78 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Lake Washington Service Map”

  1. The graphic shows one service design deficiency – Routes with common trunk segments (255/545 and 550/554) do not have common routing in downtown Seattle. This reduces rider choice and benefits on the common segments.

    One easy solution would be to put the 554 into the tunnel alongside the 550 and the 255 onto Fourth/Fifth Aves alongside the 545. This would also leverage the good I-90 connection at the south end of the bus tunnel vs. the relatively poor connection to SR-520 at the north end.

    1. Moving the 255 upstairs with the rest of the SR 520 (broken) trunk route would relieve ca. 82 peak trips in the tunnel. Moving the 202, 210, 214, 215, and 554 would add about 81 peak trips in the tunnel.

      I sense Balance in the Force.

      Oh wait, ST would have to pay for more tunnel trips, and the mid-day tunnel usage goal wouldn’t be met. Arrgggh! Can our county council members on the ST Board collectively act as the Chosen Ones, and not give in to the Bureaucratic Baloney Side?

    2. Arguably, a bigger deficiency, that can be fixed without ST paying any more money, is that the Eastside I-90 commuter routes are split between the tunnel and the 2nd/4th routing of the 554. If they were kicked upstairs to 2nd/4th, the proposed 124, 131 and 132 could then be put in the tunnel. This reduces peak utilization of the tunnel, but improves midday utilization.

      1. The I-90 commuter routes are the ones that benefit from the tunnel the most by taking advantage of the tunnel’s direct ramps to the freeway (unlike the I-5 express-lane ramps, the I-90 ramps are open all day every day in both directions). These routes would be slowed down more by being moved to the street than routes 124, 131, and 132 would be sped up by moving to the tunnel.

      2. Not true — you are thinking only of traversing the edge of downtown. The tunnel is significantly faster at all times of day than laying over a bus in Belltown or the Denny Triangle and driving it through Downtown on surface streets. The total time saved, over a whole day, is greater.

        Having peak-only expresses in the tunnel is a misallocation of a very limited resource. Several of the I-90 buses are already on the surface, their friends in the tunnel should join them.

      3. As a prisoner of the 131 and 132, I appreciate the suggestion. But the goal here is to unsplit trunks, not split them.

        Furthermore, if the 131 and 132 end up heading up 4th Ave S, jogging over to the Busway would be an unwelcome pulling of defeat out of the jaws of victory in the quest for straighter bus routes.

        If you want to pull some peak-only routes out of the tunnel, how about the 77 (17 peak trips), 301 (34 peak trips), and 316 (14 peak trips)?

        And maybe get Metro to waive the extra charge for the 554 tunnel trips in exchange for ST completing enough tail track in the stub tunnels to allow 4-car trains sooner rather than later, and move to 10-minute peak Link headway with a published schedule, allowing better bus and train flow. If a minute can be saved on Link’s travel time by getting rid of “traffic ahead”, that almost makes up for increasing the average wait time for a train by 1.25 minutes. But then, with people actually getting to see a schedule, average wait time would go down.

        In the end, ST and Metro should both obtain substantial operating savings.

      4. Right, this would unsplit the I-90 Eastgate-Issaquah trunk, which is composed of the 554 plus the soup of 21x, 22x peak-only expresses that are not shown on this map. It would give more useful common stops to more riders. The 554 is not a really a trunk route — one detail omitted in this map is that its frequency drops in the peak to every 30 minutes, versus every 20 during the midday — it’s an infill route that provides all-day bidirectional service for a part of the county that Metro serves almost exclusively with one-way peaks.

      5. Nobody is saying the 554 *is* a trunk route. What we’re getting at is that the collection of routes crossing Lake Washington on I-90 is a trunk route, that just happens to be painfully split open at the south end of downtown. Have mercy on I-90 bus riders. Give them one set of bus stops to wait at, instead of having to cross-check a dozen schedules to game where to wait.

      6. That is precisely what I am proposing to do, Brent. The only common stops between the 550 and the 554+2xx-commuters are Rainier Station and Mercer Island, neither of which are particularly huge destinations. We would be “having mercy” on a far larger number of people if we put the 554+2xx’s at one set of stops than by putting the 554 in the tunnel; plus, it’s politically doable, which putting the 554 in the tunnel isn’t.

      7. Just like putting the 554 downstairs comes with a cost for ST, putting all the 2xx’s upstairs comes with a cost for Metro. They’ll need added service hours to traverse 2nd and 4th Ave. Since those routes are almost all one-way peak, the extra cost will be charged to the eastside subarea, and affect service hours on other eastside routes. I don’t think that idea will go very far with the eastside county councilmembers.

