Edmonds Station site plan

Deciding whether or not to have a bus deviate into a transit center/park & ride loop or simply keep the route on a main arterial can often be a thorn in the side for transit planners.  On one hand, you’d eliminate transfer penalties for people connecting from route to route by turning into these transit hubs, and on the other, you’d lose any savings that you can get from keeping your buses from making all those slow turns.

There are cases when one approach will seem more advantageous than the other but sometimes there do come across opportunities for reconciliation that don’t always get taken advantage of.  Other times, they do.  A real simple and basic example of implementing smart deviation procedures is at Edmonds Station*, where, in the fall, CT routes 110 and 116 will pull into the station loop, but routes 131 and 416 won’t:

  • Having the 110 and 116 deviate into the station is really a wash in terms of net changes to operating costs, because Edmonds Station hub is the terminus for both routes anyway, which means no increase in travel times for through travelers because there aren’t really any.  The one true caveat, in this case, is that there will no longer be service to neither route will serve the Edmonds Senior Center down the road, so anyone traveling to or from the center will either have to transfer to a 131 or walk to the station.  The big benefit, of course, is that riders connecting from local service to Sounder will have but a few hundred feet to walk to catch a train.
  • Having the 131 and 416 continue by the station on Railroad Avenue, on the other hand, is the better option.  The 131 is a through-route that goes through Edmonds on its way to either Edmonds CC or Aurora Village, so a deviation could increase through travel times and operating costs.  The trade-off is roughly a 1000-foot walk for connecting Sounder riders from the stop on Railroad to the station platform.  And because the 416 is a peak-direction only commuter route, there’s no real advantage to pulling into the station bays.

While this case certainly isn’t reflective of a solution for much more complex situations in other locations, it’s encouraging to see agencies like CT move in the direction of evaluating route-specific trade-offs for this kind of thing.

*[Update 9/29 – 8:38am] In this case, I’ve learned that the Edmonds Station deviation saves time since buses won’t have to contend with the rail crossings and ferry traffic.  So while the opposite is the better bet for CT in this example, the question is still one to be asked, especially of other park-and-rides were costly deviations sometimes occur.  

17 Replies to “To Deviate or Not to Deviate?”

    1. Has anyone looked at the bus schedules for the 110 and 116? CT has not modified their schedule to work with the Sounder times. The morning bus arrival times are 2-3 minutes after the train leaves, and that’s assuming the bus is on time. That means in order to take the bus to Sounder you have to arrive 27-28 minutes before the train leaves. Not very efficient.
      While the evening bus route times work better with the Sounder arrival, if you can’t take the bus in the morning, how can you take the bus in the afternoon. Bottom line, there’s no point in having the bus stops direct to Sounder.

      1. Does CT even know the Sounder exists? Taking the Sounder home to Mukilteo and the 113 up the hill (if you run fast, it’s a 6 minute transfer, miss it and it’s an hour and 6 minutes) I’d say no.

  1. I’ve had a similar problem at Lakewood Station. I’m on the morning 592 from DuPont and want the 300 towards Tacoma Mall some mornings. It’s not that bad of a walk from the 592 bus bay to the on-street 300 bus stop, but if that light holds me too long, I could easily miss the connection.

    If it were up to me: either all pull in or all stay on street (I prefer the “all pull in” argument myself)

  2. The situation at Overlake TC is pretty interesting. With the October service change, the only routes serving the loop (unless I’m missing something) will be the 244, 249, 545, and 566. That leaves the 545 as the only through-routed bus serving the loop — and only part-time, in one direction.

    Compared to the straight routing (used by the 545 at other times and the 542 at all times), the diversion adds about 10 minutes. So clearly, the 545 should bypass the loop, right?

    Well… except for the fact that well over half of its ridership boards at that one station. And, since the freeway station already exists, it’s safe to say that everyone who currently uses the loop station would have to walk the extra 3 minutes to the freeway.

    I don’t actually know what the right answer is here. I’m sure that Sound Transit is well aware of the cost of the diversion, and I’m sure they’d get rid of it as soon as possible if they thought it was reasonable.

    So I guess my point is that it can sometimes be reasonable to divert a through bus, if it attracts enough extra passengers to make up for the extra runtime.

    1. One thing to note about the 545 is that the Westbound afternoon trips are often half empty before OTC, mostly full after OTC, and have a lot of people standing after the 40th St. freeway stop. This results in a significant incentive to board at OTC, independent on the relative walking distances between those two stops, especially considering that if traffic is bad, you could be stuck standing for as much as an hour.

      Considering that boarding at OTC, rather than the NE 40th St. stop doesn’t actually increase the seating capacity – it’s essentially like cutting in line – in order to justify the deviation, you would have to ask the question of how many of the riders who board at OTC are actually choosing that stop because it’s less walking, as opposed to having better seating opportunities available.

