Photo by Erubisu 27

There’s a definite trend in the comment threads towards indifference to deep Metro cuts, essentially because a lot of the casualties will be low-productivity. Now, we’re all taxpayers here and there’s certainly a point where service is so unproductive it simply doesn’t deserve to be part of the budget.

Where you draw that line is a pretty good measure of how pro-transit you are. One can always make a system more “cost-effective” overall by simply shrinking it down to a dozen or so of the best routes, but then you’ve simply given up on having a comprehensive system. Put another way, when sensible policies are in place the marginal service to be added or deleted is almost always somewhat inefficient.

It’s one thing to say that unproductive routes are being cut to divert resources to better ones, because there’s a greater good being served. But even a lousy route is someone’s most efficient way home, the route that is within easy walking distance for a disabled person, or one that makes some part of the county reachable by transit. No route has zero ridership, and I’m not going to dance on the grave of the 38 or the 42. It made sense for someone, even though the hours could be better used elsewhere.

Worse yet, some people think that cuts to unproductive routes make service cuts a good thing, so that the $20 license fee is counterproductive. It’s true that Metro has had a good crisis; as in many other organizations, periods of austerity dictate a close look at costs. But that process has basically played out with the new Metro strategic plan, which instructs Metro to periodically review its service in accordance with productivity metrics.

Given the new plan, the tax vote* is about whether we’re going to have a large, more efficient system or a smaller, more efficient system.

* assuming it occurs at all.

74 Replies to ““Good” Metro Cuts”

  1. One can always make a system more “cost-effective” overall by simply shrinking it down to a dozen or so of the best routes

    And then when the budget gets thrown off balance again, we cut another portion of the lowest performing of those routes, and on and on. There will always be some routes on the bottom.

    1. I’m sorry, but I will dance on the graves of those routes — and the 209, 45, 46 and the long tail of the 4 and a raft of others.

      Look, there are two primary reasons to run a government-funded transit service. One is that it’s a social service, providing mobility for people who would otherwise be stranded. Such a service is provided largely without respect to cost recovery or other performance numbers; its goal is geographic coverage. We draw a boundary that contains most of the people in the area and we try to put a bus within a reasonable distance of all of them.

      The second is that transit is a fundamentally more efficient way to move people in a dense urban environment, efficiency being defined holistically in terms of congestion reduction and mitigation, fuel consumption, cost recovery and number of rides. Because efficiency is the goal here, we should aggressively optimize these routes and allocate resources towards the ones that do best. Of course, we still need to meet the first goal of providing basic mobility, and that puts a floor on how much optimization we do.

      The 45 is probably a great ride for a handful of people who work at the UW and live on the top of Queen Anne, but every one of those underperforming busses means dozens of people each day left standing on the platform at Convention Place, who wanted to take the 41 home. Those people on the 45 can take the 30 or 31 and walk or transfer — or drive; there are people elsewhere that need the service hours more.

      Note that I am NOT against the $20 fee. The reductions necessary for the 600k hour cut are cutting in to bone and go well beyond the desirable restructures. But there’s a lot of smarter things we could be doing in each subarea that would probably result in significant cost savings and minimally-reduced ridership. We should make those smart cuts and put the surplus in the bank.

      1. I loved the 45 when I lived on QA, but I agree that it is not the most efficient route. I took the 31 and walked when the 45 wasn’t running – good exercise, but I never saw any of my fellow 45ers doing likewise.

  2. Agreed with Martin. Let us also not forget that some lower ridership routes feed the high ridership ones through transfers.

  3. I believe this all comes down to values and there is no black and white answer here. My values are different from others values, etc.

    Personally, I believe there is a threshold where transit should not be run. And this threshold varies from community to community.

    Count me in the group that thinks that economic situation is a good thing for reassessing transit in the Puget Sound. It is the only way that tough decisions that should have been made a long time ago can be made.

    Don’t get me wrong, service cuts are difficult and I’m no fan. But politically, a crisis is the only way to have a real discussion on “What is the role of transit in the community” because the choices are so stark.

  4. Guess I’m not very pro-transit then, b/c while I support the $20 licensing fee, I’d like to see these cut put in place first and the mechanism installed to insure future service is allocated via the new performance measures.

    1. First of all, there aren’t binary pro- and anti- transit categories. We all have some point on the continuum where we’d say there’s enough service.

