Yesterday afternoon, King County Metro released a revision to the September 2012 restructure proposal originally made public in November. These changes arise from the introduction of RapidRide Lines C & D in September, and are guided by Metro’s new Strategic Plan which including new performance-oriented Service Guidelines. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus mostly on the revisions, and refer readers who aren’t already familiar with the original November proposal back to my post on the subject.
Before we get into the details, some bad logistical news: Metro has not yet released any maps other than individual route maps and narratives, making it very hard to visualize how these changes will fit together as a network. You can obtain these individual maps (and others as they become available) by going to the System Restructure page on the Have a Say site; select the map you want from the drop-down box on the right. Metro staff tell me that citywide and neighborhood-by-neighborhood maps will be available by the end of the week.
For regular readers who are already familiar with the November proposal, I’ve saved you all a couple of hours of your life by including at the end of this post a summary list of all the significant differences I could find for every single route in this revision. Note that Metro’s route-by-route narratives neglect to mention many cases where frequencies have been cut or improved; my list contains those changes.
We’ll get right down to the nuts and bolts after the jump.
Highlights by Neighborhood
To help make this a little more understandable, here is a link to a map of the November proposal for the northern part of the all-day network. This map is not up to date, but you should be able to read it along with the discussion of changes for your neighborhood below, and see what’s what:
- Ballard: No major changes to November’s proposed route structure, except some rearrangements on the terminal loops in Loyal Heights and North Beach. RapidRide D’s peak frequency is reduced in favor of maintaining the existing 15X for some peak trips, and evening frequency has been reduced to 15-30. Route 18’s midday frequency has been upgraded to 15 minutes.
- Fremont, Greenwood and Wallingford: All routes have been returned to their current configuration, except for the replacement of the current Route 17 with Route 18; however, with the introduction of RapidRide E, it’s likely that Metro will reexamine this area next year.
- Broadview, Shoreline, Northgate: Minor changes to Route 16, but the bus will still travel directly into Northgate TC via 92nd St versus looping around on Northgate Way.
- Crown Hill, Whittier Heights: Route 28 will stay on Dexter rather than travel on Aurora. No other changes; Route 28 will still terminate in Crown Hill except during the peaks.
- Magnolia: No changes to the proposed Routes 24 and 33 in Magnolia, but they now operate on 3rd Ave in Downtown and Belltown; however, see the section below on First Hill.
- Queen Anne: The Queen Anne-Madrona restructure survives, but only with a sacrifice: Route 1 is extended via a crazy zigzag to the current terminal of Route 3, at those times of day when the 2X does not operate. This is done to provide service to West Queen Anne, specifically the area around 6th & Galer.
- Capitol Hill, Madison Valley: Route 11 will no longer be upgraded to frequent service during the weekday; many other minor tweaks in frequency.
- Central District: Route 27 restored to all-day service on Yesler and Lakeview, but see below.
- First Hill: This change really deserves a map:
Route 27 will take over Seneca service from Route 2, then travel down Boren to rejoin its current alignment at Yesler; it will be through-routed with Route 33.
Similarly, here’s the November map for the southern part of the all-day network.
- West Seattle, Downtown-oriented routes: Just like for the D Line in Ballard, peak trips on the C Line have been reduced in favor of keeping a few peak trips on Route 55; evening frequency has been upgraded to 15-30. A limited number of trips on Route 37 have been retained. Shorewood and Arbor Heights still lose direct service to Downtown except in the peak.
- West Seattle, crosstown routes: The previously-proposed Route 40 (from Alaska Junction to Morgan Junction and Georgetown) is now Route 20, and now begins in the Admiral District, rather than at Alaska Junction; Route 128 returns to its current alignment. The effect is to create a frequent-service corridor that runs all the way down California from the Admiral District to Morgan Junction and east to High Point and South Delridge before the 20 and 128 diverge.
- West Seattle, neighborhood routes: Route 22 has now become an hourly shuttle connecting Arbor Heights and Shorewood with Alaska Junction via California Ave. The increases in service planned for the Water Taxi’s 77x DART shuttles have been abandoned.
- Delridge: Direct service to downtown on Route 125 has been restored on weekdays only; Route 125 will extend all the way into Downtown, rather than requiring a transfer at SODO station.
- Rainier Valley: Peak and Sunday frequency on Route 50 has been reduced, but the alignment of the route hasn’t changed.
