Photo by Oran

You’ve no doubt seen the new, green schedules if you ride Metro. Starting Saturday, Metro operates their summer schedule, which includes a reroute on Airport Way in Sodo, and other minor changes (generally, clipping a trip or two) on the 1, 7, 17, 21, 27, 33, 36, 39, 42, 49, 71, 72, 73, 99, 110, 116, 180, 181, 202, 204, 209, 210, 242, 345, 910, 913, and 917. These cuts complete the short-term 2010-11 plan for “low-impact” Metro cuts, although in 2012 the budget may fall off a cliff.

Additional service on SR520, part of the plan for bridge replacement and funded by a special allotment of property tax, will arrive on October 1, according to Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Overshok.

39 Replies to “Metro Service Change on Saturday”

  1. While I welcome more service on the 255 and other SR 520 routes, I think this is one final reason to kick the 255 upstairs and interline it with the rest of the de facto 520 trunk route.

    The DSTT cannot absorb more peak trips.

    Moving the 255 out will improve frequency on the surface for riders waiting to head west along SR 520, and give them one place where they know to go to catch the bus, rather than having to guess whether it is more advantageous to wait on 4th or in the tunnel.

    Moreover, with the elimination of the eastbound bus bay in the tunnel, there would be no more buses stopping at the rear end of each station going north, causing a backup of buses into the tube. All the buses would pull forward as far as they can along the northbound platforms.

    Also, a lot of time and fuel will continue to be wasted having these extra buses sit in general-purpose traffic. Paint being cheap, WSDOT could stripe one lane of SR520 each way for HOV only. Tolling the “freeway”, if and when it gets implemented, will push a few people to take the bus to save a couple bucks. But most people will continue to drive if they don’t see the buses flying past them, and getting downtown much faster than them, in an HOV lane.

    Yes, I know that leaves only one lane for general traffic. But WSDOT knows darn well that allowing free flow of HOVs and buses in the other lane will *increase* the people-carrying capacity of SR 520.

    The Seattle City Council, for its part, could take a breather from moaning about the loss of the viaduct and prepare a plan for how to get the additional SR 520 buses smoothely down 2nd, 4th, Stewart, Olive, etc.

    With all SR 520 buses on the surface, maybe ST and Metro could coordinate a different routing through downtown that has the routes live-looped with themselves so they only have to make one trip through downtown. Besides, being able to get back on the bus at the same stop where one got off is a better practice.

    Every little bit of congestion relief in the transit lanes will help.

    1. There are many things that when analyzed are the right thing to do. But, logic rarely enters into politics. That is why we have a DBT mess. That is why politicians tend to do “the wrong” thing most times. Removing a general purpose lane from 520 is NEVER going to fly with the politicians. Only when our dystopian future is wreaking havoc will the conditions be favorable for change. But then we’ll have more important things to worry about.

      1. Would it really require an act of the legislature to change a state highway lane to HOV only?

        WSDOT just did it with the south approach to the viaduct. I don’t think they needed legislative approval.

        And given this precedent, I suspect Ms. Hammond would be amenable to entertaining the suggestion, and at least crunching the numbers.

      2. Brent
        I am not aware of any legal reason WSDOT could not pput this inplace, however, concider this scenario if they do.

        From the POV of all SOV (and possiably DOV, if they keep the 3+ carpool requirement on the approach), you have just reduced the capacity of the bridge by 50%. the SOV people will immediatly start calling and complaining to Everyone they can, the legislature will in an effort to protect themselves, repremand the Director of WSDOT, and pass legislation requiring every mile of HOV lanes to be approved by the legislature, and may infact make that retroactive. In light of this scenario, I do not think that WSDOT would make that change.

        Lor Scara

      3. Lor,

        1. Define “capacity”. If WSDOT has some sort of meter on its webpage showing that the estimated number of people using the HOV lane is greater than that of the GP lane, wouldn’t word get out?

        2. Why couldn’t WSDOT make the lane 2+ HOV if the 3+ HOV runs into political rough waters?

        3. Likewise, couldn’t WSDOT allow commercial freight trucks to use the HOV lane, bringing the truck lobby along as an ally?