      I don’t think it’s anti-transit at all to support the CRC and express the hope that the money be spent on the most productive alternatives. I think it’d be foolish to let Metro come up $60m short, as some people here seem to want, and then hope that whatever pathologies led to bad service allocation have gone away.

      1. +1 Martin. Letting Metro come up that much short isn’t going to change the County Council, it’s not going to magically educate all the non-transit-geeks on how transit service should be allocated, and it sure as heck isn’t going to magically create a public that wants to vote for transit service $$. The people who will vote no on the $20 fee are going to vote no whether service gets cut or not – they don’t care. Most of them probably never take transit, or if they do they take it to a very occasional special event.

        And yes, I know I’m over-generalizing.

      2. Part of the problem is that we are looking at “transit” and not “transportation”. In the less densely populated areas of the county, where the auto is considered the most efficient vehicle, we likely spend more money on road maintenance, police/traffic protection, accident response per resident than we do in the densely populated areas where a transit system is critically needed. If we are providing a higher level of support for the roads in the less densely populated areas, why do we think that those areas still deserve as much transit as the populated neighborhoods? We need to look at transit as being part of the TRANSPORTATION budget and allocate those dollars fairly.

  5. “when sensible policies are in place the marginal service to be added or deleted is almost always somewhat inefficient”

    That is the key. Metro has policies that have *not* sensibly allocated service. The RTTF recommendation is moving forward and will hopefully change this.

    For me the question is what happens after it is adopted? Does Metro begin to redesign/reallocate existing service based on the new policy, or is existing service “grandfathered in”? If cutting service is the only way to touch existing service then I’m in support of cuts. If I’m sure that Metro will redesigns/reallocates service based on the RTTF, despite political pressure not to, I will support new taxes.

    I don’t know the answer to this question, although I probably should.

    1. Perhaps a condition of approving the new tax would be to require Metro to restructure service based on the new guidelines. I don’t know if that’s already required but if not could it be a way of getting the entire council on board with the tax?

    2. See, Martin et al, this is essentially my point.

      Just because the adoption of the RTTF recommendations allows for proactive restructuring does not mean that proactive restructuring is imminent.

      TransitNow was my “fool me once, shame on Metro.”

      Believing the next promises of dramatic improvement, without seeing them with my own eyes, would be “shame on me.”

      1. Well I disagree with you about Transit Now, that wasn’t my point at all. Metro forecast a certain amount of sales tax growth, it didn’t happen due to the recession. There is no smoke and mirrors to fool anyone. If Metro doesn’t bring in money, it can’t spend it. Simple addition and subtraction.

      2. The savings and efficiencies created by Metro over the past few years save approximately $143 million per year,

        Operating funding for 2011: $548.8 million. 61.4% is from sales tax or $337 million. If sales tax revenues are off 30% that means there woulda, coulda shoulda been $481 million in the pot; a short fall of $144 million. Where’s the crisis? I think it’s because Metro hasn’t realized anywhere close to $143 million per year in savings. They’ve taken money from other accounts. The smoke and mirrors is also evident in trying to sell this as a congestion reduction fee. The irony is that if you did reduce congestion less people would choose to ride the bus.

      3. I disagree. The TransitNow proposal included an extremely ambitious plan for increasing service along dozens of “core routes” to 15-minute frequencies most hours of the day. After it passed, but before the economy crashed, it was already perfectly clear that the agency was unwilling to make any of the long-overdue operational improvements that might have made their goals attainable.

        Then RapidRide details started to emerge, and it was immediately clear that the initiative’s flagship improvement would fall far short of being the truly fast, truly frequent, truly reliable, deeply necessary trunk lines that they were sold as.

        Again, all before the economy tanked and the sales tax revenues “fell short.”

      4. Tim, I’m talking about 2007 and 2008. “Core services” that were promised 15-minute headways throughout the day, only to see a few trips added to the start and end of rush hour instead (and often, as usual, in the already preferentially-served direction only — yay!)

        And the RapidRide details — the minimal stop cuts, the “all-door” boarding that didn’t apply to half the stops or do anything to eliminate cash-paying, the none-too-impressive daytime frequencies and offensive evening/late-night frequencies — all that was released before the economy crashed too!

      5. “The irony is that if you did reduce congestion less people would choose to ride the bus.”

