Seattle Transit Master Plan - Briefing Book

The Seattle Master Plan Briefing Book is a high level look at factors that interact with Seattle’s transit system. It assesses the state of transit in the city and lays out how the process will arrive at its recommendations. It includes the travel demand and transit market analysis information we previously wrote about.

The Introduction gives a good overview of the document and discusses the timeline for the remainder of the project. What I found interesting skimming the document:

  • Chapter 2 is the travel demand and transit market analysis.
  • Chapter 3 is land use and development. Nothing earth shattering.
  • Chapter 4 has interesting data on Metro’s ridership demographics (pg 21), a cool scatter plot of cost efficiency vs productivity by route (pg 28), and some good graphics of performance of the Urban Village Transit Network (UVTN)
  • Chapter 5 compares Seattle’s transit system to peer cities.
  • Chapter 6 explains how the process will compare modes.
  • Chapter 7 looks at best practices, focusing on issues that are relevant to the city. This section isn’t too in depth so it is only really interesting for novice transit nerds.
  • Chapter 8 is a stakeholder and public outreach summary. Tell me if you see anything interesting.

I would specifically like to see visionary, strong planning and decision making processes for improvements in the speed and reliability of transit service. A good example is the 8 on Denny. That corridor is never going to get grade separated transit service but in my opinion will become incredibly important for city center neighborhoods, especially with the opening of the Cap Hill Link station and Rapidride Line D and E. Yet Denny way is already ridiculously congested.

What happens then? Do we look at parallel streets that could become transit priority streets, something else, or just give up and call it good? There needs to be a system to deal with this situations like this. Maybe this falls into a larger structure of warrants and corresponding improvements designed to bring transit service up to a specific quality level.

31 Replies to “SDOT Releases Transit Master Plan Briefing Book”

  1. I would offer a point of warning about the use of “specific quality level”s. Once a line reaches that level, then NIMBYs will use its attainment as an argument against further improvements on the line.

    Moreover, it would have the effect of pushing improvements on low-performing lines ahead of improvements on high-performing lines.

    Every line has opportunities for improvement, and should never be considered to have reached the level of “no further improvements will be considered on this line”.

    1. There’s a difference though between service quality and performance. Many high performing routes have terrible service quality. Adam mentioned the 8, but I’d add anything on the Pike/Pine couplet, anything between downtown and LQA, and especially anything traveling east up First Hill. (I waited eight light cycles yesterday on a #2 between 3rd/Union and 6th/Spring. Some of our best performing routes are the slowest, and I think it’s quite reasonable to focus on them. We don’t want a city 10 years from now in which a commute from Northgate to downtown is faster than one from Queen Anne!

      1. It’s already faster many days for my sister to get to Lynnwood by bus than it is for me to get from Fremont to the CD by bus. And the slower part of the trip isn’t Fremont – downtown, it’s downtown to the CD.

      2. The 8 needs to be split. The length of the line magnifies delays. Either that or add shuttles between Seattle Center and 15th.

      3. +1 On splitting the 8. If Metro doesn’t have the balls to do that in one swoop, introduce a turnback routing from Queen Anne to 15th or 23rd Ave.

      4. Actually I wondered if the 8 and 43 could operate the same route between Capitol Hill and Lower Queen Anne when Link opens? With both routes running every 15 minutes, you could have 7-8 minute service along Denny between Lower Queen Anne and 23rd/John.

      5. @Bruce the issues is service hours. That is why the 48 wasn’t split a long time ago. It just eats up too many service hours.

      6. I think the 2-way mercer project might help with queen-anne bus connectivity.

        My father-in-law is mobility-impaired, and rides transit from his home in Lower Queen Anne to his north-cascade workplace. The most direct route is a brutal, minimum 30-minute trip to replace what would otherwise be a simple mile-and-a-half walk. He goes from the northern terminus of the 8 to the northern terminus of the SLUT.

        If Mercer could be made transit-friendly as part of the 2-way mercer project, some of the buses that currently bumble down Denny could be rerouted to mercer, save time, and hopefully better connect the Cascade neighborhood.

  2. Would have been neat to see a couple of non North American cities included in the Peer review.

    (Anglophone or otherwise)

  3. I’ve only read 3 of the chapters, but it is nicely-put together document. It does seem to lack meaty recommendations, however. If anything, it makes King County Metro look like a rather expensive agency, except on the in-city operations. KCM has some work to do before they go asking for more tax dollars. The task force seems to have a good handle on what changes are needed, but will they actually implement them?

    I for one would like to see more dedicated transit avenues in the city – similar to 3rd Ave. If you could do it on a few corridors it would greatly speed things up. I don’t know what to do at the choke points, generally bridges over bodies of water or freeways. Another problem is detractors would scream “war on cars!!”, even though it may offer some relief to auto congestion.

  4. Something I think is odd, though it doesn’t have much bearing on the document as a whole: It says Seattle’s 2008 population of 575,000 is expected to grow by 100,000 by 2030. However, Seattle’s population is supposedly 617,334 today…

  5. Also, they list the U-Line as a “planned” streetcar, but none of the other proposed streetcars. Not inclined to read too much into this.

