48 and 271 Restructure Map
48 and 271 Restructure Map

King County Metro’s Route 48, running from Mount Baker to Loyal Heights via the U-District is the highest-ridership route in the county; it’s also one of the longest routes in Metro’s network that exists entirely within the densely urbanized and heavily-trafficked urban core of Seattle. Both the north and south segments could stand alone as high-performing frequent-service routes: they would be the 8th and 16th highest-ridership routes in the county respectively. It is also, anecdotally, one of the most pathologically unreliable routes in Metro’s network, earning the sobriquet “forty-late” from its riders.

Talk of splitting the 48 in the U-District probably began when the route was created, and has yet to stop. In general, there tends to be much more transit ridership from residential areas to urban centers, or between urban centers, rather than between residential areas. While reasonably good bidirectional demand exists throughout the route, much of the 48’s ridership is going to or from the U-District, and in that circumstance, splitting the route there has the potential to improve reliability for all riders, while forcing only a minority to make a transfer. 

There’s a another good reason to split the 48: the south section already runs under trolleybus wire (used by the 4 and 43) for much of its length. Were this bus split, only about 1.5 miles of trolleybus wire would be required, between John and Cherry, and Dearborn and Plum. At the current cost of $3 million per mile for trolleybus wire, electrifying this route would probably cost less than $5 million with minimal construction risk or environmental process entailed. Along with the roughly $12 million project to move the 3/4 wire from James to Yesler, this project would be perfect for the $20 million earmarked for trolleybus expansion in the city’s $60 VLF proposal.

There are two main problems with splitting the 48. In general, splitting a route  often increases the number of service hours required to achieve the same amount of service, as the tails of the two routes need to overlap somewhat at the ends, especially in a place like the U-District, where busy stops are spread out over an area with high traffic congestion. The other issue is layover space. Curb space could be obtained in the north end of the U-District fairly easily for the 48S, but nothing is available near Montlake for the 48N. What we really need to make this happen is a suitable through-route partner for the 48N.

It turns out, we have one; or to be more exact, we will likely have one once the 520 is tolled. Currently, the 520 is grossly unreliable for much of the day; dynamic tolling to ensure free-flowing traffic — now expected to start by the end of the year — should fix this problem (not to mention boost transit ridership). The 48N and 271 (as far as Bellevue Transit Center) have comparable service levels and demand, making them an excellent match for a budget-neutral change in through-route. The 271 needs only a few more trips to match the 48’s daytime frequency. On evenings and Sundays, when their schedules do not align so well, layover space in Montlake is less constrained due to the through-route of the 43 and 44.

There’s more to this change than just swapping one set of possible one-seat rides for another: it dramatically improves connectivity between north Seattle and Bellevue, a corridor for which Link will not do much. Riders on the two main routes to north Seattle, the 5 and 358 (future RapidRide E) will have two-seat frequent service rides to Bellevue. As University and North Link build out, the importance of through-trips enabled by the current configuration will diminish. Riders currently using the 48S for long-haul trips to the Rainier Valley will have the much more convenient option of transferring to Central Link.

One change to the Eastside network might be required: either the Bellevue to Issaquah section of the 271 will need to be split off or assigned to another route, or it may be necessary to schedule a five minute hold at Bellevue TC in order to maintain reliability on those trips that extend to Issaquah. This is already done for some midday 271 trips.

117 Replies to “Splitting Route 48”

  1. One of your handy dandy stop graphs would have helped understand how many ons/offs and load were going to be impacted by this suggestion.

  2. I would like to see this in conjunction with some more serious reconstruction of the 271. Right now I think there are 5 different variants of the 271, and whenever I talk to casual riders of it they are really confused because of all of the different turnback variants. Plus there is the 556 which does something very similar to the 271, but not quite.

    However, as a resident of Bellevue, I do really like the idea of a route that goes that far into north seattle. The new 271 would actually would be an interesting corridor to look at converting to rail one day (although it probably would get more ridership if it followed the 44 in Seattle, instead of the 48).

    1. Stephen,
      So as a Bellevue resident, would this be something you would ride? Where would you go beyond the U. District?

      One advantage of tying it with the 48 north rather than the 44 is the fact it serves a park and ride in Seattle.

      1. So the only destination on the 48 that this would add that I go to with any regularity would be Green Lake (the actual lake/park itself, not the neighborhood). However, there are other destinations that I would go to depending on timing (that is, if it’s actually faster than taking the 550 downtown and then transferring, or taking the 271 to the u district and transferring). I go to the Zoo or Woodland park infrequently, but it could easily be faster to just transfer the 44. The most frequent destination north of the cut for me is Fremont, but again, I can’t say if this would make it faster to go there or not.

      2. It would make getting to Golden Gardens and Green Lake and Greenwood much easier.

        Also, since the 340 disappeared over ten years ago, now one can get to Aurora Village and Shoreline from Bellevue with a single transfer without having to go downtown at all times of the day.

        The park and ride at 65th/I-5 is already at 92% capacity (2010), the recent addition of ST 542 probably is pushing it near 100% capacity.

      3. Oran,
        I can get from Bellevue to Aurora Village on two buses without going downtown. (Parody of Name That Tune?)