        But we do seem to agree on this: The 554 + I-90 2xx’s should have one downtown path, not two. (And I take it you agree the 255 should go upstairs.)

      8. Metro’s subarea policy has been eliminated, and the differential cost or savings from any of the proposed rearrangements would be borne by, or returned to the system as a whole.

        Yes, the peak routes would cost more due to the slightly longer travel times, but, as I’m trying to get at here, if you put more all-day routes in the tunnel, you put more total trips in the tunnel, saving money overall.

      9. Bruce,

        I totally agree with you on stuffing as many all-day routes as possible in the tunnel, as long as multi-route trunks can maintain their integrity, and 2nd-4th Aves don’t get stuffed beyond their capacity during peak. And therein lies my hesitance to pushing *all* peak routes upstairs.

        I suppose the 124, 131, and 132 are three of the easiest routes to put into the tunnel if the space is created. An even worthier candidate is the 39, for the same reasons the 106 should remain in the tunnel. (Although I’d still prefer the 39 start at Beacon Hill Station or be interlined with the 36, but that’s a pipe dream.)

        Two other good candidate routes are the 66 and 70. They head to a lot of the same destinations that tunnel routes 41 and 71-74 do. That’s another broken trunk, sorta. Maybe by having them in the tunnel, it would relieve some overcrowding on other tunnel routes.

        I’m not against putting my 132 in the tunnel, but I do think the 39, 66, and 70 should be ahead of it in line, if the 2xx’s all get kicked upstairs.

        At any rate, it is long past time that the 255 and 545 be reunited downtown, for all those UW commuters headed to the southeast portion of campus.

      10. The 70’s current dieselization is temporary, and will end next year once SDOT finishes hacking up Mercer and Fairview, and is thus not a tunnel candidate.

        The 66, along with the 25, should be deleted in favor of running the 70 every 10 minutes and running the 67 every 15 (or figuring out some other way of serving U-District-Roosevelt-Northgate). The 66 serves no purpose other than to steal a fraction of the 70 riders for a slightly faster trip. The 25’s only unique walkshed, in Montlake and Laurelhurst, generates an absolutely tiny number of riders, the rest being stolen from the 70.

      11. Since I’m not up on which all routes are trolleys, let me ask this:

        Which all-day routes, that are planned to survive the restructure, are tunnelable (assuming sufficient capacity can be opened up in the tunnel)?

        BTW, the 66 serves the ferry dock, so I’m assuming Metro wishes to maintain service to that stop one way or another.

      12. Which all-day routes, that are planned to survive the restructure, are tunnelable (assuming sufficient capacity can be opened up in the tunnel)?

        From the north, not too many.

        From the south, I think it’s mostly the 34/39, 124, 131/132, like you said.

        Another possibility would be all the West Seattle buses, but it’s questionable whether that’s worth it, versus creating a consolidated trunk somewhere else.

        BTW, the 66 serves the ferry dock, so I’m assuming Metro wishes to maintain service to that stop one way or another.

        It makes much more sense to extend the 12 to the docks — it’s already going in the right direction.

      13. The tunnel will lose capacity when the ride free area is eliminated. Plus, people are already complaining that the tunnel is unreliable due to too many buses periodically lowering their wheelchair lifts. So the capacity of the tunnel is not as much as it appears.

      14. Are there still lifts in the tunnel? I thought all the tunnel buses were low-floor now.

        Also, I hope and pray the passive-restraint retrofittable buses will go to the tunnel first (assuming retrofit gets the green light). It would be so awesome if Metro and ST could advertise that all buses in the tunnel were to have passive restraint as an option. I’d love to know what models could actually be retrofitted.

        And again, let’s start training the tunnel security to tap ORCA at rear doors, and let them try it out after 7 p.m. I bet they’d love to have something to do to pass the hours faster.

    3. Second that.

      Given the choice between putting 550/554 in the tunnel or 255/545, I’d definately go with 550/554. Half the purpose of the tunnel is to take advantage of the direct connections to the freeway. 550/554 will benefit from these ramps; 255/545 won’t.

      1. No one wants to put the 545 in the tunnel. And I haven’t heard any good arguments for keeping the 255 there either, except that Kirkland commuters like being able to wait indoors. :)

        Realistically, moving the 554 into the tunnel won’t happen — there’s too much political maneuvering needed.

        But moving the 255 and the peak-only routes out, and replacing them with more southern service (e.g. 39, 124, 131), seems like a good idea on all counts.