        4. If any threat of having HOV lane authority removed becomes real, the lane can be converted back quickly.

      4. Everything funnels down to a single lane at the interchange with I-5. West bound you could deal with this with a flow control traffic signal like they use on on-ramps. East bound you’re pretty much stuck and the back-up caused by a single GP lane would back up onto I-5 both directions. What I could see working is just not allowing SOVs to exit 520 southbound or exit from I-5 northbound to 520 period. And yes, I know, that will happen when pigs can fly.

      5. Why couldn’t WSDOT make the lane 2+ HOV if the 3+ HOV runs into political rough waters?

        The 3+ is for safety reasons:

        The westbound SR 520 HOV lane that goes from I-405 to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge … was created by re-striping the right-side freeway shoulder as a transit lane. This converted shoulder cannot safely carry the high volumes that other HOV lanes can. In order to limit the number of vehicles in the lane, and to lessen the bottleneck when the roadway narrows to two lanes at the bridge, the HOV lane has been given a 3+ occupancy requirement.

        Of course, politics trumps safety a lot of the time (cf the viaduct), but that’s one reason they couldn’t simply turn the 3+ to 2+ on a whim.

      6. Andreas,

        The current HOV lanes on 520 have to stay 3+ until the eastside rebuild is complete, yes. But existing general-purpose lanes on the bridge and/or in Seattle could just as easily be designated HOV 3+ as HOV 2+.

      7. Brent:

        I’ve been turning over the idea of opening HOV lanes to trucks in my head for a while now. It makes sense, as there’s not enough freight to cause congestion, and they shouldn’t be the unwitting victims of an SOV traffic jam.
        But there’s downsides, the potential for abuse is bad, depending on how you define truck traffic – whatever rules you propose, people will be min-maxing them.

        However, a partnership with the trucking industry could help push HOV lane expansions, and could potentially open up funding sources to offset the extra costs. It might even allow 2-lane HOV corridors without HOT.

      8. Trucks over 10,000 GVW are currently prohibited from using HOV lanes irregardless of the number of occupants:

        Who cannot use freeway HOV lanes?
        Trucks which weigh more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

        From the FHWA FAQ:

        Are other vehicles prohibited from using HOV lanes, even with the appropriate number of passengers?
        Yes. Many states prohibit oversized vehicles, such as tractor-trailer trucks, for safety reasons. For the same reasons, parades, processions and certain types of heavy trucks and large recreational vehicles are sometimes precluded from using HOV lanes.

        Another reason to keep truck traffic out of the HOV lane is the amount of damage they do to the lane. In fact on a roadway with 3 or more lanes in one direction they are only supposed to use the two rightmost lanes and use the far right lane unless passing or allowing other vehicles to merge.

    2. Couldn’t they just restripe all the lanes for 6-1/2 feet?
      I mean, how much extra space between cars do they need. Poof, 3 lanes.
      (as likely to fly as taking away 1 GP lane)

      1. It would sure keep drivers off their cell phones. I bet the goggle cars could do it!

    3. There is a solution to the SR 520 conundrum that is actually quite simple and affordable. Use congestion pricing to get the 4 lanes we have now to flow well, and run as many buses as needed until or unless we can afford something better. Buses that serve the UW can provide for (but not require) transfers to Link. Those buses that continue to head downtown could serve an upgraded Montlake Flyer stop (which WSDOT currently proposes to close) and then continue on I-5 and city streets, which is what is currently proposed, since there soon (2016) won’t be any buses at all in the DSTT. Eventually Link will run to Redmond, presumably eliminating some of the SR 520 bus routes.

      Why 4 lanes? For better or worse, the 4 lanes we have now are the only lanes we’re going to have heading into Seattle for a long, long time (the Eastside notwithstanding.) WSDOT is over $2 billion short of the funds to build 6 lanes all the way to I-5 (which they readily admit), and short of some unexpected windfall from the Feds or unexpected surge in state revenues, or tolling I-90, the money will not materialize. Tim Eyman is presently targeting the I-90 revenues with I-1125, and even if that initiative fails, there are some huge hurdles to slapping a toll on all the lanes of I-90 (a Federal interstate highway) and assigning 100% of those revenues to a state highway, SR 520. And we actually had those $2 billion, which would probably still be insufficient to complete the 6 lane SR 520, would we think that widening SR 520 is the most effective conceivable way to spend it?