      4. Lemme guess:
        ST 535 -> CT 118/130 (infrequent, backtrack from Lynnwood)
        MT 271 -> MT 373 (peak only)
        MT 342 (peak only)
        ST 555/556 (peak only) -> MT 346 (infrequent)

    2. It’s also interesting from the perspective of someone living in North Seattle–a through-routed 271 could be a nice option to supplement the existing ST service to the eastside from Northgate. My husband used to have to do that commute, and I know he had several coworkers living in North Seattle.

  3. “Talk of splitting the 48 in the U-District probably began when the route was created”

    It did not start as Ballard to Rainier Valley. I found discussion of the the northern part as a Route D motor coach created in 1940, upon the death of the street cars. More here. It would be somewhat interesting to know when and why it was lengthened/combined. But it was probably the same old single seat argument, which goes back to the early streetcar days and seems to wax and wane.

    If your idea goes through, I wonder if transit advocates 20 years from now will be arguing for connecting the south and north halves of the 48?

    1. In the SPL podcast about ‘Seattle In Black and White’, someone mentioned that the 48 began as a demand for a “Cross-town bus” from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) for direct service from the Central District to UW.

      “In 1960, Seattle was effectively a segregated town with no black bus drivers, sales clerks, or bank tellers.”

      “Aug. 1966 North-South Cross-Town Bus Committee is planning a large rally to demonstrate the widespread interest in this project. The Transit Commission has refused to consider the request of this group.”

    2. If your idea goes through, I wonder if transit advocates 20 years from now will be arguing for connecting the south and north halves of the 48?

      There’s a significant network connectivity argument for Bruce’s routing as opposed to what we have now. Currently, if you want to get from anywhere north of the Ship Canal to the Eastside, you either have to go downtown, or connect in the U-District. But if you live somewhere that doesn’t have an easy connection to the U-District, then either you have to take 3 buses (maybe even 4, e.g. to get to Redmond), or you have to go downtown.

      Extending the 271 (basically an east-west bus) west would make it so that anyone who has a bus route to 85th — i.e. all of NW Seattle — now has a 2-seat ride to Bellevue that doesn’t involve backtracking through downtown.

      This seems especially useful for the west parts of Seattle; they aren’t getting light rail anytime soon, and so backtracking to/from downtown will continue to be a major time sink.

  4. So does the unreliability of the 48 then create unreliability on the 271, which, without a lot of data on my end, seems to be relatively consistant. Or is it just the southend that creates issues on the 48?

    1. For this idea a late 48N Eastbound to the UW would create a late 271 Eastbound to Bellevue and a late 271 Westbound to UW would create a late 48N to Loyal Heights.

    2. Linking the 271 to the 48N with all the chaos around Montlake, ST digging, 520 rebuild, seems like a sure fire disaster in the making. We all know how reliable the 520/Montlake interchange is.

    3. Currently both are somewhat unreliable, largely due to commuter congestion on Montlake Blvd and SR-520. I would guess that the 48 north section gets backed up sometimes on 85th and near Green Lake but it would be nice to see data.

    4. In my opinion as a rider, the south leg of the 48 is reliable but slow, until it starts approaching Montlake. Then the wheels fall off.

  5. Some history of the 48…

    I don’t know the exact date for the creation of the 48, but in the early 1970s it was a fairly new route that ran from Franklin High School to the U-District via 23rd Avenue. By 1974, Metro had combined the 48 to the old route 43, which formed the Loyal Heights/85th St./Green Lake/UD exxtension. On the south end, the 48 was also extended down Rainier Avenue and then up to the VA Hospital via Columbian Way and then on to West Seattle. By the early 1980s, the 48 ran from just south of South Seattle CC to Beacon Hill then down to Rainier Valley and via 23rd Avenue to the UD and Loyal Heights. During rush hours, a bus running the full length was scheduled to take about 90 minutes.

    Back to the present…

    If the schedule can be maintained reliably, routing the north section over to Bellevue via 520 would be brilliant. But if the schedule falls apart, it will be a disaster. Anybody remember what happened when the 71 was combined with the 174?

    The south section seems like a no-brainer if Metro can find the money to get it going.

    1. I think I heard once that all the 40-series routes were created in the 60’s, as part of a voter approved package to create Seattle’s first cross-town bus routes. If it was a “relatively new” route in the 70’s that would make mesh with what I heard.

      1. As best I can remember, the 48 was the only route created during that era, other than the BlueStreak services. I was a kid and not very interested in transit issues, but I know there was some controversy surrounding the 48. During the late 1960s Seattle was still a very segregated city and 23rd Avenue was the main north-south street through Seattle’s black community. A direct route connecting Franklin HS, Garfield HS and the CD to the UW might seem like an obvious need in 2011, but prior to 1968 that idea was thought to be kind of unnecessary.

  6. For scheduling purposes, route 48 is already split at NE 50th St. It’s just that it’s always through-routed with the connecting segment.

    1. Yes, but what does that mean? It’s always the same driver, there’s never a layover, and the route number never changes. For any rider of the system, this seems like a distinction without a difference.

      1. Agreed. There’s not even a headsign change.

        I always get a kick out of the Google Transit directions: “Continues as 48(stay on board)Bus LOCAL.” As if I would spontaneously leap off of one 48 to board another one at 45th St.