        Absolutely, at least until that magical day we figure out it’s better to pay with our wallets (congestion pricing) than with the finite resource that is the minutes and hours of our lives.

  6. seems that it would be prudent to have the “low productivity” cuts proceed in Feb 2012 and if the $20 tab measure passes apply those funds to the capital replacement account. Would allow Metro to operate a more effective system but also not gut the infrastructure.

    1. Exactly what I’d like to see. Make the efficiency cuts now, shore up the accounts that have been raided, add some service if and where places where there there is serious overcrowding and put the rest aside.

      Then, when Metro has a longer-term revenue surplus — either from new taxing authority or from revived sales taxes — build out from the restructured network.

  7. My own commute will probably be affected by the cuts in ways I won’t like, so this isn’t entirely new to me. I’ll dance on the grave of the 42, but the 38 does serve some purpose.

      1. Eyeballing that, I don’t think any areas got cut off. You’d be forcing a transfer in a lot of places, but you still could get there. Like the current longest route in the system–route 196–if it was deleted you’d instead have to hop on ST route 577 and then transfer to Metro 182. Similar situations seem to exist elsewhere.

      2. In my area: night service for routes 236 and 238 are eliminated. It’s gonna be tough for those taking night classes at UWB/Cascadia. I used to be one, having a class that ended at 10 pm and had to run out to catch the last 238.

        They could try catching the 535 to Totem Lake but they miss the 255 by 10 minutes or continue on to Bellevue and backtrack up to Kirkland. Most likely they’ll drive & carpool (most already do), since parking is fairly cheap, $5/day.

      3. Yup. Speaking just of busses I’ve ridden and areas I know personally, I’d say that the reductions on the 14N and 25 and the deletion of the 42, 45, and 46 will have almost no effect on mobility. Swing the axe on these stupid busses!

      4. Just looking at the 2009 Performance report the night 236 and 238 were by far the worse performers (although it appears there was no service after 7PM on the 209 back then?). With boardings averaging only a 1/2 dozen per hour and boardings after 10PM likely being worse I have to wonder if DART service may have been a better choice.

      5. The 236 and 238 don’t have service after 10 pm and it’s true that few people ride them at night. I see the 236 pass by out of my window and there’s almost never a person on it.

      6. If publicizing this list is intended to rile up riders on these routes to lobby for the congestion fee, I don’t think it will be a particularly effective ploy.

        I want to see the routes modernized, not merely saved.

      7. in the case of eliminating the 196, no one is going to park at the South Federal Way P&R and then get on the 182 to transfer to the 179/577/578 at Federal Way TC. They will simply go and park at Federal Way TC garage instead. Curious what is the current occupancy of the Federal Way TC garage to accommodate the added cars (though some would park at the old Federal Way S. 320th P&R and take the 177). Does KC Metro plan to mothball the South Federal Way Park and Ride?

      8. no one is going to park at the South Federal Way P&R

        Don’t make stupid statements like that. You don’t speak for 100% of the population. Further, Metro’s Park & Rides are meant for more than just riders catching a bus. They’re also great for carpoolers/vanpoolers/van sharers. Metro has three or four P&Rs that have no bus service and are meant for just that.

        Curious what is the current occupancy of the Federal Way TC garage

        When gas was above $4/gallon, it would fill daily by 9am.

        Does KC Metro plan to mothball the South Federal Way Park and Ride?

        It’d probably sit empty like the 320th P&R.

      9. Wow… That’s a mighty fine list. There are plenty of areas I see that lose ALL transit service on that list. Sections of the 210 were just added a couple of years ago. Sections of the 219 will require a loooong walk to a 240 or other service. Still, few people were riding in those sections anyway (that I saw) – pitch them over the side; the life raft is only so big.

        When/if money eventually comes back I’ll be hoping for increased service on nearby lines rather than bringing back zombie routes.

      10. Tim Says:

        “Don’t make stupid statements like that. You don’t speak for 100% of the population.”

        I NEVER SAID THAT I REPRESENT 100% OF THE POPULATION. all comments on the blog, are assumed to represent your own personal viewpoints.”

        “Further, Metro’s Park & Rides are meant for more than just riders catching a bus. They’re also great for carpoolers/vanpoolers/van sharers. Metro has three or four P&Rs that have no bus service and are meant for just that.”

