I feel funny criticizing the much-maligned 42, because it’s a bus I’m on two or three times a week. It’s the most direct link between the I-90 freeway station and the MLK corridor. On the other hand, having the region’s most prolific transit blogger on board is not in itself a reason to save a route.
The first time Metro tried to kill the 42, there were three basic groups of objections. The first group had reservations about taking the train, because they thought it was going to be too hard to use or much more expensive. ORCA issues aside, this was basically unfounded. The second group was clustered around MLK and Graham St., or south of Henderson, too far to walk to a station and reluctant to transfer to the 8 or 107. The final group was the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), a non-profit organization with a shiny new facility at MLK and Walden St. They put on a parade of testimony to the King County Council, a fine example of how to move the council on small-bore issues.
The basic argument was that vulnerable populations needed a one-seat ride to the doorstep of their facility. Metro relented by not deleting the route entirely, instead cutting it down so that it could be served by only one bus, running hourly between Pioneer Square and downtown Columbia City. Cleverly, the new 42 also provided a nice connection between downtown Columbia City and its station for those disinclined to walk.
Although everyone wants to give good options to the mobility- impaired, the entire point of Access paratransit is to provide service to people who can’t walk a few blocks. Although it costs around $38 per ride provided, running a bus 10 hours a day costs at least $1000, so it’s likely that in strict terms of serving the elderly Access is more cost-effective.
For everyone else, there are three pretty good options to reach ACRS from downtown*:
- Take Link, walk less than 1/2 mile to the ACRS front door.
- Take Link, walk less than 100m, ride the 8 (15 minute headways) for one stop.
- Take the 7 from downtown, walk three blocks to ACRS.
Frequent STB commenter Bruce Nourish has obtained the numbers: there are about 167 boardings per day, or 8 per trip, at a cost of about $6 per rider. There’s no telling how many of them are visiting ACRS, although my anecdotal observation is “few if any,” and many riders (like me) have plenty of other almost-as-good options. At least a seventh of these riders would have to be mobility-impaired, and headed to or from ACRS, to make the 42 cost-effective vs. Access.
We simply cannot construct a sensible system where everyone is within a block of a one-seat ride to downtown.
*Incidentally, that spanking new ACRS facility has its entrance oriented towards its parking lot, as far as possible from the bus stop. See the photo at top. A bad signal about how much the organization really cares about transit access.