King County Metro 55 in the Admiral District
King County Metro 55 in the Admiral District

As part of my ongoing effort to remove myself from as many Christmas card lists as possible, I’m going to discuss one more route in West Seattle that’s slated for elimination under Metro’s proposed Fall 2012 restructure, namely Route 55 to the Admiral District. A streetcar suburb overlooking Alki and Elliot Bay, the Admiral District is currently served east-west on Admiral Way by Routes 56 and 57, north-south on California Ave by Route 55, by the Route 775 Water Taxi shuttle loop, and by the little-used Route 51 circulator. The intersection of Admiral and California is Admiral Junction, one of the three Junctions that host much of West Seattle’s residential, commercial and entertainment activity.

Admiral Way is a wide and fairly fast arterial, with mostly car-oriented development patterns, whereas California Ave is quieter. Heading south from Admiral Junction towards Alaska Junction and Morgan Junction, California exhibits a characteristic crowded jumble of low-rise apartments, townhouses, small shops and some remaining small-lot homes. Heading north towards the Duwamish Head, this mix quickly gives way to apartments and townhouses, doubtless due to the magnificent views available here. Heading a couple of blocks away from California in either direction, everything is single-family homes.

Ridership chart and discussion, after the jump.

Ridership Patterns on King County Metro 55
Ridership Patterns on King County Metro 55

First, there are some subtleties to be aware of on this chart. After 6:30 PM inbound, and 8:30 PM outbound, Route 55 is a shuttle with a timed transfer to or from Route 54 at Alaska Junction; for this reason, I’ve omitted late-night data from this chart, and the green evening line includes only non-shuttle data. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to completely eliminate the effect of the shuttle routing from the all-day data, hence the small jump seen around Oregon/44th and Alaska/44th. Like the charts for Route 14, this dataset suffers badly from “ghost riders” left on the bus at the end of the midday and PM peak trips; I chose not to try and correct this.

Here’s what I see in the data:

  • Great peak ridership between Alaska Junction and Downtown; stops on Avalon are well used. This is unsurprising, as Alaska Junction and Avalon Way are easily the most built-up parts of West Seattle. It also explains Metro’s decision to move RapidRide C to Avalon Way outbound, rather than the freeway-like Fauntleroy now used by Routes 54 and 55.
  • Moderate midday ridership between Alaska Juntion and Downtown. This part of the route is fairly commuter-oriented, especially compared to other trunk routes such as the 358; not surprising for a relatively prosperous part of the city.
  • Stronger midday ridership on California. Midday ridership exceeds peak ridership southbound. I’ve no idea what the AM peak spike of northbound riders to Hanford St could be.
  • Very few riders north of Admiral Way. Even in the peaks, there’s only a handful of people on each trip, on average. This is presumably why Metro plans to cut service here.
  • Alaska Junction is an all-day ridership center. One facet not clearly shown in the chart is that while virtually all riders who board on California during the peaks ride through to downtown, in the midday, a number of riders disembark at Alaska Junction; this is particularly notable as Route 55 competes directly for riders with Route 128 in this segment.
  • Weak ridership in the evenings; practically nonexistent at night. Evening ridership to downtown is nonexistent before Alaska Junction; at night, the shuttle averages one to three people on board. I suspect this may explain Metro’s decision to operate RapidRide C at 30-minute headways in the evenings, as I suspect ridership to Fauntleroy exhibits similar characteristics.

Under the proposed Fall 2012 restructure, the Admiral District loses direct all-day service to Downtown, but gains much-improved commuter express service, with Routes 56 and 57 converted to fast Viaduct-running expresses and given improved frequency. My guess is that Metro’s planners believe that midday and evening riders from Alki and Admiral to Downtown are few enough in number to be adequately served by a transfer at Alaska Junction, which seems reasonable on the basis of the data here. In the evening, when both RapidRide C and the revised Route 128 operate at 30-minute headways, schedulers have an opportunity to make this transfer more palatable by aligning the schedule of the 128 to allow for a quick and reliable transfer.

15 Replies to “Ridership Patterns on Route 55”

  1. The AM peak spike of northbound riders to Hanford St may be students going to West Seattle High School.

    1. This would require the Line C to run on a schedule. With all the twists, turns, traffic-jammed bridges, and lanes clogged with callous car parkers, I think the line will do well just to maintain headway. It better have a schedule, though, when it goes down to 30-minute headway.

      Looking at it another way: That large headway in the evening is the fault of the businesses that insisted on parking in the bus lanes, lengthening the travel time. Maybe we need a Transit Riders’ Union, or something of the sort, to picket some of these businesses.

      1. What time is the C supposed to go down to 30-minute headways? With A and B, the standard has been 15 minutes until 10 PM. it would be a shame if we lost that.

  2. Bruce, is there a separate post or site where all of your charts could be compiled? I think it would be really interesting to be able to compare them easily to one another. (Now that I am finally reasonably good at reading them.)

      1. Putting them all in one post would be cumbersome, as I plan to keep adding to my collection for some time. Probably the right thing to do would be to introduce a post tagging system to make it easy to find all posts with charts. I’ll look into this.

        In the interim, you can find all of my posts here:
        https://seattletransitblog.com/author/bruce-nourish/

  3. Bruce,

    I enjoy reading your analysis. Great job. Planning transportation is interesting, dare I say fun, to me as I did that for a living just prior to my retirement.

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