        That was assumed, everyone knows that park and ride lots are for both bus and vanpool/carpools users. I probably should never used the word “NEVER” (I meant that term for those using the lot to ride buses) and should be more clear on this (what happens when you comment on a blog right before going to sleep)

        “When gas was above $4/gallon, it would fill daily by 9am.”

        I wanted to know that fact, to see if there was going to be a problem with diverted 196 riders driving to Federal Way TC garage and find out the lot is already full. This is a problem with SOME of the lots along the SOUNDER line.

        So, Tim – If you were a South Federal Way Park and Ride BUS user, would you take the 182 to get to Federal Way TC and transfer there to a Seattle Bound bus, or would you drive to the Federal Way TC and catch a bus there???

  8. One benefit of the cuts is that Metro is finally looking at restructuring service. For instance, simplifying service in the I-5 north corridor and creating more of a grid network in NE Seattle. Without the funding crisis, who knows when Metro would get around to making the network more useful and efficient?

  9. Metro restructures service all the time, and always has – 3 times a year to be precise. Heck, I was on the South King County Sounding Board back in the mid 90’s. We create some really useful routes, change a lot of others, and produced a better system.
    Sounding Boards have been on-going ever since. Transit is constantly re-inventing itself.
    The thing you have to remember is that changing a huge organization is like turning a battleship in the middle of Lake Union. “Full left rudder takes a long time to make a circle”. Couple that with the fact that final decisions are a political ones, and you better be able to count votes before you start spinning the wheel.

  10. Cutting service to the unproductive areas makes it harder for people once served by those unproductive routes to vote for any transit service. The wide web model is political cover to continue further service; if it becomes more specialized, people will become disaffected and vote no in future elections.

    1. You could totally flip that comment and say the reason people don’t vote for transit is they see a bus with one or two people on it and think it is a total waste of money. I think that group of the population is much larger than people that currently support transit but won’t in the future because their bus with a few riders on it was somehow changed.

    2. On the contrary, I would argue that bus service in Seattle benefits people in North Bend more than bus service in North Bend benefits people people in Seattle. For example, someone in North Bend going to Seattle might decide to drive to Issaquah and take the 554 into town, rather than driving the entire way. If they want to make a couple of side trips during the day, local service in Seattle becomes important.

      By contrast, with the bus service in North Bend as sparse as it is, I have a tough time imagining anyone in Seattle using it vs. driving the entire way (even if it is necessary to pay for a rental car).

      This is even more true with single-direction-peak-only service. The 209 is at least sort-of usable to people who live in either Seattle or North Bend. Compare with the 215’s trip to North Bend, which is virtually unusable without an overnight stay there (how to get back???).

      By contrast, freeway projects have a sort of double standard, as people believe, wherever they are, that it is useful for them. For example, Kemper Freeman is arguing that the loss of the I-90 express lanes to light rail will harm people all the wait in Ellensburg.

      1. The 209 terminates at Issaquah (unlike the 215) and so Seattle doesn’t really enter the picture.

        People from Seattle do ride the 209 — I’m one of them, I ride it to go hiking out near Snoqualmie. It’s a lot slower than a rental car, but it’s free with my bus pass, if you’re not in a hurry, it’ll get you there. Mostly the people who ride it seem to be going the whole way from Issaquah to North Bend — the 215 would be a better bus for them.

        Discussions of what area benefits most from transit tend to lead into a rat hole. What we can say with certainty is that the people who ride it benefit from it, and that it generally makes sense to deploy the service where it will be most ridden, provided that in doing so we don’t strand large numbers of people elsewhere with no service.

        Personally, I think the best thing for the towns near the 209 would be for Metro to subsidize social service charities to drive people with disabilities and elderly. They already do this in some other rural parts of the county. Virtually everyone I’ve seen on that bus other than me has been either homeless or elderly, and as I said, most were headed to North Bend — if you’re going to run any bus out there, the 215 would be the best.

      2. One thing that many people don’t realize is that any kind of single-direction-peak-only service is inherently very expensive because every trip requires lots of deadheading.

        Mathematically, it is trivial to show from the triangle inequality principle than any single-direction-peak-only trip is guaranteed to have at least as many deadhead miles as service miles, unless something special is done, such as storing the bus downtown midday, or interleaving the bus with another route going in the reverse direction.