      Public safety must be addressed, but the state obviously doesn’t believe the concern is that great because we’re using funds we could have applied to making the highway seismically safe in Seattle to widen the segment on the Eastside instead — a segment that has no public safety issues and already has an HOV lane in one direction where it is currently needed. Meanwhile, we are raising tuition at UW, cutting transit service far and wide, etc. These are different budgets, but IMHO, we clearly do not have our societal priorities straight. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb on that one.

      The justification to widen SR 520 comes from a widespread but mistaken belief that HOV lanes are the only way to ensure speed and reliability for HOV’s. The state has spent 14 years and $400 million studying SR 520, but as far as I can tell never scheduled one hour of work for one engineer to consider the potential of using tolling — which is already planned — to relieve congestion on a 4-lane SR 520, despite having been asked to do so countless times. WSDOT’s existing plan, after spending $4.65 billion, is for congestion to remain on SR 520 indefinitely; that’s why the HOV lanes are considered necessary. It would be preferable economically and environmentally to get the highway to flow at all times, and that is an achievable goal. A non-congested highway lane can take 2000-2200 vehicles per hour (vph), whereas a congested lane carries perhaps 1200 vph. There is a huge spare capacity in the existing bridge which we could tap by congestion pricing. All this could be scientifically tested for a fraction of the billions of dollars we propose to spend using the tolling infrastructure the state is already putting in place; all it takes is political will. Many other cities around the world are heading in this direction; Washington state has the choice to be a leader, or a laggard.

      HOV lanes are not secure. A Tim Eyman initiative could open them up to general traffic, or otherwise weaken the policy. Does anyone believe that is impossible? Meanwhile, every vehicle that shifts to any new HOV lanes frees up space for more SOV’s in the GP lanes, which then overwhelm I-5 and city streets, by the state’s own admission, with an additional 17,000 vehicles per day, versus today. There is no room for additional peak hour trips on Montlake Blvd. or I-5, and the state proposes to remove an express lane across the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge, one of the worst bottlenecks in the state, to allow for a new ramp connection to SR 520. Meanwhile, the state’s two-drawbridge scenario in Montlake — which only adds a pair of HOV lanes for the 300 feet across the Ship Canal — fails to relieve congestion on the Montlake Blvd. corridor. For far less money than the second drawbridge, we could build bus queue bypass lanes in all directions heading to the existing Montlake Bridge. We already have one on NE Pacific St. by the UW Medical Center; all we need is one coming from U Village (a huge congestion problem on a state highway, SR 513, that the state has chosen to ignore) and one heading north on Montlake Blvd. on the short segment between SR 520 and the drawbridge. The state’s plan to add many more vehicles to the system and then massively scale up the interchange to partially make up for it, as part of a plan that is unaffordable, does not comprise a solution.

      Hopefully by the time we actually get the money to fix SR 520, if that ever happens, we’ll be smart enough to use it on something that makes sense. In the meantime, we should set toll rates with the goal of relieving congestion on the existing bridge. Implemented properly, it might actually bring in more revenue. Would it, or would it not? That requires analysis that hasn’t been done. What would that analysis cost? Probably a whole lot less than $400 million.

      We could speculate for years on all this while the state marches on toward the unaffordable dreamland of HOV lanes all the way to I-5, or we could demand that the state evaluate affordable ways to get the most out of what we have. That way, we’d have the facts in front of us before taking on 30 years of new debt to widen an urban highway at the tail end of era of cheap oil. Who knows, maybe that would be a good idea.

      And yes, kick the 255 upstairs :)

      1. “HOV lanes are not secure. A Tim Eyman initiative could open them up to general traffic, or otherwise weaken the policy.”

        And congestion tolling would be safe from Tim’s meddling? I think there’s a lot more political support for HOV lanes than for tolling. You should hear the bellyaching I’ve heard around Microsoft about the bridge tolls.

