Photo by the author in the STB Flickr Pool
The Old 42 (photo by the author)

Metro is collecting ideas on how to improve service in Southeast Seattle:

This spring Metro is holding conversations with community organizations, bus riders, and residents of southeast Seattle about transit options in their community. Our goal is to learn about ways to make transit easier and more inviting to use. At every conversation, we ask people to tell us which transit options they use, why they use them, and how these services can be improved. We leave every conversation with a better understanding of how people travel around their community.

Please take a few moments to share your thoughts and ideas >>

Areas of emphasis seem to be ORCA card access and dirty and/or dangerous stops. It also raises the possibility of stopping the 8 at Mt. Baker and resurrecting the old 42, but stopping in Pioneer Square instead of traveling downtown. I first caught wind of this idea late last year.

I think there are two ways of looking at this. One is that the set of one seat rides enabled by a revised 42 is pretty strong: retail along Rainier, the I-90 freeway station, and Little Saigon. To this Columbia City resident, the 8’s set of destinations between Mt. Baker and Madison Park don’t seem nearly as attractive: Garfield HS and Central District retail.

On the other hand, current service to the former set of places is extremely frequent, making transfers less painful than they would be to the 8. And the 8, by providing access to a whole different part of the city, offers better access to a whole network of cross routes. In other words, the 8/42 switch might increase the number of one-seat rides, but the advantage of a gridded network is turning the dreaded three-seat ride into two-seaters. The 8 does better at this.

From an access perspective, switching the 48 with the 8 would be the best of both worlds. It would provide access to the Rainier corridor and (in 2021) the freeway station, while still providing a one-seat ride through the central district.

However, both the 48 and the souped up 42 don’t solve the most serious problem with the 8: that it is too unreliable southbound to serve as a Link shuttle. This can only be solved by splitting the 8. Doing so in Madison Park would preserve connections and reliability, as MLK is seldom congested. It is a better use of resources than the alternatives.

49 Replies to “Metro Wants Your Southeast Seattle Ideas”

  1. The current 8 is really 3 different routes: lower Queen Anne to Capitol Hill/Madison Pk (8N), Madison Park to Mt. Baker TC (8M) and MBTC to Rainier Beach (8S). The N and S sections have pretty good ridership, but ridership on the M section is weaker. My first suggestion would be to look at extending the QA-Capitol Hill route to Madison Park and maybe eliminate the 11. I think this new route could almost support 10 minute frequencies during rush hour and 15 minute frequencies at other times. Would Madison Pk riders freak out over losing the 11, but getting better headways? To replace service on Madison Street between downtown and 23rd Ave Metro could look at switching the 43 to Madison along with the 2S.

    In Rainier Valley the 8S is fine at 15 minute headways; but in the M section, running at 15 minute headways is a very generous allocation of precious service hours. It may be expensive to lay a bus over, but running it empty is also costly. Metro needs to examine where the riders along the 8M section are going and how they should efficiently get to their destinations.

    It’s good to hear that Metro is seeking community input before they come up with any service change proposals. There are lots of archived threads at STB about the proposed 2S, 4S and 14 restructures where where plenty of ideas have been floated.

    1. The 2S does not operate on Madison, and putting the 43 on Madison would preclude the current use of articulated coaches on the 43 (and due to the night/Sunday through route, on the 44).

      Once U-Link opens, I really like the idea of splitting the 8 at its elbow (as Martin suggests), and combining the north part of the 8 and the 11, but until then, I doubt Madison Park riders will go for a transfer.

      1. If we follow through with the Madison BRT service, they won’t have to transfer to get downtown.

      2. Remember that the 8 will stop right across from the Cap Hill light rail station, so riders from Madison Valley would actually have two really good options to get downtown: Connect with the Madison BRT line or connect with Link. Total travel times would probably be about the same as the current 11 due to more direct routes and high frequencies of service. I endorse this idea.

    2. “Would Madison Pk riders freak out over losing the 11, but getting better headways?”

      Do you have to ask? Of course they would. But it may be reasonable to reduce the 11 to peak-hours-plus-a-few-midday-runs, and make the 8 the main route from Madison Park. But there would still be freakouts.