      2. You kid, but Google Maps used to not understand through-routing. A friend of mine once had Google tell him to transfer from the 44 to the 43 at 45th and the Ave. He got off the 44, only to see the now-43 drive away before he could reboard. :)

      3. It would be helpful if the so-called through-routes (my grandson calls them transformers) would simply identify themselves with a slash — for example 65/67, 27/17, 5/54, etc etc. Printed schedules and those on bus stops should also make this routing more clear, right now the information is very hard to find. Not all of us have access to smartphones.

      4. Elbar,

        For the most part, the reason that Metro uses through-routing isn’t to provide one-seat rides, but to avoid needing a layover in downtown. Metro’s statistics suggest that very few riders on any through-routed bus continue all the way through downtown.

        As a consequence, Metro feels much freer to change through-routes than to make other routing changes. For example, when the 174 was broken into two, the 124 was stuck on the end of the 26, just because the service levels matched up. In fact, I believe the 5/54 through-routing will be broken up with this next service change, which will add a lot of service to the 54.

    2. This esoteric scheduling quirk plays havoc with my mobile onebusaway interface and it drives me crazy. The two directions are listed as Mt Baker and U District and when you click on one of them you’ll find that the stops are in a crazy order and not all even going the direction you clicked on. I assume the version where you have a map to click on doesn’t have this problem, but my blackberry isn’t that smart.

      1. My partner works up at at 15th and Lake City. The 48 was (when he first got the job) the most convenient way to get there (one seat ride then a 15 minute walk). The first time he took the route, he actually got off the 48 at that segment split because of the way google and onebusaway represented the route. Then it drove off. Then the continuation that he thought he was getting on said “N minutes departed” and he realized what was up. Very confusing. In general the thru routes are not done very well with onebusaway or google.

      2. The desktop version of Google Maps is better — it now says “continues as” rather than “transfer to” for through-routes. But the mobile version still tells you to transfer. Very annoying, especially for people who don’t know the bus system that well.

      3. There’s the issue that through-routing isn’t represented well by the websites, and the issue that it’s not really announced on-board or advertised in official materials. The digital bus signs are probably too limited in what they can display to really be helpful — good analog signage could probably get the point across better… maybe the difficulty of changing signage is significant enough that transit systems are right to choose the digital signs despite their limitations.

  7. I like this idea, but sadly most of they ideas on this blog don’t get any trackshon. Any tips on how the readership can help make these kinds of proposals realities?

  8. From my experience riding the 255 on SR-520, the worst reliability issue between the Montlake onramp and I-405 is in the westbound direction during the PM peak. This is due to the right side HOV lanes from I-405 to just past Bellevue Way onramp. This section does not currently affect the 271. GP traffic entering SR-520 fills up the HOV lane as it merges left. If traffic is especially bad in the two GP lanes GP traffic gets stuck in the HOV lanes creating a short bottleneck that can take minutes to get through. This is where you get 10+ minute delayed buses. Once you get past there reliability to the U-district fairly good for the 520 corridor.

    How reliable does 520 have to be for something like this to be a net increase in reliability for the 48N?

    1. I’ve only used the 271 a few times… but I’ve been on a run (westbound during late part of PM peak) that arrived in the U District almost a half-hour late (yes, really) because of really nasty traffic across the bridge and especially on the offramp to Montlake.

      1. Yeah. If you have bad traffic on the bridge WB it is usually related to the Montlake offramp backing up. I have seen this happen on days with basketball/football or other UW events or when volumes are still high enough that a Montlake bridge opening creates a long enough backup to affect the 520 mainline.

      2. The few times I’ve ridden 271 from Bellevue to University District, the bus has been packed/standing room only. I’ve never ridden this route with an articulated bus. Is there any reason why an articulated bus is not used for this route which has been full whenever I use it? It sure ain’t very comfortable standing while going only 5mph on westbound 520.

      3. Have you ridden the 271 lately? They run articulated low-floor buses in the afternoon. I have no problem standing on a bus or train going a steady 5 mph or 50 mph. It’s the slow down, stop and accelerate repeating motion gets really tiring (plus slamming on the brakes when a car cuts in front of the bus).

    2. Weren’t they talking about moving the 271 to Bellevue Way? And maybe taking advantage of the new HOV direct access ramps at 108th? It sounds kind of roundabout to get between the two but maybe the reliability and time savings from no weaving across GP lanes are worth it.

      1. Close, Metro said it would take 112th ave NE in order to get to the new 108th st HOV onramp.

        Frankly, if they’re doing that I don’t see why they just don’t take the new 10th street to 520 onramp and then go across the GP lanes, since the speed on 112th is way lower.

      2. A few points of information:

        The 520 onramp from NE 10th will only go to Eastbound 520

        There is a WSDOT plan for BRT from Eastgate to the U District starting around 2016

        And Metro has stated, at various times, route 271 will either be moved to 112th Ave, Bellevue Way, or 116th.

      3. Sorry about that Stephen, I was under the impression the Westbound braids were not yet funded.

    1. If something like this is ever done I’m sure Metro will do that in spades, plus that is what comment threads are for.

    2. I haven’t interviewed anyone, but from personal experience riding the 48 fairly often from the U-District to Green Lake I have to say that there are very few people who ride through.

      1. I can offer a similar anecdote for the portion from 23rd to the U-District. I’ve ridden it past 45th a handful of times, but the vast majority of people (including myself) either get off in the U-District or board there to go north.