        If we assume, optimistically, that the deadhead miles and service miles are equal, this means a single-direction route that’s full has the efficiency of a bi-directional route that’s half full and a single-direction route that’s half full has the efficiency of a bi-directional route that’s just 1/4 full.

        When you think of it this way, cutting the single-directional routes, especially the routes that go to very far out places or the routes that don’t add anything useful to the network seem like a no-brainer.

      3. @Eric Jarett Walker did a good piece on deadheading a few days ago.

        I’m kinda curious how much creativity could be tweaked into the system to get rid of deadheading.

        Lets take route 76, or any of the plethora of north routes that then come into downtown. I think (hope?) these are based at one of the northern bases. Once the driver drives it into town, go and park the bus at central base, and send the driver home via another bus (s)he isn’t driving. The driver that drives it in the evening goes and picks it up at central base, drives it north then drops it at the north base. There must be efficiencies like this to be had, which are completely transparent to the riders.

        Anyone have any ideas to get their hands on the lines each bus drives from base to base?

      4. I’d much rather see the 215 terminated at Issaquah TC with a well designed, scheduled, and rock solid transfer from certain 214s instead. There are features in the new radio system that will hopefully facilitate these kinds of transfers – when they are done installing it. Provide express service to Issaquah TC on the deadhead back from North Bend or 2 way peak service and you even get a minor service addition out of it.

      5. a single-direction route that’s full has the efficiency of a bi-directional route that’s half full

        Not true. The single direction routes are commuter express routes so they average a much higher speed than a typical route; especially in the reverse commute direction where they make no stops and are often running on a congestion free roadway.

    3. Brad,
      There just aren’t that many people out along the unproductive rural routes, at least as compared to the Central District 48 riders or even those along NE 8th who are served by the 230 or RR B.

      Sure dumping rural service may cost a few votes but it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

      OTOH the social justice purpose of serving the transit dependent out in the middle of nowhere might be worth doing but is perhaps best served by an infrequent van route.

      Even more to the point any social justice purpose of transit might be better served by increasing the options to those living in the Central District or Crossroads rather than wasting money serving a handful of people out in the boonies.

      1. the social justice purpose of serving the transit dependent out in the middle of nowhere might be worth doing

        To encourage “transit dependent” (doubt it if they live/moved to North) to move as far from possible where transit has a chance of being viable isn’t justice, it’s stupid.

        any social justice purpose of transit might be better served by increasing the options to those living in the Central District or Crossroads rather than wasting money serving a handful of people out in the boonies.

        Bingo! Or Kent, or White Center/Burien, or Lynwood or, or, or… I don’t even think we should be encouraging more non transit dependent people to move to North Bend. 5 acre minimums past Issaquah is about right.

  11. How much service would Metro have to actually cut to start giving drivers layovers- read restroom breaks- fit for human beings who are not on speed or crack- like if Federal safety authorities ordered then to do it, which they really should.

    If my Route 17 had to go to forty minute headways to provide decent working conditions, I’d go along with it more than cheerfully- because I remember from miserable experience what it’s like driving a full-time shift without a break. It’s a human rights violation and a safety hazard.

    And if continued to support the policy for what is really a matter of convenience, whatever my stand on checklist social issues, I’d be the sorriest form of exploiter. Also one who doesn’t care if the bus is always late, and frequently arrives dented.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I talked to a supervisor who was riding the 150 with me, and he said that drivers absolutely get at least five minutes to take a break at the end of their route. Period. And that if they take a bathroom break, that time is not included in the 5 mins (so if they took a 5 minute break and spent two mins in the bathroom they get a 7 minute break)

  12. I personally feel like metro has found a pretty awesome balance between serving the suburbs and serving the city. I’d love for them to have more suburban service but know they don’t have the money. CTA/pace takes 2 hours to get to decent suburban shopping malls, metro takes 60 minutes, less at rush hour. I find that to be really nice and worth keeping. I feel like if metro was to increase service in Seattle it should not do so at the expense of it’s suburban or rural routes. Just my .02$

    1. Chicago is physically a lot bigger than Seattle (though Seattle has far more physical obstacles to get around) and has, in many areas, a big swath of inner-ring suburbs/outskirts neighborhoods too poor for “decent suburban shopping malls”.

