Estimated Non-Work Trips in Seattle, 2008 (click to enlarge)

It’s clear from the comment thread under Adam’s TMP breifing book post that people are laboring under the misconception, understandably, that the Transit Master Plan will be a comprehensive plan for transit in Seattle. Considering the role of Seattle in transit planning, however, that can’t be the case.

I sense some trepidation that the master plan doesn’t seem to visualize some sort of radical route reorganization. Of course, route structure is the domain of Metro and their masters on the King County Council. Seattle’s role in transit is capital investment in rights of way, construction and ownership of the streetcar network, and at the margins purchase of some bus service. The TMP serves as a to-do list for the city, and concentrating on telling Metro what to do is a waste of consultant and staff resources.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that the briefing book that hit the street yesterday is not a recommendation of transit investments; that will come in the fall. It is an assessment of our current state, an explanation of some basic principles, and a roadmap for how to generate the actual plan. The idea is that the consultants will identify a dozen or so high-demand corridors. A few of those will be designated for major investment, somewhere between pretty good BRT and full-blown light rail. The rest will get smaller-bore bus improvements like curb bulbs and queue jumps. Regardless what happens to routes over the next 20 years or so, there is definitely going to be a lot of service on corridors like the West Seattle Bridge, 15th Ave NW, and N 45th St, so expenditure on those paths is a good idea in any case.

Finally, the trip demand maps in Chapter 2 measure a lot of different things. Many of them depict total trips, not just transit trips. A lot of these results come from the Seattle Travel Demand Model, which uses methodology validated against real measurements but is ultimately still a model. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not perfect but I’m more inclined to trust it than whatever anecdote you might have.

15 Replies to “Misconceptions About the Transit Master Plan”

  1. Thank you for the clarification Martin – I’m glad there is more to come in the Fall.

    Of course, route structure is the domain of Metro and their masters on the King County Council…and concentrating on telling Metro what to do is a waste of consultant and staff resources.

    This statement concerns me, and I’m not entirely sure I agree with it. If Seattle transportation officials feel Metro’s routing decisions are not working well, isn’t it their duty to communicate this in a professional manner? Furthermore, a transit master plan should have some level of vision. While it would be a waste to pay consultants to envision transit improvements which were impossible given current constraints, it would also be a waste to have them suggest improvements which didn’t push the boundaries a little. Metro couldn’t politically ignore suggestions which (a) improve efficiencies and (b) leverage any investments Seattle commits to, such as designating exclusive ROW corridors.

    If I’m not understanding the purpose of the master plan, forgive me. I’m all for making lots of small, low-cost improvements to our transit system and focusing on what Seattle can do on its own, but I hate to see our transit vision watered down before it is even put to words because it is Metro’s domain.

    1. The city should certainly tell Metro that too many people are waiting too long in certain areas, and that the city wants more bus service in certain corridors, and that the 8 and 48 are too long to be reliable. But it will probably avoid making specific route recommendations like “join the 38 to the 14” or “move the 17 back to Dexter and the 26/28 to Westlake”.

    2. Actually, Metro could politically ignore suggestions – I’m not saying it’s likely, or that it will happen, but the County Council has certainly ignored any number of things in the past. I hope that doesn’t happen.

      And I agree that SDOT folks should be (and frankly already are) communicating with Metro folks about what does and doesn’t work well. But there are definitely toes and lines to watch out for there.

      1. I think it’s the level of detail…

        For example, the City can point out that Delridge is targeted for increased density, is slated for street improvements, etc. and is a good candidate for BRT. Metro has taken these things into account and is considering a future RapidRide line there.

        The City should not, however, say that the Route 120 needs to have higher frequency, or that a new bus route needs to be put in.

      2. The city has been recommending specific route frequencies for years. They might even do a better job at that than Metro, which might be scared to set the bar too high for themselves.

      3. The prime example of that is the Urban Village Transit Network, described in the city’s previous transit plan as corridors with transit service at least every 15 minutes in both directions, 18 hours a day, every day of the week.

      4. I’m surprised the 120 wasn’t chosen as West Seattle’s RapidRide line. Maybe Metro couldn’t afford it or they’re saving it for later.

