    1. Or we could go the other direction and have bus and train wraps that constantly change. Ya know, let the creative juices flow.

  12. Metro and Sound Transit need to hire you as a graphics designer because you actually make usable, and friendly-looking maps. This looks clean, simple, and elegant.

    On a side note, the monorail is rapid rail but the Link is not; it’s light rail. By part of the definition, the system has to be 100% grade separated to classify as “rapid”.

    1. I applied to ST. Got rejected for not being a trained graphic designer (I’m a civil engineer in training).

      Re: rapid. I’m using rapid in a sense that service makes limited stops in a regular pattern (monorail is a unique case) with fast and frequent service. That is how “Bus rapid transit” gets to use the word rapid, even when it runs on surface streets in mixed traffic! It is to differentiate from streetcars. Link is still light rail as shown in the table.

      Here’s how ST describes Link in its fact sheet: “Sound Transit’s Link light rail will offer two-way, rapid service 20 hours each day, running frequently throughout the day.”

      1. You ought to be a consultant to all regional transit agencies and, eventually, transit agencies world wide.

      2. Ahem. Instead of applying to ST, set up your own graphic design firm, and then try to get them to outsource the map-design job to your *firm*.

        The interesting thing about this is that for some reason standards for hiring firms are generally different from the standards for hiring people…. Forget being a trained graphic designer, if you’re a firm, nobody cares about that. (They do care about other weird financial stuff, however.)

  13. This is a great map.

    One thing I notice is that much of the city has a grid of frequent service made up of individual routes that are not on axes of the grid. I wonder if it would be possibly to realign existing service to make it a grid, which would also help to fill in the gaps.

    For example, right now there’s poor service east of downtown in the CD and ID. You could serve that whole area better by turning the 49 and 10 into entirely N-S routes, possibly connecting them to the corridors now served by the 36 and 7. Keep the E-W routes along Denny/John and the Pike-Pine corridor but use one numbered route for each for the entire distance, and extend the latter bus to 23rd and MLK. You’d reduce the number of routes from 8 to 6, give them consistent numbering along corridors, fill in the grid, and make the whole system much more intuitive. Some current one-seat riders would have to make a connection. Other related improvements would be extending frequent service on Madison to MLK, ensuring frequent service on Jackson all the way to MLK, and removing the jog in the N-S portion of the 8 at Yesler and Jackson since it would be served by the service on Jackson. You could consider splitting the 8 into N-S and E-W routes, but I don’t know if that’s worth it.

    On the other hand, this may be a case of a system that works well despite being overly complicated, and the gains might not be worth the confusion.

    1. I agree, there are a number of long L-shaped routes that seem like they could be split. People are always complaining about the 44/43 and 48 being late, which has a lot to do with them being very long and very busy. Splitting the 8 and 48 would be nice as you could electrify the E-W part of the 8 and (I think) the N-S part of the 48 at relatively low cost.

  14. Oran, some corrections if I might…

    Until the hex of Mimi Gates and “Viaduct Reconstruction” is lifted, the Ride Free Area extends to the waterfront and includes the 99 waterfront streetcar replacement bus. (Actually, the 99 bus os always free).

    While “Colman Dock” is the correct colloquialism, and though that name ought to be used, so too should “Pier 50/52″

    The icon at Colman Dock is a ferry with a car on it. Should there also be an icon indicating the passenger ferry/water taxi services to Vashon and West Seattle?

    Why not show the connection of KCM 358 with the equally frequent (except on Sundays) CT Swift?

    Define the icons that you are using for Sounder. It is not the same thing as Amtrak.

    If you are showing the 15-18 as a frequent service on the Ballard Freeway (Elliott/15th Ave W), why not show it as such along 1st Avenue in downtown?

    Though I recognize it may be difficult, it is more correct to show the Queen Ave N/1st Ave N couplet for Lower Queen Anne/”Uptown” which has very frequent service, useful for the general shopping needs of residents of Belltown.

    Otherwise, I add my salutations and felicitations on your work.