- SODO, Georgetown, South Park and points south: Essentially unchanged.
Here’s my initial impression of these revisions, starting with the good:
- Ballard and Fremont now have an all-day frequent-service connection. Ballard and Fremont have become dense, multi-use urban villages with lots of jobs and housing, but transit service has not kept up. Metro needs to aggressively improve this service as funds become available, starting by extending frequent service to Saturdays. Ballard and Fremont are both nightlife centers — it’s important that transit here run late enough to capture those riders.
- Queen Anne-Madrona restructure survives intact. I’ve written about this topic numerous times, mostly because it’s such an improvement over current service in terms of usability and cost-effectiveness. There will now be frequent service all the way through the dense heart of Queen Anne, filling another big hole in the frequent-service network. The extension of Route 1 (see “Bad” below) is a steep price to pay, but is better than the alternatives.
- The “Three Junctions” now have an all-day frequent service connection. California Ave, while mostly lowrise, is the most vibrant, walkable and urban street in West Seattle, and to have frequent service connecting all its neighborhood centers will be fantastic. Similar to the 18, Metro should seek to extend the hours frequent of service here.
- Magnolia routes join the rest of Seattle’s buses on 3rd Ave. For some time, Routes 19, 24 and 33 have been oddball routes, operating on 2nd and 4th Avenues along with regional and suburban services, while virtually every other Seattle-oriented bus operated on 3rd. Fixing that quirk improves usability and expedites transfers.
- The revised network has “good bones”. There are many routes in these areas that could be designed better, and there are many other routes that need a higher level of service to reach their full potential, but while a number of good ideas from November were tossed out, some survived. This is a better network to build on than what we had before.
- Fremont and Wallingford returned to current configuration. The routes that serve this area have a number of problems, over-serving some areas and under-serving others. I’m putting this down as “bad” rather than ugly, partly because we get to a do-over for this area in 2013 with RapidRide E, and partly because the neighborhood provided valuable feedback that can be used to make future revisions better meet their needs. I plan to write about this in the near future.
- Route 1 is now the milk run to rule them all. The Route 1 map is really the only way to really appreciate what a mess this route is now. On the other hand, there were two possible alternatives: operate a shuttle service on the alignment of the 2 to 1st & Mercer, or keep the current 2. Extending Route 1 is cheaper than either of those.
- Route 11 loses midday frequent service. While I’d much rather have frequent service on Route 18 than Route 11, the corridor Route 11 serves is another one where transit quality hasn’t kept up with increasing density.
- General reduction in frequency on strong routes in favor of coverage on weak routes.
- Service retained on Route 37. According to the data, two thirds of Route 37’s riders board or deboard at a stop that will be shared with the revised and improved Route 56X. On average, less than three riders per trip are on board the bus when it’s on Beach Drive, which is the only unique segment of that service. This bus should just go away. Failing that, why on earth will Metro be driving this bus all the way downtown? Why not require those riders to transfer to the Water Taxi as other riders in Alki and the Admiral District already do?
- Meet the next 42. At 60 minute headways during the day, running from Arbor Heights to Alaska Junction, I’m willing to bet that ridership numbers for the proposed Route 22 will be absolutely pitiful, and in three years time, STB bloggers will be writing stories about how Metro wants to delete this route but can’t due to the unwillingness of the King County Council to upset the tiny number of people who do ride it.
- 15-30 evening headways on RapidRide D. Uptown, Interbay and Ballard are currently connected by 10 minute daytime headways and 15 minute evening headways on the common sections of Routes 15 and 18. These neighborhoods are quite dense — far more so than on the A and B lines, which have frequent service until 10 PM — and the ridership is plenty strong enough to justify frequent service into the evenings. Depending upon what “15-30” translates to in real life, RapidRide will more-or-less halve the level of service these neighborhoods receive. How can this be a sane outcome?
- Route 15X and 55 retained in the peak. My mind boggles at what Metro thinks they’re doing here. The whole point of BRT is to improve speed and reliability on one service pattern such that it can serve the needs of more riders, both those who are going longer and shorter distances; you can then pour all your service subsidy and branding efforts into one route rather than many. The given reason, that RapidRide buses might get overcrowded, doesn’t pass the laugh test when you consider that Metro is cutting the peak headways on those RapidRide lines: Yes, of course, if you don’t run enough buses on busy routes, they might get overcrowded! I can only assume the real reason is that Metro can’t afford enough RapidRide coaches to meet the expected demand, and is substituting unbranded buses in the peaks.