    4. We should really keep the routes that will be replaced by Link (41,71,72,73,550) in the tunnel, and move everything else to the surface. That way people’s bus stops won’t change in the long term. The 550 and 554 really have to be separate because:
      – I don’t believe enough people would use either one indifferently for Rainier and Mercer Island. The 550 is 15-minute frequent except Sunday, so that’s the one to take.
      – The 554 is already on the surface so its riders wouldn’t be losing anything.

      If there’s extra capacity in the tunnel we can keep the other all-day routes in it (101,106,150), but in the long run it’s an implicit promise that will be broken (because eventually the buses will be sent to the slower surface streets). The 101 and 150 have the most “right” to be in the tunnel because they’re the trunk routes to south-central and southeast King County, and they would have gotten Link stations if it had been possible to do so. Renton and Kent are suffering the most because they were left out of Link, so being in the tunnel is some compensation. But it’s a temporary compensation that will have to be rescinded by 2021.

      1. First, 10 years is a nontrivial amount of time. Routings are flexible. Changing bus routings for the worse, 10 years in advance, is a bit premature. :)

        Second, so long as we have the capacity in the tunnel, it’s silly not to use it. It has positive spillover effects on the rest of the system.

        And third, when East Link starts up, there will probably be some auxiliary changes (e.g. traffic changes to better connect the SODO busway with surface streets) to make things better. So we shouldn’t pessimize routings in advance of making those changes.

    5. Okay, if the 77, 301, 316, 212, 216, 217, 218, and 255 all get moved upstairs, that would relieve ca. 225 peak trips from the tunnel, but also take 83 off-peak 255 trips with it.

      The routes that I know of that could go into the tunnel (39, 124, 131, 132) would add ca. 130 peak trips and 175 off-peak trips (post-Oktober-Revolution) in the tunnel. That would be a tiny loss on total trips in the tunnel, actually, but would provide substantial peak relief in the tunnel, roughly 8 trips each way per hour.

      If my daydream about much-earlier completion of tail track is not in the cards, this may be about the best we can do, and still repair the trunks. I have no idea how it would affect layovers.

      Of course, if Kirkland commuters aren’t worried about the riders trying to get to UW Medical Center and the southeast side of campus, then there is no political leverage to get the 255 back with the rest of the SR 520 trunk.

  2. Whoever designed that map doesn’t understand the purpose of maps. If the majority of transit riders can’t easily understand it, the map’s creator has failed.

    1. The original poster designed the map. Do you have any suggestions for improvement? For a map geek like myself, I love seeing Oran’s maps. :)

      1. You just made my point. For educated map and transit geeks, the map is great. I completely agree. I’m putting myself in the shoes of people who aren’t in that narrow category. I don’t think the map would be easy for many transit users to understand. And if a map can’t do that, then in my opinion, it has failed.

    2. Whoever wrote this comment doesn’t understand the purpose of comments. If the majority of readers can’t easily understand the changes the commenter wants to see enacted, the comment’s author has failed.

    3. Oooh, oooh, I know what’s missing. Where can I buy an ORCA card? And how do I get into this tunnel I keep hearing about? Oh, and where can I park? Please tell me the parking is free.

    4. We really need five maps here. One for peak-hour travel. One for weekdays. One for evenings. One for weekends. And a 5th for weekends like this one when the 520 bridge is closed.

      1. Well, after the new 520 bridge is in place, I think the closures will be reduced tremendously. So, maybe we could eliminate one map. :-)

    5. The map answers the following questions every transit rider needs to know to make a trip:

      1) Where? Across Lake Washington serving major centers and park & rides on the Eastside and Seattle
      2) When? All day until at least 10 pm on weekdays
      3) How much? $2.25-$3.00 depending on route and time of day
      4) How long is the wait? Frequency is broken down into three categories.

      Take a look at this map:


      and tell me if you could answer the same questions above.

      It’s safe to say that a majority of transit riders do easily understand these kind of maps. Proof number one:


      and the hundreds of maps in the same style around the world.

      1. To be clear, your map is far better than Metro’s system map in concisely explaining the routes. I’m not disputing that. I’m mostly complaining about the fact that the system doesn’t offer consistent service during its entire span. For example, service may exist until 10 PM, but it’s certainly not frequent until 10 PM and there’s no good way to describe the frequency in the evenings and weekends without making a separate map for it, because the relative frequencies of different routes are all different between midday, evenings, and weekends.

        Some would respond to that argument by arguing that weekend and evening travel is an edge case and, so, doesn’t really matter. But it shouldn’t be an edge case. And clear and concise maps are important to helping people understand just what to expect, so they don’t automatically go “I don’t know how frequently this bus runs on a Sunday and I’m too lazy to look it up, so I’ll just drive”.

