In September 2009, Metro revised Route 106 to serve the Rainier Beach Link light rail station, creating new travel opportunities for people living and working along the route in Georgetown, Rainier Beach, Renton, Skyway, and South Beacon Hill. Riders could benefit from a faster trip to downtown by taking Link partway instead of busing all the way. How well does that work? Two charts hold the answer, after the jump.
The following charts compare Downtown Seattle-Renton weekday travel times for Route 106, Route 101 which travels primarily on I-5, and a combination of Route 106 and Link. Travel times are based on schedule data from Trip Planner. The key assumptions here are that service is reliable and riders have at least 2 minutes to make the connection. I got that number by timing people walking off the bus to the train platform and vice versa. Having only 2 minutes risks a missed connection if service runs late. The solution is to increase the time to 5 minutes or make service faster and more reliable or make the bus-rail interchange physically easier or a combination of the three.
For northbound trips to downtown, it is always faster to go from bus to train, except the last three night trips. Riders would save an average of 11 minutes and as much as 19 minutes during evening peak hours. If timed well, the Route 106+Link combo would be 5 minutes slower than Route 101 during the day. During peak hours when the 106 runs every 15 minutes in the peak direction, the combo is nearly as fast as the 101.
For southbound trips to Renton, it’s a tie. In the morning, staying on the 106 is faster since morning trips are scheduled to miss the train. In the afternoon, taking Link to the 106 saves about 5 minutes. Somehow, going from Rainier Beach to Renton is always slower than going the other way, even at 10 pm. The 101 beats the 106+Link combo hands down when heading south.
These findings suggest an opportunity to improve service. A favorite suggestion from readers is to create a fast and frequent connection to Rainier Beach Station from Renton by truncating Route 101 or reinvesting its service hours in Route 106. Replacing Route 101 with a 106+Link combo isn’t as farfetched as it sounds if the 106 can be improved and coordinated with Link. The idea of sending Route 106 to West Seattle has been discussed also. It’ll be interesting to see what ridership and reliability data suggest in terms of improvements.