      Furthermore, while boarding at OTC may save some amount of walking, it doesn’t actually save riders who board there any significant amount of time. With all the stoplights the bus has to go through, the average speed it attains from the OTC stop to the freeway stop is barely faster than a pedestrian walking. I’ve experienced this first-hand by being able to, on occasion, run to the 40th St. stop to catch a bus I just missed at the OTC stop. While some may differ, I believe that if a bus system is run right, one should never be able to routinely run to the next stop to catch a bus just missed – when you are able to do that, that means the bus is either moving too slow, has stops too close together, or is taking deviations that it shouldn’t be taking.

      Another potential justification why so many people choose to board the 545 at the OTC stop is that the waiting facility is much nicer. In particular, it has a much bigger shelter that everyone can fit under, as opposed to the freeway stop, which has a small shelter that only holds 3-4 people, leaving everyone else standing out in the rain.

      My personal opinion is that we should get rid of the 545’s deviation into OTC, but use the money saved to make the experience of boarding at the westbound freeway station nicer so that customers remain happy. First, I would build a much bigger shelter at the 40th St. freeway stop, just like the one at OTC. Next, I would build a pedestrian bridge over 520 just south of the 40th St. bridge, allowing pedestrians to bypass all the stoplights (which are currently timed horribly for pedestrians and make the walk much longer than it needs to be), as well as shorten the distance a bit. According to Google Earth, a pedestrian bridge going directly from the eastbound freeway stop to the westbound freeway stop would be about 520 feet, which should be a very acceptable walk. If money permits, I would even consider adding a roof over this bridge to provide shelter from rain. While not cheap, the saved service hours should, over the long run, provide enough money to allow this project to pay for itself.

      Another thing to note is that, prior to one year ago, there was little reason to board at the freeway stop if you were going to end up on the same 545 bus anyway. Now, the incentives have shifted a bit as boarding at the freeway stop allows those getting off at Montlake to take advantage of the combined 545/542 headway. I’ve noticed a significant number of more people choosing the freeway stop than a year ago as a result of this.

  3. The trouble with this is that you create multiple locations to catch a bus rather than just one…

    1. Add a few minutes and pull in. Consistancy and Convenience builds ridership. I don’t want to have to study a bunch of bus maps to decide which bus to Edmonds will take me to the transit center where I can transfer.

    2. This is only a problem if buses going to the *same location* can be caught at multiple different locations (which creates a difficult problem for someone waiting for “the next bus”).

    1. Yes, to catch the 110 and 116. The 131 will still serve the front of the senior center. Unfortunatntly, not everybody can be happy. But, I do see a ton of DART and private buses around the senior center, so they’re not left totally high and dry.

  4. Being a resident of Edmonds, and a long-time user of this facility, it kinda sucks that CT isn’t moving all it’s operations to the new transit center. The new TC is so nice as it finally brings buses, trains, and ferries close together in some nice facilities. On the bright side, the 131 stops about 50′ south of the crosswalk between the ferry dock and TC, so it’s not horribly disconnected. Think of the 131 stopping at the word “railroad” on that diagram. I’m excited for all this since the old facilities used to be a total dump that loved to flood.

    1. I wish the 131 would use the transit center stop instead of 110 or 116., it is the route that is most affected by ferry and train delays because it is a thru route to Aurora village and EDCC. I guess it doesn’t matter too much since the 131 will be eliminated in Feb. 2012 anyway and then there will be no thru routes at the waterfront, but it would be nice to be on time until then.

    2. Just stay on the sidewalks when the Sounders unload. Sheesh, it’s just like the suburban station in the NY metropolitan area.

      Just without the hand gestures….

  5. The new station at Edmonds is truly an improvement. It will not accomodate a large number of buses, but will be sufficient for its intended use. Transfers to Sounder will be much better physically, even if schedule coordination still needs work. It will bring obvious safety benefits and will also eliminate the need for some drivers to circle around the waterfront loop twice to layover and return to the start of thier trip.
    As long as there are desirable land uses and a beach on the west side of the RR tracks, people will cross them. The issues in such an at-grade crossing are safety, delay and convenience. Those issues are different for different people. Most people coming off the ferry or visiting the waterfront won’t have a problem walking the short distance to the new station. But seniors in particular were concerned about having to walk across the tracks to catch a bus. It’s a valid concern. CT listened to thier input in meetings and crafted a response that took it seriously. Because Rt. 131 serves the area traveling in both directions, rather than as a terminus, it effectively has double the frequency of railroad crossings. While eliminating those would benefit CT, keeping them provides the best possible service to the Senior Center, given the constraint that only one of the routes would continue to go there (The 416 is treated separately because it’s a peak service). Unfortunately, this benefit will be lost in Feb 2012 when Edmonds will be the terminus for all of the routes that serve the waterfront. At that time frequency will be half of what is is over the latter months of this year. One possible upside is that demand can be reevaluated and the route most heavily used by seniors can be the one that goes directly to the Senior Center. Nothing is ever perfect, but we hope it is good.

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