      1. That’s more than Link had last year.
        I think you added wrong. It’s more like 3.84 mil annual riders.

  9. I’ve sometimes thought that, in an ideal nice-looking grid system something like the 44 would continue across Lake Washington, since it’s a fairly straight shot. There are problems with that idea that even I can think of (trolley wire, unreliability of 520), and probably many I can’t (do service levels line up?), but using the 48 for this purpose after tolling has started seems at least possible. It would be even better if we had real bus lanes on 520 and a bus ramp from 520 to the Husky Stadium area. We’ll at least get real bus lanes when the new bridge goes up.

    1. Another of my ideas is to continue the 271 to Fremont and Ballard by way of N 40th St and Leary Way, taking over parts of the 30 and 46. Now you have an east-west direct downtown Ballard-central Fremont-U District-downtown Bellevue route.

      1. As a Bellevue resident, this would be way better for me than the 48N combined since Fremont and Ballard are actual destinations.

        Also on planning docs this is a future light rail corridor, so creating BRT along it would prepare for rail (and 271 will be BRT when the new 520 is done).

      2. +1 to Oran’s idea. If all the U-District/Eastside buses continued along this route, it would provide a 2-seat connection from anywhere in North Seattle to anywhere on the Eastside, without requiring a trip downtown. No matter where you are north of the ship canal, it would be faster to connect to a bus along this route.

        If you added in the service hours for the 30, 46, the E/W part of the 26, and (maybe) some of the 44, I think that you could easily turn 40th/Leary into a new major E/W transit corridor for North Seattle, with 10-minute service between Ballard, Fremont, lower Wallingford, the UW, and the Eastside.

      1. Heh, I was thinking the same thing. The highway is just “520” but the bridge is “the 520 bridge.” Weird.

      2. It’s the 520 highway. If you drop bridge or highway drop the the. Unless you’re like totally from totally awesome California… duh! :=

  10. The 48th’s lateness is due to Montlake congestion and the fact that it stops at every single stop on 23rd during peak hours. The cross-lake routing would keep the Montlake congestion (so no change there) but add the 520 congestion. That adds 5-10 minutes to the cross-lake trip but it seems to be a consistent 5-10 minutes (i.e., it’s built into the schedule). Still, I’d hesitate to join any Seattle route to a cross-lake route because of it. As for the tolling or the new bridge cutting down congestion, I’ll believe it when I see it, and Metro should too, and not just optimistically assume the bottleneck will clear itself up.

    For an Eastsider there are more destinations on the 44 than the 48 (Wallingford, Ballard, longish walk to Fremont and the zoo; vs Greenlake and transfer to the 358). People go to Wallingford and Ballard and Fremont mainly to visit a specific business. Greenlake is more of a destination for Seattlites than suburbanites. And NW 85th Street is just not a significant destination for Eastsiders. So it’s really a choice of taking the 48 to transfer to the 358 or 5 or 15, vs taking the 44 and possibly walking to your destination. In that sense the “one-seat ride” is misleading; it’s just moving the transfer to another point.

    Still, I could see joining the 271 to the 48 for operational convenience (to fill in the headway gaps on the 271, to separate the electrifiable part of the 48 from the non-electrifiable part, and for a faster crosstown trip than the 44’s bottleneck). But let’s not pretend it’s the best routing to maximize one-seat rides.

    1. The cross-lake routing would keep the Montlake congestion (so no change there) but add the 520 congestion.

      This is my big concern, and has always been with this plan. It’s the worst of both worlds – U-district/Montlake congestion inflicted upon as many routes as possible.

  11. Well, on the rare days I have meetings in Bellevue and park at the Green Lake P&R it might save a few minutes travel time. However, the times I have gone from downtown Bellevue to Green Lake P&R, I have never had to wait too long for a 48. Sometimes I have had the good fortune to catch a 542.

  12. Why not re-number the north half of the route 47 and have the south half be the 48. At all times except on nights and Sunday, Route 47 would operate between Laoyal Heights and Montlake Blvd NE & NE Pacific Pl (Route 44), and Route 48 would run between NE 50th St & Brooklyn Ave NE (Route 70) and Mount Baker.

    Evening/Sunday service involves thru-routing the routes. Southbound 47’s thru-routed with the 48 would be signed “47 to Mount Baker via U District,” while Northbound 48’s thru-routed with the 47 would be signed “48 to Loyal Heights via U District. Then, when the buses arrive in the U District, th buses would change their signs to “47 to Loyal Heights via Greenlake” or “48 to Mount Baker via 23rd Avenue,” respectively.

      1. If you mean a route 47 bus would turn into a route 44 bus or a route 48 bus would turn into a route 70 bus after leaving the terminus, then no.

        …But those routes would share the same terminus like the 43/49 share 12th Ave NE bewteen NE 47th/45th St.

      2. (Sorry for the double post) In other words, Route 47 buses would lay over at the route 44 terminal at Montlake Blvd NE & NE Pacific Pl, which would be shared by both route 44 and 47 buses.

        Likewise, (new) Route 48 buses would lay over at the route 70 terminal at NE 50th St & Brooklyn Ave NE, with the layover space shared by route 48 and 70 buses.

      3. But you stuck the numbers in parenthesis with no other context like the routes themselves were relevant in some way, when what you really meant was “hey, did you know these other routes lay over here too?”.