      1. I think the 8S deserves 15 minute headways from RB to MtB. At MtB it could become the 42 to Downtown/Pioneer Square via Dearborn. It might seem extravagant to operate the 42 @15 minute headways on Rainier Avenue between MtB and downtown, but if it allows the 7 to skip some stops between 12th/Jackson and MtBTC (see below), I’d want to look at that idea.

        If the 8M is eliminated and more hours are allocated to the 8N/11 services and the 4S is extended to MtBTC (and perhaps straightened out so it doesn’t wander through the Judkins Park neighborhood), I think there might be enough bus service to keep people happy.

  2. Real-time bus arrival signs would help make transfers more tolerable. Just a basic monitor, showing a web interface, would do just as good as any overpriced gimmicked-up device that gets a direct GPS feed. The roving security could be trained to monitor that the web interface is functioning, and the monitor hasn’t disappeared since his/her last loop.

    Letting those waiting for the bus know they have 20 minutes to wait is also good for helping business around the station.

  3. The 42 advocates who came to the hearing had one good, solid argument on their side: the unreliability of the 8. There was a suggestion of terminating the 8 at Mount Baker Station and having the 42 take over its MLK service.

    That said, a group of students presented a petition to save the 42 in order to save the one-seat ride between Rainier Beach, Franklin, and Garfield. That’s what I heard them say. So, I think there is a market for connections between Rainier Valley and the Central District (albeit partially for infrequent riders who may not understand all the bus routes, as exemplified by this misinformed petition), and this market would be served *best* by having the 48-south take over the MLK local service, since the 48-south provides the best anchor (UW) and one-seat rides to the longest swath of intermediate destinations in a straighter line.

    1. The 48 should be electrified and connected to the 7, with some other route picking up the Mount Baker-Downtown segment of the 7. There are far more riders on Rainier than MLK, especially when you subtract out MLK riders within walking distance of a Link station for whom a bus connection to the UW is irrelevant.

      The fix for the unreliability of the 8 is to split it as Martin suggests.

      1. I have a hard time seeing the political possibility of pairing the 7-south with the 48-south until I-90/Rainier Station opens for service. Even then, the one-seat riders might not be interested in the faster travel time with a transfer to East Link.

  4. One other route with ridership problems in Rainier Valley is the 9. It does well during peak hours in the peak directions, but off-peak and against the flow it isn’t getting good ridership. Once the FH streetcar is operating and U LINK starts, there won’t be much reason for the 9, so Metro should start looking at what the future holds for the 9. The 42 could serve as a local stop route between downtown and MBTC and the 7 could be expressed between 12th/Jackson and Mt. Baker, stopping only at Dearborn, I-90 and Walker and saving 7 riders a few minutes on every trip.

    1. Expressing the 7 like that is an astoundingly bad idea, but I like the idea of a MBTC-Downtown route, and I think the 9 should die. As I mentioned above, the best idea is to connect the 48 and 7, have a “42” serving MBTC-Downtown, and invest all the hours saved from cutting the 9 and truncating the 7 to improve service on the 7, 8, 14 and 48.

      Oh, and delete the 7X too.

      1. Why is faster service on the 7 between the ID and Mt. Baker an “astoundingly bad idea”?

      2. Several reasons:

        * We spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a fast transit service between MBTC and the west part of the ID, it’s called “Central Link”.
        * Your “express” wouldn’t be much faster or more reliable on the outbound as you still have to get through the choke point/parking lot on Rainier between Jackson and Dearborn.
        * It would cost significantly more money, as you wouldn’t get the cycle time benefit of consolidating the 7 and 48. You still have to pay to slog through downtown.
        * Your proposal would also require dieselizing one of those routes on Jackson (or spending a fortune on express wire). By contrast, electrifying the 48 requires only a mile and a half of new wire and shifts a significant chunk of service away from diesels and onto trolleys.

      3. I haven’t heard any serious talk about the 7+48 combo. I won’t label it an ABI (astoundingly bad idea), but I’m guessing it won’t get much traction in the community.