        Also, the current HOV lanes on 520 are useless. Most of the time the 545 operators stay in the left lane until past the I-405 interchange because using the HOV lane means a 2-hour trip into Seattle. Moving the lanes to the inside should be a wondrous improvement for transit, though I have to question the decision to build pricey island stops at Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point while removing the much more heavily used Montlake Flyer Stop.

      2. I agree with Matt that tolling wouldn’t be safe from political measures. That’s a political fight… but I’m still convinced congestion pricing is good and necessary for overall efficiency in the region. People are making choices about where to live and where to locate their businesses that put an enormous burden on our region transportationally, and the cost of those actions needs to be reflected when they travel. MS whiners are whining at the wrong people — if Google can have offices on both sides of the lake (despite a much smaller regional presence) so can MS.

      3. Indeed, congestion pricing is not secure either — Tim Eyman is already targeting congestion pricing with I-1125, while the state legislature and Governor seem intensely disinterested in it as well, thus far, for different reasons. I-1125 would put the kibosh on the idea to toll I-90 and apply the funds to close the gap on SR 520. This should make for an interesting debate, maybe even interesting enough to take the intense media focus off SR 99 for a day or two here and there. Even Federal laws can be changed. Only a fixed-guideway investment like Link is truly safe from policy meddling.

        I’ve experienced those two hour commutes from Microsoft. I don’t deny there’s bellyaching about tolls; There’s always resistance to new taxes, tolls, fees, etc. I’ve also heard a lot of cross-lake commuters in Seattle welcome tolls as they think it will speed up their trip. At least the Microsoft employees can probably afford to pay them, or alternatively they could use transit or the company’s free commuter services. For better or worse, tolling is absolutely essential under the current funding regime and planning assumptions, traffic impacts or benefits aside. The state is short $2 billion if you assume tolling. Absent the tolling, there would be closer to a $3 billion shortfall.

        The outside, westbound HOV lane on SR 520 approaching I-405 is indeed pretty close to useless (how much did that cost?) — demonstrating that HOV lanes are not by themselves a panacea — though the one west of I-405 is clearly offering a transit benefit today. I couldn’t agree more with regard to the transit stops in WSDOT’s plans.

      4. I-1125 allows only a fixed-rate toll to maintain the roadway on which the toll is collected. No congestion pricing, no diversion to other roads, and no spending on transit.

      5. Also, the current HOV lanes on 520 are useless. Most of the time the 545 operators stay in the left lane until past the I-405 interchange because using the HOV lane means a 2-hour trip into Seattle.

        The lanes east of 405 are useless, you mean. The lanes west of 405 are wonderful.

        Moving the lanes to the inside should be a wondrous improvement for transit, though I have to question the decision to build pricey island stops at Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point while removing the much more heavily used Montlake Flyer Stop.

        I understand why they want a lid at Evergreen Point — without one, buses have to go through general-purpose traffic to stop, which would suck. But Yarrow Point? No one *ever* uses that stop. I’m pretty sure it’s marginal for pretty much every ST bus that stops there. It would be far cheaper to just scrap the stop entirely, and I can’t imagine who would complain.

        If anything, I could imagine a future lid / freeway stop at 108th, as a replacement/supplement for the South Kirkland P&R. But the Yarrow Point one is pretty spectacularly useless.

      6. Yarrow point is a useful stop for bikers who want to be ahead in line for a bus over those waiting at Evergreen Point. Once the bike trail is built across the new bridge, this need will largely go away.

      7. Yarrow point is a useful stop for bikers who want to be ahead in line for a bus over those waiting at Evergreen Point.

        Surely that’s not sufficient justification for spending hundreds of thousands on a lid…

  2. Reading these reductions makes me sigh. Every 42 trip not cut is probably another trip on a 7x not saved. And I know it’s a bit iffy just to judge busses by how full they are when they leave downtown, but the 202, 25 and 37 are among the few busses pretty reliably half-empty when I see them, and they’re getting hit less or not at all.

    1. Speaking of bus service in the south end, can anyone explain to me why the 38 exists?

      1. It continues to exist because people complained to the city council that the side of Beacon Hill is too steep to walk up, and they needed a way to get to Beacon Hill and Mt Baker stations.