        But basically, the idea is making the route into a carbon copy of the 43/44.

  13. A quick look at the travel demand model will show exactly how many trips are currently/projected to use the 520 bridge from N Seattle.

    Discussions of reliability (no doubt, a real issue) are premature until it is clear that the market actually warrants such a routing connection.

    It would have to be very clear that the 271 interline would be a stronger market than the 48 interline before I would touch this.

    1. Yeah, this proposal is just stitching two routes together because they happen to meet in the same place and have similar frequency. It reminds me of the 11/150 interline. Are a substantial number of 271 riders going to Green Lake/Loyal Heights? Absent stop-level data, the best way for me to explain the 48N’s popularity is that people’s main destination is the U-District itself.

      At one point we were talking about stitching the 48N together with the 71’s tail, before Metro talked about stitching the latter with the 26. I think that would be ideally the best solution if we could come up with a better solution to the 26.

      1. Yeah, this proposal is just stitching two routes together because they happen to meet in the same place and have similar frequency.

        That’s virtually the only reason any interline through an urban center exists. I don’t have data to prove it conclusively (stop-level data conflates the two patterns and ORCA penetration isn’t good enough to derive good conclusions about systemwide patterns), but Metro planners feel strongly that those through-routes are seldom used for through trips like that. They just save money and avoid layovers in crowded areas.

      2. Morgan: I advocated the 48/71 plan for a long time, but Mike and Bruce convinced me that such a route just doesn’t match demand patterns. To a first approximation, everyone on those routes wants to go to (or is coming from) the U-District.

        Once North Link comes online, that could radically change things — at that point, it could easily be faster to transfer at Roosevelt than to deal with traffic on surface streets. But that’s almost 10 years away. Let’s focus on improvements we can do now.

        Bruce: I’m curious, how did you pick the 271? Was it just from looking for a route with a terminus in the U-District and similar demand/frequency?

        I ask because, if your goal is reliability, it seems like you could do better than going through Montlake and dealing with the bascule bridge. In fact, I’m kind of surprised you proposed this, given your previous argument against extending the 13 across the Fremont bridge. I think the same argument applies here — most people riding the 48N northbound will be coming from north of the ship canal, so why force them to deal with the lateness from Montlake (especially outside of peak when the bridge might open)?

      3. Morgan: Having said that, I’m surprised that Metro is advocating rerouting the 71 away from the U-District. Maybe they’ve got some hard data showing that most riders of the 71’s long tail are actually heading downtown, but otherwise, I’d be very hesitant to make that change.

      4. I also suggested 48/71 earlier, or a new route on NW 65th and NE 65th street. But Bruce is right that most 48N riders are going to the U-district, and it’s an important northwest-southeast route. The 71 riders may be going to the U-district too but they’re less numerous, so if anyone should be forced to transfer it should be them. And there may be latent demand for other destinations besides UW. 71 riders have other choices for a direct route to UW (65, 68, 372), while 48N riders do not. (And the 372 and 373 are likely to be beefed up in any 7x reorganization.)

        A 71/26 route was mentioned in Metro’s budget-cutting spreadsheet several months ago, but I have no idea whether they consider it a strong proposal or just an idle what-if. It would connect Wedgwood to Fremont, save the 26 from possible deletion, and give both Fremont and Latona and Wedgwood access to Link via Roosevelt station.

        Of course, for those going to the U-district, rerouting the 71 to Roosevelt would be a blessing when North Link is running, but a burden until then. (It would help those who want to get to the UW quickly, but not those who want a slow one-seat ride. But there are other slow one-seat rides available in the area.)

      5. Green Lake is a massive roadblock for an all-65th route. Any route would either partially duplicate the 48N or have a rather useless walkshed near Woodland Park.

        Admittedly I didn’t see the 71 being routed away from the U-District before North Link opens, but I had thought about a 71/48N route and a route on NW 65th, Linden, Winona, and N/NE 80th or 85th to at least near Wedgwood. (The main concern is a) lack of transit-friendly development patterns and b) 65th being rather narrow between 3rd Ave NW and just east of Phinney.)

      6. Now I’m beginning to think the 373 will be redundant after North Link. It makes seven unnecessary turns north of 125th, whose only purpose seem to be to serve three P&Rs. If Metro sets up good east-west routes to all Link stations as it should, that should be enough to replace the P&Rs. Or if somebody lives so far from a bus stop that they still need a P&R, they can take a bus from it to Link. An east-west bus would also serve Aurora Village, so the 373’s terminus would not be needed either.

        That leaves just 15th/145th and Meridian/175th, which are listed as transfer points. Transfers in the area are undoubtedly needed, but I’m not sure they have to be at those exact locations.

      7. Mike,
        If the 73 is deleted then the 373 isn’t redundant, at least between the U-District and 145th. If the I-5 route for North HCT is chosen then the P&R at I-5 & 145th becomes a link station. Perhaps the north tail then becomes a Link feeder? With the proposed re-structure I’m not really sure how much of the route North of 145th would be kept outside of current peak trips in the proposed service restructure.

        In any case it is 10 years before we’ll see Link to Northgate and at least 2 more before we see Link to Lynnwood so it makes sense to do restructurings based on what makes sense in the context of the current bus system and worry about integrating Link closer to when the segments in question open.