        Expressing the 7 from 12/Jackson to MBTC wouldn’t require any additional wire or conversion to diesel under existing condition. If the 48 is wired there would be one stop where there might be a conflict, but that could be worked around. Other than that, there aren’t any conflicting trolley routes between 12th/Jackson and MBTC. I’m also presuming that a new 42– replacing the 8–would have 15 minute headways and travel on Dearborn.

    2. The key to radically improving transit service in the Rainier Valley is providing frequent robust EAST/WEST service to Link Stations and key destinations.

    3. I would think de-expressing the 9 and making it the main Rainier route, and maybe changing its northern terminus, would be a better idea than these 42 revival ideas, at least after U-Link and the FHSC opens? Is there something wrong with that that I’m missing?

  5. Dirty/dangerous stops … many bus stops along Rainier avenue, while located near streetlights, are also often covered by a thick canopy of trees, blocking much of the light from the overhead streetlights, making the bus stop a dark, shadowy, uninviting place. Trees are great, but bus stops need to be as open and inviting as possible, especially at night.

  6. Funny enough, I rode the 8 home to Columbia City from Victrola on Cap Hill last night. The 08:45 run was about 10 minutes late. Seemed pretty well utilized, but yes, when I got on at 15 and John more people were getting off than on. This pattern continued for the next couple of stops then few on or offs until we got down in the RV where it picked up again.

    Once U-link opens I doubt I will ever ride it. But I very much have mode bias. To go DT I walk past the 7 stop at Alaska and Rainier to get to Link at MLK.

    Oh, and off topic but kinda related, last night a guy already on the 8 went up at Mount Baker TC and asked the driver if the bus went to Columbia City and she told him to get off and get on the next 7S that came by. WTF?!?! I tried to yell up at him just to stay on till MLK and Alaska but he didn’t hear me.

    1. And as soon as I hit reply I thought of another time I rode the 8 this week. On Tuesday to go down to the U-haul at Graham grab a pickup for a couple hours. Be nice to build an express line southbound so that we can get some infill stations along RV Link.

      1. I don’t think riders around Graham St need an express, I think they need the 8 to run on time, and more frequently nights/Sundays.

    2. “Oh, and off topic but kinda related, last night a guy already on the 8 went up at Mount Baker TC and asked the driver if the bus went to Columbia City and she told him to get off and get on the next 7S that came by. WTF?!?! I tried to yell up at him just to stay on till MLK and Alaska but he didn’t hear me.”

      Depends on whether he meant the station or the actual Columbia City.

      1. Or if you walked over 1 block south to Edmunds, no (discernable) downhill grade at all to be right in the heart of the village.

  7. Please don’t forget the Orcas/Graham residents. It’s a 15-20 minute walk to a light rail station even if you (as I do) live two blocks from the tracks itself. Your other options are to climb east or west over some pretty steep hills. There are plenty of people who ride the 8 from Orcas/Graham to get to the light rail stations. When I don’t bike/light rail, I ride the 8 from Orcas/Graham all the way to Denny/Westlake, and those residents certainly are in need of a way to get to transit that doesn’t involve a .75 mile+ walk to a station. It’s fine for me personally, but my observations are that others can’t make that trek as easily.

    I cringe about the suggestions to end lines/force transfers at the MBTC, as most of my south-end friends will do anything to avoid that area. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and feels very unsafe. I’ve had nothing happen to me, but my hackles are up every second I am there. If I have to wait there for any period of time I’ll buy a coffee and linger in Starbucks. I’m forutnate to be able to afford that, however.

    1. I’m with you. The gap between the Columbia City and Othello stations is unacceptably large for in-city service.

    2. Yeah, and I’d be much more into forced transfers at MBTC if the infrastructure for transferring didn’t suck. Getting from the TC to the station is confusing and vaguely nightmarish. If that connection were actually improved I’d consider it.

      1. That’s cool; I missed it when it was posted. It seems pie-in-the-sky, but still very cool.

      2. whoever indeed. DPD is working on it, but it’s not going to be free; in-lane stops on Rainier would sure make transfers to/from LINK easier though.