      For the most part, if you want to talk about transit service to malls in the two cities, the big difference is distance. Last I remember Woodfield was the big Chicago mall, and it’s 27 miles from downtown on the roads. If Schaumberg has become old hat and there’s something bigger and newer in Naperville, it’s going to be at least 30 miles out. Oakbrook Center and Old Orchard are each about 18 miles away, and they’re the closest “decent suburban malls” I can think of — any closer probably get decent CTA service, no? Meanwhile, from downtown Seattle it’s 10 miles to Bellevue Square, a similar distance to Factoria, and less than that to Northgate. Also, none of these Seattle malls are as hostile to pedestrian or bike access as the Chicago examples, so they’re easier to serve effectively. Geography, development history, and the odd facts of political boundaries make it unlikely that Seattle’s suburbs will soon be as disconnected from good non-commuter transit as Chicago’s are today, regardless of cuts.

  13. “I don’t hear anyone asking for less bus service…” — Executive Constantine

    Okay, I’ll call for less bus service … on route 38, route 42, route 134 in my part of town, for starters. I want to see a chunk of the congestion fee invested in transit capital projects, such as the streamlining of bus flow through downtown, with transit-only ROW.

    Connect more routes to Link.

    Cut the time-value of paper transfers in half so we can have *faster* bus routes.

    Begin the process of replacing the trolley fleet with low-floor, metal-seat, plenty-of-standing-room, multiple-spaces-for-rear-facing-wheelchairs, three-or-four-door trolleys.

    Invest in modernizing and expanding the trolley wire network.

    Cost out what it would take to convert the highest-ridership routes to POP.

    Don’t just save the fat and put off capital investment further.

  14. I would also like to see Metro go through every route, one at a time, and evaluate every twist and turn to see if it’s really necessary. I suspect there are lots of opportunities here. Among a few examples that come to my mind:

    1) Routes 39/60 going into the VA hospital parking lot
    2) Routes 345/255 leaving the street to go into South Kirkland P&R (and getting stuck behind the 255 going the opposite direction), rather than just stopping on 108th Ave. If crossing the street is a problem, a signalized crosswalk would easily pay for itself with the money saved. Similar issue with 255 at Kingsgate P&R.
    3) Routes 245 and 271 meandering in a loop around Eastgate Way to go into the bus bays, rather than just cutting through BCC and using the existing stop at 142nd Ave and Perimeter road (this would actually provide a slightly better connection with the 554 than the current stop location because it avoids the need to walk up and down stairs).
    4) Eastbound routes 30 and 31 doing an extra loop around the block to stop right at Brooklyn Ave and Campus Pkwy when there are already two other stops along the route that are within 0.15 miles of that same stop.
    5) Route 209 in DT Issaquah going around the block to Bush St., rather than just going straight on Sunset Way. This detour saves people getting on/off at one stop a wonderful 0.1 miles of walking.

    (I will leave off the 253 and 249’s detour into Overlake P&R and the 221’s detour into Overlake TC since, I think, this will be ending with the restructuring this fall).

    While the costs of these detours may seem minor, they add up fast when you multiply the time of them cost by the number of buses that have to do it every day.

    1. I’ll add one:

      Remove the 3/4 from the stop next to the Gates Foundation on NB 5th Ave N. I know the Gates Foundation wouldn’t like it, but the current arrangement forces the buses to merge into the right lane and then back into the center lane. Most drivers don’t let the buses merge. The 5th/Mercer intersection is bad enough, but this stop arrangement makes it even worse.

      3/4 riders could walk 2-3 blocks to the preceding or following stop. The 16 could still use the stop, since it needs to turn right onto Mercer anyways.

    2. + the loop for the 60, 113, 131, 132, 133, and 134 to serve the Olsen/Meyer P&R, rather than on-street stops.

      + the two retro stops at Renton TC on the 101, instead of having the 101 start at S. Renton P&R, head to Renton TC, and then to downtown Seattle
      (or, better yet, couple the 101 with the 169, for a one-seat ride from Kent East Hill, but truncate at Rainier Beach Station, to provide connectivity to Rainier Valley. The transfer time at RBS would be less than that in Renton.)

      + For every two-way bus that does the Busway crawl each way, instead follow the path of the 577 live loop that takes advantage of the new direct-access ramps by the stadia.

      Spend some of the money on capital infrastructure to build on-street bus stops to eliminate loop-de-loops where feasible and cost-effective.