      8. Yeah, that the 373 deviates from its place in the grid north of 145th doesn’t condemn it in general. On the other hand, 145th is also as far north as the 73 goes, so maybe keeping the 73 and replacing the 373 with good east-west service north of 145th is the answer. The 77 (peak-only), 347, and 348 currently provide service north of 145th, although the 347 deviates to 5th between 145th and 175th and the 348 veers off to Richmond Beach at 175th. The question to be asked is, do we prefer an all-15th route from Mountlake Terrace to the U-District (fixing the 347’s kink), or would having one 145th-U-District route and another Mountlake Terrace-Northgate route be fine with Metro?

      9. A local bus on 15th from UW to Mountlake Terrace is probably the least bad option. I’m not sure a straightened-out 372 would be better. There would have to be a good connection from 15th to Northgate somewhere, but that’s what the 41 is for.

    2. There’s obviously some demand for Bellevue – N Seattle, because there’s an ST express route that runs a limited schedule on that general path.

      But does it compare to CD – Green Lake or Greenwood – Arboretum?

      Through riders are going to be in the minority no matter what, though. The UW is just a huge destination, its traffic dwarfs everything else passing through.

  14. I like this post – it’s a great creative solution that’s challenged my preconceptions.

    But (or I should say, also), some others have made some very good points – that while it’s a great idea to intercept north-south riders on a route that serves the Eastside, ideally you’d like strong destinations on both ends of a frequent cross-lake route. Fremont and Ballard (or maybe SLU) are obvious candidates, suggesting a connection across the southern end of Wallingford on 34th or 40th to Fremont and Ballard. I’ve always thought that the 271, or something like it (like the ST Redmond to UW route) ought to be extended to Ballard to provide a cross-lake connection with an easy transfer to every north-south route in the north end of Seattle.

    One thing that hasn’t been addressed is the potential to provide a new link within Seattle connecting Green Lake, Greenwood, Ballard and potentially Fremont. Getting to Ballard from Greenwood (the closest major center) requires transferring. And the end of the 48 is sort of in the middle of nowhere. If the 48 was split, it would make a lot of sense to continue it to Ballard and Fremont, knitting together north end neighborhoods that are close enough that a transfer shouldn’t be needed between them.

    1. I agree there are many other blue-skies restructures out there that would perhaps be even better, but they require either lots of money for new routes, none of which is likely to exist in the near future, or major restructures elsewhere (what do you do with the 30/31 in that case? how do you serve UW-Queen Anne?)

      I’m trying to focus on politically possible budget-neutral restructures that could be implemented in next couple of years.

  15. As a regular 48 rider, I’ve always looked upon plans that involve splitting the route with quite a bit of skepticism.

    From my own observation, the 48 is lousy because of the U-district/Montlake clusterfuck. While 23rd is certainly a slow section of the route, it is consistently, reliably slow. Travel times along the route south of Lynn street or so are relatively consistent and predictable (the sudden Garfield High peaking aside).

    It’s only once you get near the U-district that the travel time becomes horribly unpredictable. And therein lies my issue with splitting this route. Were it split, both routes would spend a significant amount of time in what is by far the worst section of the route for reliability. A 48N starting at Montlake could easily be 15 minutes off schedule by the time it even gets to 50th, and a 48S starting at 50th could be even worse by the time it gets across 520.

    So in the end, we haven’t gained anything, really. We’ve removed relatively reliable sections of both routes, but kept the most unpredictable part. The newly split buses would be starting already off schedule.

    I would really love to see some of Metro’s travel-time data for the 48 to confirm or deny my own instincts, here.

    1. Were it split, both routes would spend a significant amount of time in what is by far the worst section of the route for reliability.

      That makes absolutely no sense. Under either configuration, both routes spend the same amount of time farting about in Montlake and the U-District. The only difference is that now the 48S terminates in the U-District and the 271 continues north rather than the opposite.

      There are tradeoffs to this restructure, I agree, but your reasoning here is no good.

      1. I did not realize that the 271 was a Pacific/15th route; I was assuming it was currently a Montlake transfer to the UW, and that we were rerouting it to fart about in the U-district for the overlap.

        So now I don’t think it makes anything much worse, but I still don’t really see the benefit. The 48S & 48N still end up with no improvement in schedule reliability because they’re still both stuck in the U-District. If I were I betting man, I’d guess that the 271 has less consistent travel times than the 48S, meaning the 48N might suffer as a result.

        I still have no data to back this up beyond my own observations, though, and I’d love to see segmented travel-time data for the 48 to confirm or deny my suspicions.

        And, from a logistical standpoint, through routing the 48S/48N makes slightly more sense, because there’s no confusion about fare zones for those who do ride through.

      2. And, from a logistical standpoint, through routing the 48S/48N makes slightly more sense, because there’s no confusion about fare zones for those who do ride through.

        There’s still the electrification benefit. The 48S should be a trolleybus; the 48N almost definitely won’t be for a long time.

      3. “I did not realize that the 271 was a Pacific/15th route; I was assuming it was currently a Montlake transfer to the UW…”

        What did you think it was, a duplicate of the 255?

      4. What did you think it was, a duplicate of the 255?

        It could have been an alternate route from downtown to Bellevue via 520.