        And on 520 bridge closure weekends, of course, the reroutes make the information on your map simply incorrect. Because the routes, themselves, are so radically different on those days, I think you have to have a separate map – this isn’t something you can easily explain in footnotes. Given that with the ongoing construction, there are many more bridge-closure weekends forthcoming, I think such a map would be worthwhile.

      2. I can’t read the frequency widths. There’s nothing wrong with having three frequency widths, but I only see two widths of line on the map. The thinnest line on the map looks thinner than the “30 minute” line. The thicker lines all look the same thickness and I can’t tell whether they’re “15 minutes” or “20 minutes”.

        You need to redo the map with more *distinctive* widths of lines. Apart from that, it’s very nice.

      3. Given that width is hard to see, how about having solid, dashed, and dotted lines? It moves the line types from being quantitavely distinct to qualitatively distinct.

      4. Nathanael … 550 is thickest … 554 is the middle one and the tail end of the 271 is the thinnest

    6. Why is it difficult to understand? You’ve given no evidence that your assertion is plausable.

      1. Mike, if you were to print out this map, and walk up to a group of people waiting for the bus at 5th and Jackson, for example, and ask them to fully explain this map to you, what percentage of people do you think would be able to do so? I bet you less than 50% would be able to fully understand and explain it. And if I’m right, that half the people at a typical bus stop could understand this map, then by definition, the map is poorly designed.

      2. What do you think they’d think? How would they misinterpret the map? What would they be unsure about? Is it not obvious that the 545 goes from Seattle to Redmond, and it stops at Montlake and Overlake Transit Center among other places? They may not know that “Montlake” and “Yarrow Point” are existing freeway stations, but they know generally where “Bellevue” and “south Kirkland” must be.

        The only problem I see with the map is that it’s hard to tell the difference between the 15-minute and 20-minute lines.

  3. Last week, Publicola mentioned “At yesterday’s meeting of the Seattle Metropolitan Democratic Club, Seattle Democrat Jack Whisner—a Metro transportation planner who out-nerds even the nerds here at PubliCola—handed Fizz a wonked-out crossword he wrote.” For those wanting to have a go at that crossword, here’s a PDF.

    There is one error in the puzzle: 12-Down has an extra “T” at the end.

      1. And so comes the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Split Trunks: One cannot simultaneously know if the 550 isn’t coming in the tunnel and the 554 isn’t coming on 2nd Ave… except for the geeky few who have the proper app. BTW, it is snowing in South Park.

      2. Queue Snowpocalypse 2012
        McGinn run outta town on a rail
        New SDOT Director
        Promise from Metro to do better next year.

      3. …and not anymore: north of the shipping canal is on reroute, some of NE king county is on reroute, and the rest is normal. The weather reports say that those areas are getting heavy snow (Lake City especially?) but there’s not a lot elsewhere.

  4. When is the RFA due to be eliminated?

    Is there any move afoot to create a day-pass by the time that happens? Who do we need to appeal to?

    1. October 2012.

      Only on this blog, and it isn’t unanimous (given that this one commenter is being a stick-in-the-mud about a cash fare surcharge being more universally effective).

      Write and talk to your county council member and the county executive.

      1. I will write the 3 whom I know. I encourage all STB readers to write their councilmembers to ask for daypass.

  5. Funny Oran, you just reminded me that I can take the 545 all the way from downtown to Redmond!! I keep taking the 550 to Bellevue and then the Rapid Ride B…lol!! Totally forgot I can take the 545 directly. Stupid transit geek that I am. :-)

      1. The initial collisions probably derailed the front of the streetcar and then the momentum of the streetcar took over.

      2. just rode by on a different streetcar, there’s a heavy tow truck and our operator said they moved the damaged green one out of the way of the tracks and of Mercer.

    1. This collision inspired me. For those of you who drive, either your own car or ZipCar, do you have enough coverage to pay for this collision?

      I know people who have been involved in relatively simple collisions that exhausted their measly coverage. Trust me, you do NOT want that headache. Ditching the car is the best way to avoid this – after all, no cyclist is going to knock the streetcar off of its tracks. But for those of us who still need to drive, carrying adequate insurance is a really, really good idea.

      1. I’m a great believer in carrying sufficient insurance coverage. But I’m also fairly confident in my ability to follow traffic signals and avoid hitting streetcars.

      2. “But I’m also fairly confident in my ability to follow traffic signals and avoid hitting streetcars”

        True, but are you confident that you’ll never have a seizure or other medical emergency that incapacitates you while you’re driving? I’ve seen at least one well-wrecked bus that was caused by an unlucky individual who had a seizure and slumped over the wheel. He hit the bus going 30+ and narrowly missed a pedestrian boarding the bus… The key here is that you never know what can happen.