  6. I like the transit maps from all the other cities in the country. And why can’t we do that? Oh, we can…it’s called Oran. Yet ST and MT won’t hire him.

  7. On section 8 it is interesting how there aren’t any ordinary citizen taxpayers – without any affiliation – named as stakeholders. The regular joe doesn’t have a chance in this city.

    1. Usually representatives on a stakeholder committee or advisory committees are affiliated with organizations. Also there is an advisory body, which Martin along with others are on.

      http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/tmpag.htm

      Citizens that have been engaged enough and knowledgeable enough to contribute to these bodies are often professionally or somehow actively involved in organizations that deal with these issues. Average Joe does usually doesn’t care enough to be that involved and if they were, they would probably be associated with a group as well.

      1. Sorry but that sounds like an elitist answer. There should be non group affiliated citizens – who pay a good chunk of the taxes for these efforts – represented. That why good boards of directors have one or more independent directors.

      2. So because someone dedicates their spare time to work on an issue it makes them elitist? I think you’re forgetting that people, regardless of affiliation, are voting and tax paying citizens as well. There are people on the advisory group who are citizen activist, community leaders, as well as having technical background in these issues.

  8. My takeaway from Chapter 8 is that everyone wants light rail everywhere, in particular from where they are to where they like to go. If that’s what it takes to get some of the respondents to ride transit, we may have to consider them impossible to please.

    But seriously, a major flaw in the methodology of the book is the assumption that the current routes are set in clay tablets, and the job of the TMP is to assign modes to each route.

    The maps seem to assume that where people get off the bus is the actual destination. I note FIGURE 2-23 TOP 50 MAJOR ORIGIN-DESTINATION TRAVEL PAIRS FOR HOME-BASED WORK TRIPS BETWEEN SEATTLE AND REGION (2008) This map is just plain wrong. It doesn’t consider that many of the trips alighting at those destinations are actually transferring to get to jobs somewhere else completely different. There is a big magenta line between South Park and Burien. As a frequent rider in South Park, I can tell you that the 60 gets better ridership than the other three routes combined (though the 132 has a temporary advantage being the only route not doing the figure 8). And yet, there is a dearth of lines connecting South Park to Beacon Hill.

    So, the map makes it appear that lots of South Parkers go to jobs in downtown Burien. That just ain’t the case. Lots of South Parkers go to *transfer* to other buses at the Burien TC, because all the N/S routes in South Park go there. Maybe the TAB is unaware that ORCA data can be used to show transfer pairings. I hope the consultants will be given access to the ORCA data and see, for example, that there may be justification in altering route paths or altering route couplings. As it is, this whole process looks like an exercise in reducing or increasing service level and type on existing routes only.

    Sigh.

    1. Some of the overtaxed urban routes that are likely candidates for a mode change (i.e. some variant of rail) are pretty fixed in practice. There’s really only one affordable way to get rail at grade between downtown and UW, for example.

      I agree with the route-inflexibility critique in other contexts. Of course, the problem with ORCA data is that you miss UW students, a huge rider group all over the city, but particularly in the urban areas.

    2. Brent,

      You’re not interpreting Fig. 2-23 correctly. It is not measured bus ridership. It assesses total trips between all origin/destination pairs based on a travel demand model. The model is pretty good but it’s a model.

      There are many trips that have lousy transit service so the ridership is low, but they’ll show up on here because people tend to take them by car. In the Burien case you cite those are people going from West Seattle to Burien, Seatac, Boeing Field, and Southcenter. That totally overwhelms whoever happens to be on the 60.

      1. So, is there any possibility the TAB will consider recommending a bus line from South Park to TIBS? (e.g. a straightened out 132)

  9. One other blind spot in the book is the poor quality of transit-to-transit transfers (in particular, but-to-rail). It talks about foot access, bike access, skips car access, and rarely mentions transit transfer access.

    This does not look like a process that will lead to a gridding of the routes, nor to being prepared for route changes as new Link stations open.

    So, I hope the process can be extended to include a look at which routes would be good candidates for large numbers of transfers at Capitol Hill Station and UW Station when they open, and how routes should be altered to complement and not duplicate service with the Capitol/First Hill Streetcar.

    Also, I think it is within the purview of this process to look at more and better connections to existing Link stations.

    The consultants can do some independent research on trolleys and their future. Will it be easier to complete the #7 to Rainier Beach Station by moving it to the front of the line for conversion to off-wire hybrid trolleys? Same with the #27, which stops painfully less than a mile from MBS? It is not enough to have light rail between every major destination pairing, if buses don’t get people to the light rail. (This includes my neighborhood’s ongoing wish for a route to TIBS.)

  10. The TMP booklet sidesteps some major debates on the future of Seattle transit…. in particular the universal fare payment system.

    It does not look like the TMP will delve into what it would take to eliminate the Ride Free Area. Nor does it look at competing models such as universal off-board payment, pay-as-you-board-and-exit-through-the-back, enter/exit at all doors, etc.

  11. Interesting reading, and a lot take to take in & process. As someone who’s still new to Seattle I’m learning a lot about the area while reading this.

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