    1. Erik, if the 99 and passenger ferries ran every 15 minutes or less I’d add them to the map. The ferry terminal and train station are shown because they are major transportation hubs.

      The connection with CT Swift is outside the city limits. I chose to focus on service within the city. Maybe in a complimentary North King/Snohomish County map.

      The icons are the standard mode icons that Sound Transit uses. So big locomotive = Sounder, Amtrak logo = Amtrak.

      15-18 service will completely move to 3rd Ave next month. I made my map to reflect those changes.

      Showing the couplet would be ideal, unfortunately I’m constrained for space. I hope people can figure it out when they realize those streets are one-way.

      1. Thanks!

        The 99 may not run with an acceptable frequency, but the ride free area does still extend to the Waterfront as exemplified by the buses that serve Colman Dock.

  15. Great map, Oran! I could say other compliments, but the other commenters have already said it all!

    Very minor corrections:
    –93rd Street near Northgate should be 92nd Street.
    –The Battery Street one-way arrow should face the other way (because it is EB) or be removed (if that is your convention [since Bell Street has no arrow]).

  16. That’s gorgeous, Oran! I especially love the little carrot-arrows where the routes split, suggesting (but not belaboring) the general direction in which the less frequent services peter off.

    Is the Central District leg of the 2 really at 15 minutes most of the day? I had no idea — I’ve only used it at night and it’s infrequent and a pain then.

    Also, do you think the overlapping 30/31 segment is staggered well enough to count?

    1. Yes, Route 2 every 15 minutes to Madrona and Lake Washington until 6-7 pm.

      30/31? Yes, for the most part. Example: 40th & Wallingford, E bound, Weekdays at 10:12, 10:28, 10:43, 10:58. Headways: 16, 15, 15, 14; Saturdays at 2:13, 2:26, 2:43, 2:56, Headways: 13, 17, 13, 17, with some oddities on Saturday morning.

      1. Okay, then. I wish either route were reliable enough for the de jure headways to prove de facto, but then that’s true of every single set of overlapping routes on the map. Metro’s fault, not yours!

        FWIW, the 26/28/30/31 junction is a bit confusing for those not already familiar with the routes. (It looks as if the 26/28 might not cross the Fremont Bridge and/or that the 30/31 might continue along the 28’s route.)

      2. Yeah, Metro also ruined the 10 minute spacing on the 71/72/73. Now, a 72 comes right behind a 71. Bus bunching! On purpose!

        That area is confusing due to how Metro routes service. A quick fix would be to put the route numbers by the arrows like I did for 15/18.

  17. If one should wonder why people in West Seattle rely on their cars so much, take a look at this map. RR will not solve it either as RR will keep on the same basic route as the current 54. Maybe extend it to Morgan Junction, but that’s about it.

  18. I echo the ‘great map’ complements too. As a NE Seattle resident (Wedgwood), transit service has been a frustration for me. Your map does a great job of depicting how infrequent the service is to NE Seattle communities and corridors that support neighborhoods like Maple Leaf, Wedgwood, View Ridge, Meadowbrook, and Matthews Beach, not to mention a huge regional medical care facility (Children’s Hospital).

    If you have suggestions for improving transit service and connecting NE Seattle neighborhoods to rapid transit, I’d love to hear from you.

  19. I like the idea of the map in general, but it is difficult to follow routes since they all look the same, especially when you run into streets with multiple routes. I guess I would fall into the camp that prefers multiple colors like the Portland map. It would be highly useful to anyone familiar with Seattle’s transit system, but I think it would not be that helpful to newcomers. That said, it’s infinitely better than Metro’s maps.

    1. [Cross posted from the Human Transit thread]

      [In response to a question about coloring through routes separately if I understand correctly], when you say overlay, do you mean two routes that are connected together and change numbers at a major point in the middle? If so, that is why I have the Through Routes table in the lower left of the map. In my previous maps, those routes would share the same color but not all trips continue on to another route. Some routes are only interlined on weekends and evenings. So it may lead to confusion.