    2. Well, look at this way: If the Times had reported a similar accident on Link, the headline would have read “Train Crashes Into Car”.

    3. At least the headline is more balanced than “Streetcar crashes into car”, as several headlines in the past about Link have been.

  6. Look at all those common segments in rich, single-family neighborhoods like Montlake, Medina, and Yarrow Point! They’re all even getting expensive lidded parks over 520 now. If only they could be redeveloped into higher-density housing. That will never happen, though. Sigh!

  7. Saw Urbanized last night. It was well done and I found myself mostly nodding my head ‘yes’. I enjoyed it, although if I had to do it over again I’d wait until I didn’t have to pay $10/head to see it, e.g. Netflix.

    When I got home, there was a free Amtrak Cascades companion fare waiting in my mailbox. Sweet! Now I have a good shot of convincing my car-oriented significant other to take the train to Portland or Vancouver. Wish me luck.

    1. I saw Urbanized Friday and thought it was well worth the money. My roommate, who’s not an urbanist/transit fanatic, thought it was one of the best movies he’s seen this year. Even non-activists would enjoy the pictures of different cities around the world.

      My favorite parts were the clips in Rio(?) and South Africa. In Rio(?) the city built subsidized row houses, paying half of the $20,000 cost and expecting owners to pay the other half, and finishing half of the unit while leaving the other half unfinished for the owner to complete over time. They asked the owners which half of the features they wanted finished; e.g., whether to provide a water heater or a bethtub. The city assumed everyone would want water heaters, but 100% of the residents preferred bathtubs instead, because they had come from slums where baths were a rare treat. (Hopefully, they’ll eventually buy Chinese solar water heaters for $300.)

      In South Africa, in a poor township outside Cape Town where violence is so bad people are afraid to walk, a nonprofit coalition built a pedestrian path with streetlights, and six-story “towers” every few hundred meters. The towers are manned by security guards, providing a safe place to stop at if you’re being followed. The tower buildings are large enough for community spaces or businesses inside. And they’re painted red so they’re easy to see at a distance even at night.

  8. Ok, so I’ve been wondering this for a while now.

    On the route 43 during Sundays, if it is electrified, Metro typically runs a 40-ft trolley. However, when it is motorized its typically a DE60LF. Is this just a quirk of having the 60-ft hybrids available on the weekend and the dislike of the Bredas.

    Also, does anyone know how many of the new DE60LFR are in service now? I saw coach 6930 in service last week. Thanks as always!

    1. I don’t think its a matter of liking/disliking the Bredas … more that they are maintenance hogs and they need to make sure they are all available for the weekday service

  9. Does anyone know if the groundbreaking is imminent yet for the First Hill Streetcar? This one seems to be taking forever to reach. I get that they are waiting for the tracks etc. but the wait seems endless on this one – close to a year overdue if I’m not mistaken?

  10. Speaking of Eastside service, are there any preliminary ridership figures out for the B line yet? If not, when are they scheduled to come out?

    1. Unscientific figures from looking out my office window suggests moderately full buses during the peak, but mostly empty buses midday. I can’t speak for evenings or weekends because I’m not there.

      1. Eric,

        As an Eastside resident, I would say that the buses are pretty full during weekday rush periods but not too full at night or weekends. My evidence is also completely anecdotal so I was just curious to see if perception meets reality. I’m also curious to see the B line compared to its predecessor, the 253.

      2. Velo,

        Seeing as you have driven on the B line according to your blog (do you still drive on the B line?) what are your impressions about ridership? Any definite patterns about most/least used stops? What about peak vs. non-peak ridership? Has signal priority any closer to being implemented by the cities of Bellevue and Redmond yet to improve commute times? Have ridership patterns shifted at all since the B line first started at the beginning of October?

        As an Eastside resident within walking distance of the B line I personally like it and love the idea of being able to get around much easier on the bus but wish it was a bit faster during rush hour and live up to its ‘Rapid’ branding better during peak times. Also, the lack of schedule other than looking at the ‘look at the full schedule for this stop’ for a given stop on OBA is very annoying when the B line is on 15 minute headways during off-peak periods.

  11. Oran: since you included the B Line as a frequent intra Eastside route, how about routes 245 and 234-235?

  12. I ran across this announcement for a webinar tomorrow on “The Impact of Transit Oriented Development in Reducing GHG Emissions”

    You may also notice in the comments section on that link, a posting by John Niles referencing a “skeptical” report entitled Driving and the Built Environment: Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions which concludes that such changes would have limited impacts on VMT in the near term.

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