- Should Metro even bother with RapidRide C & D? Between the 15X/55 issue above, and 30 minute evening headways, RapidRide C & D are in danger of becoming a service of such average quality as to dilute any value that exists in the RapidRide brand. I realize that canceling or delaying these routes would cause a political firestorm, but it’s getting to the point where delaying C & D until they can be done right might be the best thing in the long run for the RapidRide program.
Once Metro provides complete maps for this revision, I’ll post them, but in the mean time, it’s time for you to have your say here in the comments.
Appendix: Details of Changes from November by Route
To reiterate, this list only contains changes from the November proposal, and is primarily for regular readers who’re already familiar with that proposal. If a route isn’t mentioned in this list, that means there were no significant changes since November.
- C Line: Reduce peak frequency and resurrect one-way peak trips on Route 55. Upgrade evening service from 30 to 15-30 headway.
- D Line: Reduce peak frequency and resurrect one-way peak trips on Route 15X. Reduce evening service from 15 to 15-30 headway, presumably to match C Line trips 1-for-1.
- Route 1: Reduce peak frequency from 15 to 20, extend midday and night trips to current Route 3 terminus via 6th Ave W and Galer St.
- Route 2S: Reduce Saturday service from 15 to 20 minute headways; also see route 12 below.
- Route 5: Return to current alignment on Aurora rather than traveling via Fremont.
- Route 10: Increase peak frequency.
- Route 11: Increase peak frequency, reduce midday frequency from 15 to 30 minutes; cut evening frequency from 30 to 30-60.
- Route 12: Reduce Saturday service from 15 to 20 minutes; maintain offset schedule to provide sub-10 minute headways during the weekday, 10 minute headways on Saturday and 15 minute headways during the evening and Sunday.
- Route 14S: Reduce peak frequency from 15 to 30 minutes.
- Route 14N: Increase off-peak and weekend frequency from 45 to 30 minutes.
- Route 16: Reduce peak and midday frequency from 15-20 to 20 minutes.
- Route 17X: Return to current alignment rather than jogging east to serve North Beach loop at the end of the route.
- Route 18: Rather than being through-routed, the 18 will turn up Yesler,
serve Harborview,and terminate by Seattle University at 14th & Cherry. Midday frequency upgraded from 15-30 to 15 minute headways.
- Route 20: In the former proposal, this was known as Route 40. See the discussion of Routes 20 and 128 in the piece above.
- Route 21: Upgrade peak and midday headway to 15 minutes from 15-20.
- Route 21x: Revise Arbor Heights routing to make a smaller terminal loop and avoid a difficult turn.
- Route 22: Create daytime hourly shuttle connecting Arbor Heights and Shorewood to Alaska Junction via Westwood Village and California Ave.
- Route 24: Downtown routing changes from 2rd/4th couplet to 3rd Ave.
- Route 26: Restored to current alignment and frequency.
- Route 27: All day service restored to Lakeside Ave; through routed with Route 33. Leave 3rd Ave at Seneca/Spring and serve First Hill via Seneca and Boren before rejoining old alignment at Yesler. Weekends reduced to hourly frequency. See discussion and map above.
- Route 28: Return southern segment to existing alignment on Dexter.
- Route 30: Terminates in the U-District, Route 63 on Latona idea abandoned.
- Route 33: Reduced to hourly on weekends; Downtown alignment moved from 3rd/4th couplet to 3rd Ave; connected to Route 27.
- Route 37: Restored to current alignment with eight one-way peak trips per day.
- Route 50: Reduce peak frequency, cut to hourly on Sunday.
- Routes 56X & 57X: Skip one stop and reduce number of peak trips.
- Route 75: Cut from 30 minute frequency to 30-60 in the evening.
- Route 116X: Reduce number of trips.
- Route 125: Route extended all the way Downtown rather than looping in SODO. All-day service restored during the weekday.
- Route 128: Returned to current alignment. Some frequencies reduced, but see discussion of Route 20 above.
- Routes 131 & 132: Peak service increased from 30 to 20 minute frequency; weekend and off-peak frequency set at 30 minutes.
UPDATE: We heard from Metro staff, who tell us that peak frequency on the C & D Lines did not change, but confirmed that the additional trips on 55 and 15X were primarily motivated by a desire to save money by buying fewer coaches to meet peak demand.