      But don’t just save the existing least popular routes and call the job done. You might find tepid support for the congestion fee if that’s all the county does with the money. Pass the fee. Kill the worst routes. Build speed improvements to enable future service-hour cuts.

    3. The 30/31 loop is temporary because the regular stop (one block east) is closed for construction. Not serving that stop would affect the integrity of U-district’s main transfer point. The whole purpose of a transit point is that all the buses stop there, and you can catch your next bus either at the same stop or at the big visible stop across the street. Having routes that almost but don’t quite meet takes us back to the dark ages a decade or two ago.

      The same thing applies in principle to the park & rides, although I don’t know enough about Eastgate and South Kirkland to say for sure. I would say that South Kirkland is more of an accidental transfer point than a main one; the main one is Kirkland TC, and who wants to wait for a bus at an unpleasant P&R in the middle of automobilia. The main impact of putting a bus stop outside the TC is that people would have to walk further to their cars. That would require a crosswalk on the street, and the P&R users may find it a significant decline in the quality of bus service.

    4. You can’t actually get from Bellevue College to the Eastgate Park and Ride–on a bus–without going onto 148th Ave SE. However, it may be possible in the medium-term future. There was a post about it a few months ago…

  15. If you’re talking about redesigning routes, what about decentralizing the system entirely?

    Since we don’t really have a dedicated system (a la Japan – I like that you guys noticed the JR Kyushu ad), we have to accept that the bus system will be the primary mode of public transport.

    So why don’t we treat the buses as the train system?

    Start off with the main arteries. I-5, I-405, SR-520 & I-90. You can have buses run through each of these arteries in a loop. You could have express buses like the current RapidRide that would access major pick-up locations (P&R’s amongst others), and then locals that stop at all exits along the way. And during rush hours, run more buses to shorten the gap.

    I-5 could be split at the underground tunnel with buses heading Southbound turning around at the Int’l District Station, while buses heading Northbound turning around at Convention Place. I-405 could have the N/S terminus be the Bellevue TC.

    520 & 90 is a little more tricky. Because the traffic across the bridges could be different, you can’t really have buses come from the Redmond TC across 520, through the transit tunnel, and back across I-90 to say North Bend with decent regularity. So they too probably will turn around in the transit tunnel and head back across the route’s respective bridge.

    Now to connect people to these routes, you’d have sub-route and neighborhood routes. Sub-routes are those that aren’t on a main artery, but pass through several neighborhoods. For instance, Hwy 99, 522, 202, 203, 18, 167, 23rd Ave (since that would service UW), etc. These routes will also run loops along those highways/roads connecting to the main arteries.

    Finally, you’ll have the neighborhood routes that circle an area connecting them to a sub-route or a main artery. For instance, a circular route of 1st Ave, Yesler, MLK, and Jackson. Or Union, Madison, 2nd, James, Cherry, and 34th. On the Eastside, an example would be 140th and 148th between Redmond Way and Bellevue College, or perhaps Bel-Red, NE 12th, 104th Ave NE, NE 8th, 164th Ave NE and Northrup Way.

    On routes that have less demand, or those that the demand can be spread out now because of the more frequent coverage, Metro can use smaller buses or even reinstate the vans.

    Yes, there would be more transfers, but the frequency of buses in some areas would be greater and not necessarily limited to certain hours of the day.


    1. For I-405, you can have a bus that runs from either SeaTac or TIBS all the way to Mukilteo/Everett, stopping at the flyer stops/transit centers along the way with an express route stoping at the currently major ones (like Renton, Bellvue, Totem Lake, S. Everett). Every exit seems to be to slow and not every exit provides direct off/on access.

      1. Exactly how long would the driver be in the seat and how reliable would that route be, given the number of traffic hotspots it hits? Just curious.

        You might be onto something after a serious amount of investment in median flyer stops, like Totem Lake, but until then good luck. Weaving back and forth between the HOV lane and bus stops at exits can be done but it’s not for every driver.

      2. Houghton would benefit from the Totem Lake treatment. Total cost about the same as a 1/2 mile of Link “Light” Rail (sure glad it’s rail light). It sounds like WSDOT has been beaten up side the head enough that direct access ramps will be part of the lid project at Montlake. I’m not a big fan of the A2 station as proposed by Arup (at least they proposed it, ST didn’t even consider it) but if it could be made something more like Eastgate then maybe or if something could be incorporated into all the lost for ever 405/90 interchange acreage even better (I still contend that if you need to build structured parking so that light rail ridership “pencils out” then the project isn’t ripe). 405 to 90 HOV direct access; that seems like such a “duh” for eastside transit and compared to light rail it’s, a) pocket change and b) can be funded in part with gas tax revenue.