      Zef, you can see the first frequent map I made two years ago and a more recent draft of a map I designed to replace Metro’s system map in the city of Seattle. It has multiple colors for each line. For the new map I wanted to try something different, because as you can see, from the way Seattle’s transit routes are set up, a lot of the service funnels into downtown or the U District, resulting in a rainbow of lines that are redundant and cluttering. I don’t like using insets because I want to see the entire network on the same map. Both are two ends of extremes.

      Like all maps of this style, you have to trace the path from the labels. I tried to add visual cues to help follow where routes go like a curve when a route turns. I try to keep the labels to a minimum, sufficient to connect the dots. At least there isn’t an obnoxious number of irrelevant routes. I do acknowledge one weakness of this design is not being clear on where certain routes begin or end.

  20. Can I suggest not using dashes/hyphens for when there’s multiple routes on one line? The label “15-18” makes me think that routes 15, 16, 17 and 18 all run along that street. May I sugegst either a ۰ or a good old-fashioned comma?

  21. I love it! One minor nit…this make it looks like route 66 turns on to Campus Parkway. (Admittedly, given the number of students who take that route, maybe it should detour there before heading downtown.)

  22. Great job! I love the ghosted neighborhood names in the background. They really help tie the schematic into the geography and the culture of the city without being super distracting.

  23. I’m pretty much in love with this map. I have a few suggestions:

    – Rail and bus are shown side-by-side on MLK. But rail and bus are shown on top of each other on Eastlake. I like the side-by-side.

    – “Elliott Bay” is aligned horizontally. “Green Lake”, “Lake Union” and “Lake Washington” are aligned vertically. I like the horizontal.

    – Symbology could be modified slightly to show a stong connection between bus and rail. Mount Baker Station is a good example. I think the bus and rail node symbols could be joined and integrated to establish a clear connection. Connecting bus nodes could be added to pretty much every rail station, like Columbia City. A physical connection could also be shown among the three Westlake rail nodes.

    – The water body boundary corners can be rounded, similar to the transit lines, and I think that would add a lot of polish to the map.

    – I think the neghbornood labels make the map look a little cluttered, and maybe the font size could be smaller and more standardized for those labels.

    1. Thanks for all the suggestions!

      – The original idea was to emphasize streetcar vs light rail.
      – I do prefer horizontal labels where possible and will try to change them.
      – I’ll try a different way of highlighting intermodal connections.
      – Good catch.
      – They do add background clutter. I liked both and can’t decide. The neighborhood labels vary in size to indicate the overall area that neighborhood covers. Perhaps lighten them up?

  24. I also think some color differentiation would help where routes converge and diverge; otherwise a transit user who’s less of a transit junkie might not see quite where the 49 goes/ends in the U. District for example, vs. the 70, for another.

    Buses are more complicated; there are more routes and they’re more difficult to use than rail. On a bus map, I’d think using one color for streetcars, light rail, and commuter rail would be fine as long as they’re labeled as such. It’s kind of a given that streetcars and light rail are frequent transit already.

    1. I admit going monochrome made tracing the routes more difficult. I want the colors to have meaning other than to tell them apart. I also want to minimize unnecessary lines . One approach is to color lines based on their origin, like downtown routes versus crosstown routes versus freeway express routes. Or to group them like Eastlake routes, Capitol Hill routes, etc.

  25. Great map! I feel like it makes Seattle transit look deceptively good…

    It would be cool to see a similar map of night frequencies, or a map where the lines were colored based on reliability type info. I don’t know how much of that exists, but I bet the 358 and some other lines would pop out if you could show late buses and/or buses that are too full to board.

  26. Hey, I just wanted to let you guys know that I have followed this blog for a year or so from afar, and I’m visiting Seattle this weekend from the east coast. I expect that while I’m there I won’t have access to a car, so I printed out this map so that I can use it to get around in the city. Like a lot of others have said, it looks great, and seems like an ideal resource for car-free living in the city. Excellent work, and not only useful for residents!

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