      5. The 48N won’t hurt the schedule reliability on the rest of the 271 Eastbound. On the other hand the 271 Westbound is at least as bad as the 48S in the afternoon/evening and that is leaving Bellevue before the route encounters NE 8th, Bellevue Square, 520, Montlake, or U-District traffic.

        That said I do like the idea of tying Eastside/U-District routes to crosstown routes in North Seattle. There are a fair number of people who work on the Eastside who live in various North Seattle neighborhoods. See the AM loads Eastbound on the 271 between the U-District and Downtown Bellevue if you have doubts. Though to be fair Bellevue College is responsible for a fair chunk of that load.

    2. I believe that you’ve missed the Route 271 part of Bruce’s idea. Currently, the 48 and 271 collectively spend X amount of time in the U-District; with Bruce’s proposal, that total time has not changed, it’s just that distributed slightly differently.

      For me, the main attraction of this idea is the electrification. The 48S is a candidate for electrification; the 48N, much less so. Making that change (which would be great for ride quality and Metro’s energy budget, if nothing else) would require the split.

      There’s also the fact that the 48S is a stronger performer than the 48N, so breaking the through-route could enable Metro to shift service hours from the 48N to the 48S.

      Having said that, I also doubt that this restructure would significant improve reliability. Both routes would cross the Montlake Bridge, which means dealing with that terrible intersection, and with the bridge opening. Both routes would deal with 15th. I could imagine the 48N being better if it stayed north of the canal, since it saves the delays from Montlake and 23rd, but without a 520 reconfiguration (i.e. one of the alternatives that was rejected), this seems like it will be just as bad. No worse, mind you, but no better. :)

      1. You’ve got some points I could get behind. Electrifying the 48 (or at least moving some hybrid coaches off of freeway routes to 23rd – are you listening, Metro?) would be very nice. Riding a 22 ton, 330HP coach up the back side of Capitol Hill is downright excruciating. And the neighbors all along the route would appreciate the noise reduction.

        I don’t often ride the 48 north of Green Lake, and never further than Greenwood, so I didn’t know that the 48N was weaker for ridership than the 48S. If a split in the center was accompanied by better headways on the 48S, I’d totally support it. The demand for added service is already there now, and will only grow. After East Link opens, the 48 will have direct connections to UW station, Mt. Baker station, and Rainier station – holy ridership demand, Batman.

  16. Overall, I really like the idea of thru-routing the 271 with something going beyond the U-district. The existing routing seems to be based on legacy employment centers with legacy transit options. Back in the days where people lived in the Eastside and worked in Seattle and not the other way around, and in the days before the 554 route existed, providing a very slow, one-seat ride from Issaquah to the U-district made since.

    Now, with commutes like Ballard->Bellevue and Fremont->Redmond becoming more common thanks to growing employment centers on the Eastside, and the existence of the 554 making a very slow one-seat ride from Eastgate to the U-district less appealing, avoiding a transfer for people beyond the U-district going to the Eastside feels more important than avoiding a transfer for people beyond DT Bellevue going to the U-district.

    Ideally, I would like to see the 271 thru-routed with the 44, since this keeps the grid principle better than the 271->48 routing. However, I also realize that if we want to run 44 using trolley buses, that this move would be impossible, and thru-routing the 271 with the 48 is still way better than the current routing.

    In addition to doing a 271->48 thru-route, I would also split up the 271 at Bellevue TC. With the scheduled layover there, it’s effectively like a transfer anyway, so you may as well just call it that. The big advantage of the split is that the Bellevue->Seattle segment can run more frequently than the Bellevue->Issaquah segment, which is less important. The Bellevue->Seattle segment should really be running at 30 minutes on evenings and Sundays and, perhaps, every 15 minutes on Saturdays, while for the Bellevue->Issaquah segment, once an hour during these times is probably plenty.

    The other suggestion I would make to save money is to cut the 271 route entirely on weekends when the 520 bridge is closed for construction or maintenance. When a direct route from Bellevue to North Seattle across 520 is very important on most weekends, if you have to detour to I-90 anyway, you’re not really saving a significant amount of time over 550->71/72/73/43/49/510/511/512, especially since the added traffic congestion is likely to make travel time across downtown via I-5 not much faster, if any, than travel time across downtown via the bus tunnel.

    1. The other suggestion I would make to save money is to cut the 271 route entirely on weekends when the 520 bridge is closed for construction or maintenance.

      It always seemed slightly odd to me that the 545 keeps running when 520 is closed. It goes north through downtown, then gets on I-5 South, goes all the way to I-90. So much backtracking! Why not just temporarily extend the 550 to Redmond?

      1. Similarly, I was once on a 550 (I think) during the I-90 bridge’s annual Blue Angels closure, and it went south through downtown, then slogged through stop-and-go traffic on I-5, 520, and I-405 to South Bellevue P&R where there was a shuttle to my ultimate destination on Mercer Island. I would have gotten off at Bellevue Way or NE 8th and run the Bellevue portion of the route backwards.

    2. while for the Bellevue->Issaquah segment, once an hour during these times is probably plenty.

      Probably plenty? Are you aware how much demand for transit there is between Eastgate/Bellevue College and BTC? There’s a reason why Metro has 15 minute service in that corridor now.