        Whether this is really true and affects enough people to justify the route is a different question.

  3. Another reason why 40/40/20 needs to go. There obviously needs to be some balence in the suburbs, but they should take a look at what PT is doing, and cutting unprouductive rural services. Although i will have to admit the cuts are a bit deep, but neverless.

  4. I’ve gotten some positive feedback from Metro regarding the possibility of converting the DSTT to a POP zone, as a pilot project.

    If we convince Metro to up-grade the 255, the numbers for that pilot project would pencil out even better.

  5. Holy… I really can’t believe the last #17 bus is on the chopping block.

    I ride that 12:15 bus a lot. It’s pretty well-used for a bus at that hour — even on a Monday or Tuesday — because it’s the last direct service to central Ballard until 1:05, and because it’s the last service of any sort to the Nickerson corridor.

    Once it’s gone, the north Queen Anne/SPU area will have nothing later than the 11:45 #13, and nothing at all past 11:15 on Saturdays!

    As it happens, I lived in that area in 2006, when TransitNow was on the ballot. The neighborhood was extremely supportive. With TransitNow looking near-fraudulent in hindsight (service added mostly in the burbs, then cut mostly in the city; RapidRide that isn’t; fares nearly doubled; and yet we’re still paying that sales tax!) I wonder if that neighborhood will ever vote for another transit measure.

    1. Oh, and the 71-73 are getting cut. On Sundays. As if Sunday service on the 70 series doesn’t suck beyond belief already!

      1. Ride the 512 on Sundays. It’s faster getting to 45th, and never does the Eastlake crawl.

      2. That cut is very much doable. Service levels on the 71,72,73 are staying the same for the majority of the day on Sundays. The 71 is only going to run hourly in the mornings and later evenings on Sundays, but continue 30min headway during the majority of the day. The majority of the day the combined service level will still be every 15mins and in the mornings and later evenings will drop to 20min service.

  6. Why does Metro spend as much money as they do on new schedules when a goodly portion of schedules don’t change at all. Why not just print new schedules for the schedules that indeed are changed from the last printing. Metro’s hurting for money. It seems like they could economize and only print schedules for routes that have changed. Most have not.

    1. They already cut the amount of schedules printed. These days, Metro runs out of schedules long before the next batch is printed for the next service change.

      1. Oran, Joseph’s point was that they shouldn’t print unchanged schedules at all, or at the very least they should print proportionally fewer of those than the ones that contain revisions.

        As it is, they don’t even indicate on the front of the schedule whether or not it contains any changes. This leads to massive waste, as non-internet-enabled people pick up stacks of schedules just in case any have changed. If there were some clear indicator, those same people might only need a couple.

        A little “schedule update” insignia is a no-brainer for many transit agencies. Why does Metro always have do things differently (worse)?

      2. OK, good idea.

        What changes in “unchanged” schedules are the dates of holidays and service cancellations. Perhaps remove fixed dates and rely more on on-board posters to let people know.

        Metro would still need to print new schedules if existing stock runs out but if demand is reduced, they will save money by printing even less while allowing the people who really need them to get them.

    2. Amen to insigiating the schedules with “Service Changes” or “No Service Changes”. Perhaps have route-specific “inserts” listing the important dates.

      Also, advertise OneBusAway and other good apps at the major distribution locales.

  7. Martin: the property tax revenue was spent on routes 255, 271, 265, 311, and 309 in fall 2010 and spring 2011; the fall 2011 changes are shifts of existing hours.

    Dubman: joint operations in the DSTT will probably NOT end in 2016; ST is planning six-minute headway; there should be capacity for the same number of buses; the two agencies have not made a decision yet; note that Link will shift to four-car trains; the hourly capacity will be huge: 4 x 150 x 10 or 6,000 per hour per direction.

    Z: 40/40/20 allocates NEW hours and does not govern reductions; that is governed by the 62/17/21 rule or that hours are reduced in proportion to the hours in each subarea. One could still make good or bad service choices within each subarea.

    there are quite a few standees on nights and Sundays when Route 70 does not operate and routes 71, 72, and 73 are in local mode.

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