        I’m at MBTC at night on the occasions (infrequent) when I’m there. I agree it’s not the safest-feeling environment; the street lighting is poor, and the area under the LINK station (as has been discussed here many times) does not feel particularly safe.

  8. People don’t go to central MLK on the 8, they go through it. Most people are on the bus when it leaves Mt Baker, and they’re still on the bus when it reaches Broadway. Only a single-digit trickle of people get on or off between Yesler and Madison. Some of them will surely switch to Link when Capitol Hill station opens; others are probably one-seat riders who want a bus to Broadway and Seattle Center.

    The 48 used to run to Rainier Beach before its tail was switched to the 8. That was a bad move because the bulk of ridership is on central 23rd and south MLK, and 23rd is closer to Boren-to-15th where a lot of destinations are. I don’t care whether the route is called 42 or 48 as long as it’s 15-minutes frequent. North of Jackson it could go to Intl Dist station, Boren-Seattle Center, Broadway, 12th, or 23rd.

    Actually, if it goes Rainier Beach – MLK – 23rd – Jackson – Intl Dist station, that would fill the Jackson Street gap we’ve been pointing out, where east of Rainier has only the 14 and is underserved.

    1. yes, and those of us who actually live in the CD who use the 8 aren’t real excited about giving it up. Splitting the line in two, yes, that makes sense.

      And we still have to get to Link once Cap Hill station opens…which logically means taking the 8 to Broadway.

  9. Not to be overly pedantic, but the 8 serves Madison Valley, not Madison Park.

  10. If splitting the 8 is mentioned, I have to mention my preference for splitting it AT a Link station, rather than at an arbitrary commercial district between 2 stations. I’m not picky about which station, I just think people on that leg of the 8 should not be forced to backtrack to the wrong side of downtown (or worse, ride a slow bus into downtown).

    The 8, as a downtown bypass, can be a massive trip-time boon to riders on the section between MBTC and the upcoming Capitol Hill station. This is only possible if riders on that strip of the 8 can get to both stations in a 1-seat ride. Otherwise you force half the potential riders through an extra bottleneck.

  11. I’d step back and begin with a clean sheet of paper. Then, I would examine three types of routes. 1. Creating Day-Long, Long-Distance Trunk Routes: A trunk north-south route that emulates light rail or RapidRide (stops 1/2 to 3/4 mile apart) with high frequency and limited stops that would run from UW/ULink to Mt Baker TC and then out Ranier, ending up at Othello or Ranier Beach. It would run at least every 15 minutes from 5 AM until 9 or 10 PM. A second similar trunk route that runs east-west (Union? Jefferson?) but then runs south at 23rd, with routing south of Mt. Baker to another area unserved by other higher-speed service. 2. Creating Local Routes: A set of neighborhood circulator routes to serve local trips and those transferring to/from trunk routes, especially for shoppers, seniors and teens. These should probably run in at least a L or a C to connect districts and trunk transit stations/centers with reliable, short-distance trips. A new short route using the 7 alignment but only between the International District and Mt. Baker TC and back would be awesome! 3. Reducing Service on Unreliable, Slow, Long Line-Haul Routes: Once these are laid out, then revisitng the major trunk routes to see how many of those riders would switch over to the new services. Today’s slow line-haul routes require lots of buses to operate, and few people find the experience desirable. The more riders that can switch from slow-moving, high-frequency bus routes to these other services could really empower Metro to improve the overall bus productivity, mainly by getting riders on faster-moving buses. Consider that a route that operates at 7.5 mph takes Metro twice as many buses to serve the same frequency as one that operates at 15 mph.

    1. What kind of frequency would you foresee for your neighborhood/circulator routes?

      1. Good question, JohnS. I think that it really depends on the reason that people are making the trip on a route. I see the circulator headways between 10 to 20 minutes depending on demand — because any less frequency then transit becomes undesirable for a short trip. Circulators that serve shoppers could be infrequent until 9 or 10 AM, and then be frequent the rest of the day as well maybe as during evenings and on weekends depending on business hours. Circulators that serve people going to doctors and hospitals would likely be at the highest frequencies between 8 and 5 on weekdays. Circulators feeding employment districts would be most frequent during the hours people are going to/from work as well as lunchtime.

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