      3. “I still contend that if you need to build structured parking so that light rail ridership “pencils out” then the project isn’t ripe”

        I’m not sure I get your argument that park & rides are to make East Link “pencil out”. Even at 1400 stalls, that’s a relatively small percentage of the ridership. I’d prefer, and I suspect you would too, spending that money on building bicycle access, a much smaller paid parking lot, and kiss and ride connections. Ridership may not be quite as high but people will figure out a way as they have with Central Link, despite it’s dearth of parking options.

        Either way, park and rides on the Eastside are how many folks access transit. I live close enough and in a flat enough area to bike to the P&R, or walk, so I rarely leave a car there. Many aren’t in the same position due to our 50s “the car is the future” infrastructure.

      4. P&R lots are fine for bus transit which is built around peak service because the bulk of the ridership is weekday commuters who park and leave the area deserted mid-day and evenings. Light rail needs a steady stream of people throughout the day. Major P&R structures should intercept traffic as far from the centers of congestion as possible. They should also have as direct freeway access as possible so that the number of route choices can be maximized. South Bellevue and south Kirkland both fail at this. Neither should have been located where they are. South Bellevue I understand because of the geography but expanding it doesn’t make sense. It’s really hard to justify any free structured parking when even spread out over 30 years the cost of construction adds $4-5 dollars in subsidy to every commute. Now, if you can charge ~$5 a day to park there then go for it.

    2. Regarding the highways, the 550, 554, 577, and 594 are already trunk routes. They just need to be made more frequent. But they need to go to major destinations (Bellevue TC, Federal Way TC), not just to freeway exits in the middle of nowhere. Freeway exits are unpleasant places to wait for a bus, and watching those cars speeding by would make half the people think about driving next time.

      Regarding local circulator routes, I agree they’d be helpful. I’ve thought about a First Hill loop between 1st Avenue and the hospitals. Hopefully Metro is moving in that direction with its first steps into RapidRide. But we have to avoid getting too excited about breaking up short routes. The First Hill loop would replace parts of the 2, 3, 4, and 12, but then we’d have to do something with the tails. Making people transfer at Broadway would be a bit ridiculous: you’d be riding for one short mile to transfer and ride another short mile.

      1. Im not familiar with those four routes, but would rebranding them over a portion of their length (similar to Bellingham’s Go Lines) serve a similar purpose?

      2. I wonder why the 554 routes with a tail to hwy 202 don’t extend that little bit farther to Bear Creek P&R and Redmond TC?

      3. Well, like I said, more transfers will have to be a way of life. And if it’s a short enough distance, getting some extra walking in isn’t too bad.

        Yes, I do realize for the elderly and handicapped this may be more of a hassle as they may have to do a transfer and wait, but at the same time for those same people the possible added service means they have more flexibility in when they can get out to run errands. Also, if the loops are planned correctly, the transfer time may be 10-15 minutes at the most.

      4. “I wonder why the 554 routes with a tail to hwy 202 don’t extend that little bit farther to Bear Creek P&R and Redmond TC?”

        Because the tails are just to get some revenue service out of buses which are deadheading.

      5. Don’t those buses all end up back in Bellevue? Going up and over the Sammamish Plateau isn’t a very efficient way to get there. And why only 2 AM routes at Oh-dark-thirty but 5 evening/night routes? I’d think there are a fair number of people commuting back and forth from Redmond to Issaquah (Microsoft, H/P, Seimens, etc.). According to trip planner Redmond TC to Issaquah TC for the 9 to 5er is well over an hour on the 269 with a transfer. An extension of the 554 would do it in about 45 minutes and be a one seat ride. Also, it seems like there would be decent demand to extend the 556 to Redmond TC instead of terminating at Overlake TC. Redmond has built a lot of walkable housing in the old downtown core.

      6. From Issaquah Highlands, the 554 is already up on the plateau. And I think the extension was originally conceived as a cheap way to serve Sammamish P&R. It only later got extended to Redmond.

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