    3. Joining the 44 to the 271 would preclude the possibility of extending the 44 to Children’s Hospital.

      Weekend bridge closures are too rare to have much impact on the bottom line. It’s better than confusing passengers. I’ve ridden from Seattle to Kirkland twice when the Evergreen Bridge was closed. I considered the 550 but the Belleuve-Kirkland bus (230) runs only once an hour on Sundays. (That should be improved next month.)

      What Metro should do is add extra buses when a bridge is closed, to compensate for the unpredictable delays. The first time I went to Kirkland on the 255 when the bridge was closed, the outbound trip was on time (amazing!) but the return trip was 45 minutes late. The second time, the outbound bus came 10 minutes late but arrived 30 minutes late, and I got a ride back because I didn’t know how late the return trip would be.

      1. For me, it’s less about the bottom line and more about the ridiculousness. If you’re trying to get from the ID to Redmond on a bridge-closure weekend, you’ll have to take the 545 north on 4th Ave, then south on I-5, then north again on I-405. It seems like a shame that there has to be so much backtracking.

      2. It’s only a mile, and it’s THE mile where most of the transfers and destinations are, and it’s the mile where passengers know where the bus stops are.

  17. I don’t know which would be the best re-couplings, but I’d like to see more routes get a little bit closer to UW Station, as y’all know. I recall from the ST open house that the 44 would have a terminal loop by the station.

    Maybe more routes (I’m thinking of 271 and 540) would connect to the station after North Link opens. I suspect the 542 will be gone after East Link opens.

    I’d like to see 48S continue as 372 (or a shortened version thereof, at least to Lake City) for a couple reasons: First, it can keep running straight on Montlake Blvd/25th Ave NE, minimizing turns. Second, it gives riders along 25th Ave NE the fastest connection they could get to head downtown (after UW Station opens). I recall several northeast Seattleites begging ST for a direct connection along 25th Ave NE to UW Station (and, unfortunately, nobody from Metro being there to hear their pleas).

    Regardless of how the re-couplings go, the UW area also needs to be converted into an off-board payment zone. Various streets ought to be in line for HOV lane conversion, while NE Pacific St ought to become transit and special permit only.

    1. I’d like to see 48S continue as 372

      I think this could be a great idea once North Link starts up, but not until then. Most riders of the 48S are heading further north than that. Are we really going to make 75% of the riders get off at UW Station just to transfer to another local bus?

      Maybe more routes (I’m thinking of 271 and 540) would connect to the station after North Link opens. I suspect the 542 will be gone after East Link opens.

      If the 542 disappears when East Link comes online, that would be a huge mistake. From downtown Seattle, the 545 is projected to have roughly the same travel time to OTC as East Link. But from North Seattle, it’s way faster to take 520. From the stop on Capitol Hill, the 545 often takes 17 minutes to get to OTC — there’s no way East Link can beat that. It’s even more dramatic when you’re coming from the U-District.

      The plan that I’ve always wanted to see is running dual express buses to UW and downtown during peak, and running a single route to UW Station during off-peak (when demand is lower and the cost savings from stopping short are worth it).

      1. Regardless of how the re-couplings go, I hope Metro makes a point of having all the northeast Seattle routes go by UW Station during the time between the opening of U-Link and the opening of N-Link. This may be part of what they are thinking with rumored rerouting of the 71. Well, okay, they may be thinking about giving northeast Seattle riders quicker access to Montlake Freeway Station, and somewhat less enthused about giving them a quick transfer to U-Link (since transfers to ST routes cost Metro revenue).

      2. Metro should make the 70 full-time now, to eliminate the confusing switchover at 7pm which has little benefit. Then it would have to reorganize the 71/72/73 evenings/Sunday. Metro has strongly suggested consolidating the 66/71/72/73X into a single route from downtown to UW (express) and then Northgate (local), until North Link opens. In that case, the reorganized 71/72/73 locals would have to run full-time too. They could potentially to UW station (if there’s sufficient capacity on congested Pacific Street), or be joined to each other or other routes.

        The documentation in this summer’s delete lists suggested deleting the 72 and 73 in favor of more hours on the 372 and 373.

      1. I withdraw my agreement with that suggestion. The 48S should be electrified, and the 372 sure as hell won’t be. :)

      2. Electrifying the 372 would make for one heck of a long ETB route. It still wouldn’t be as long as that one in Russia though.

      3. Which one would that be? I saw trolleybuses all around Moscow and St Petersburg but they didn’t seem especially long (i.e., longer than the 7).

        The elektrichkas (electric commuter trains like Metra) go out a hundred miles from the city, so they serve what would be called the suburbs and exurbs here. (Although there the exurbs are real towns, not just sprawl.)

        And supposedly the elektrichkas are connected end-to-end in a chain all the way from Moscow and the intervening cities to St Pete. They’re mainly for people living in the in-between areas, but you could take them as a very slow but cheaper alternative to the long-distance train.

  18. If the reason behind the re-coupling suggestion is to save money and improve reliability, why not cost out putting TVMs (printing out *legible* bus tickets) at the key bus stops on Pacific, the Ave, 15th, etc, and hiring a few fare inspectors?

    If done quickly, it could help test whether the same plan would work downtown.

  19. I would simply be happy with an 48 express from the Mt. Baker Transit Station to the UW.

    The 48 used to empty out (more or less) at Garfield, but this week I’ve seen far fewer GHS students than last year. Even so, the bus is packed all the way past the UW – and UW classes haven’t even started yet.

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