      5. The 120 doesn’t go to the main part of West Seattle where most of the businesses and density and transfers are (the Junction). White Center has those things but it’s on the south edge of West Seattle, not in the middle. However, the 120 has gotten very popular and I think some Metroites are considering it for the next RapidRide after the first six.

    3. There are certainly some worthwhile tweaks to the system in my view, but I’m not sure why everyone thinks SDOT is in a substantially better appreciate those opportunities than Metro is.

  2. Do the projected population increases take the recession into account or are they still based on pre-recession data? There are certainly people who were going to come to Seattle but now aren’t, or who were going to buy a house or second home but now aren’t.

  3. I don’t think a suggestion that the 132 keep heading down Military Rd S to TIBS is “radical”. I think it is a tweak and a modernization. If the city is subsidizing the 132, then the city is within its rights to say it will no longer subsidize the portion of the 132 that scoliates over to Burien TC. Is there any part of that with which you disagree, Martin?

    I don’t think a suggestion that the 7 turn west at Rainier & Henderson to reach RBS is “radical”. It is tweak (but one that comes with the sort of infrastructure investment the TAB is within its rights to consider) and a modernization.

    If the TAB is to look at infrastructure investments on the 7, and be asked whether or not to recommend transit-priority lanes on portions of Rainier Ave S (which seem clearly justified from the times I’ve been on a 7 or 9 stuck in slow-moving traffic), then it is certainly within the board’s purview to look at extending the trolley wire down Henderson… or recommend that off-wire trollies start to be phased in.

    It would also be a shame it the TMP is silent on how re-routes will work after Husky Stadium Station opens… especially if infrastructure investments are involved (e.g. transit priority lanes on 25th Ave NE all the way up to Lake City Way). Otherwise, Metro will pass the buck and say that the lack of certain infrastructure (priority lanes) dictates their decision to route nearly all buses up Pacific Way, bypassing the station.

    1. I’m not particularly familiar with the 132, but if Seattle is contributing matching funds to it it’s absolutely in scope of the TMP.

      You seem to think this post is a specific attack on you and your ideas, and I’m not sure why. The micro route adjustments you suggest may very well end up in the TMP, if they have merit.

  4. +1 Brent. The city should be the 800 pound gorilla sitting behind the driver on Metro buses in the city. Likewise, they should share the responsibility to make buses more efficient and appealing to city residents.
    The 7 wire idea has a lot of merit, and a big ugly primate, with bad breath and a short temper will likely have better luck with Metro and the Council, than a community meeting with cookies and coffee.

    1. Another option that comes to mind, noticing the crushload on the 7 north of MBS, is to have 7 runs that start at MBS and go downtown, and have more runs on the 9 in both directions. The 9 already goes to RBS, so if it did so with high frequency during peak, getting to Link from southbound Rainier would be a snap, and current 7 riders going northbound might catch the 9 instead, and transfer either at MBS or Rainier & Jackson (to the 14).

      I get the feeling the city will go for the more expensive solution of just adding more trips on the 7 for its full length, and ignore the issue of getting to RBS and catching Link southbound.

      Still, the biggest expense that will come out when looking at the 7 is the need for transit priority lanes between MBS and Jackson, maybe further for the 9. Ride the 9 a few times in the peak direction, and you’ll see how expensive the lack of priority lanes is.

  5. Let me offer another example of how this TMP process is going to be looking with too coarse of a microscope.

    The 60 features peak-hour crushload on 15th Ave S south of Beacon Hill Station. A few peak-hour rides on the 60, and the planners would notice that a substantial number of those trips begin at Cleveland High School and end at Beacon Hill Station (or vice versa in the morning).

    Metro could save a chunk of change by creating that short route as a new peak-hour route, just between CHS and BHS, and reducing peak-hour frequency on the 60 back to its all-day 20 minutes. The new peak-hour route could skip the VA, at least in the northbound direction.

    This is the sort of simple revenue-positive measure that will eliminate a crushload, and avoid wasting time looking at the other expensive cookie-cutter approaches on the menu.

    Extend the route further down 15th Ave S and then along the 106 path, and a lot of car trips between South Beacon Hill and Cleveland High could be converted into bus trips. It might also do away with some school bus routes, too.

    I bet if the consultants or Metro run the numbers, they’ll find a significant cost savings there.

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