As I implied in my last post on the subject, of all the complaints about elimination of Route 42, the one that has some merit comes from those served by the old 42, primarily clustered around Graham St. Too distant to walk to a Link Station, to access downtown users have to board the frequent (15-minute headway) Route 8 to connect with either Link or the 7, both of which are extremely frequent. The remnant of the 42 attempts to serve ACRS, would be adequately replaced by Access or other low-volume service, and does no good for the Graham St. market.
A transfer, in itself, shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for a system design. Unfortunately, the Southbound 8 is intensely unreliable as it works its way through knots on Denny Way and Capitol Hill, indeed not much better than the 48 that used to provide Central District-Rainier Valley connectivity.
In the last few days I’ve heard an interesting new idea bubble up from the grassroots, and I understand there’s a little bit of organization pushing for it: split the 8 at Mt. Baker Station. Although it costs some money to layover buses, it would solve the reliability problems and make train/bus transfers less painful. There’s a less attractive addendum to this idea, however: have this “southern 8” replace the 42 by heading up to the International District from Mt. Baker, a move that raises costs substantially and provides zero additional connectivity. Moreover, one nice effect of restructuring service around Link is creating new direct connections to elsewhere, and splitting the 8 there wrecks that. More after the jump.
A much more cost-effective way to proceed would be to split the 8 at its natural elbow at Madison & MLK. This preserves the continuous North/South and East/West gridlines while insulating the Southbound 8 from all the significant reliability killers. Bruce’s indispensable data shows that this turn is one of the low points for bus occupancy. Moreover, when U-Link opens there will be little reason to take the 8 from MLK’s Link stations to Capitol Hill. Even with a transfer, riders will be much better off taking the train.
To offset some costs of this improvement, our own Bruce Nourish suggests terminating the East-West 8 at Group Health on 15th, allowing the 43 to mop up the much smaller ridership on points East and forcing transfers for a very small group of riders. It may also be easier to layover buses near Group Health rather than MLK & Madison. Either way, it’s a much more cost neutral move for Metro and addresses the legitimate concerns of neighborhoods far down the line.