Lynnwood Transit Center is probably the most important transit hub in Southern Snohomish County. It provides all-day access to Seattle, and 18 bus routes converge there.

In a noble attempt to simplify and straighten bus routes, CT consolidated a number of East/West routes in the area into the 196, which, fittingly, travels in a nearly straight path on 196th St SW. Regrettably, this forced it out of a direct connection at the transit center: not only would it have subjected riders to a circuitous detour, but CT’s Martin Munguia says that the added length would have required an additional bus, “which we cannot afford.” Score one for system legibility and directness.

The next best thing would be a 196 stop in both directions on 48th Ave. W to limit the walk to under a half mile, if not an additional stop at 44th Ave. W to facilitate transfers to those buses. Regrettably, neither exists: your eastbound choices are Scriber Lake Rd,. a full mile away and a long block East of Swift; or 40th Ave. W. (Timepoint 2 above), 0.8 miles to the East. Westbound, there’s a stop at 50th Ave. W, “only” two blocks away from the optimum. More after the jump.

Google Maps

Last September, CT requested stops on 48th from the City of Lynnwood, but the request was rejected this spring. They have since persuaded the Public Works Dept. to reopen the request, though there is no resolution at this time.

Lynnwood Public Works Director William Franz, P.E. says that the two stops near 48th were the only two requests (of 10 total) that the City refused. He explained why the traffic engineer refused the request:

He denied this based on traffic volumes, turning movement demands at that location, and major queuing and associated safety impacts that would result. Blocking a lane of 196th in either direction at that location even for just a short time, especially during busy times, would cause major backups. In fact, we have not historically permitted lane work or closures for any reason at this location except at night time because of the severe traffic impacts that result. We did offer to work with Community Transit if they wanted to invest in bus pullouts at or near that location. Their response was that they don’t like to use pullouts as it makes it hard for the buses to re-enter traffic.

It isn’t surprising, or unreasonable, that a suburban city would prioritize car traffic over a bus that runs every half hour. It is, however, disappointing for the primary connection of a good chunk of Lynnwood and Edmonds to the North/South freeway express spine.

36 Replies to “Transfers at 196th St.”

    1. Was supposed to be /sarcasm, but the commenting system didn’t like my brackets surrounding it :)

    2. I know that’s sarcasm, but your comment had the word “gondola” in it, therefore I am obligated to comment.

      Gondolas are generally inefficient for suburban routes. What you’re looking for in a gondola line is a reasonably short path with high potential demand and something in the way on the surface (constrained streets, a hill, water). What really gets you here is distance. You want something short – anything shorter than a mile would be ideal, though a 2-3 mile line would work. At 6 miles, we’re talking about a 25 minute trip.

      1. How about a gondola between the transit center and the convention center? That would provide a connection between Route 196 and the transit center also.

      2. I suppose that would depend on ridership. I assume would be great during commute hours, but non-existant during off hours? That’s another feature that makes mass transit tough in the suburbs. Also, if they can’t afford adding a single bus, it’s unlikely they’ll want to pay for 2-5 people operating a gondola even if you ignore the capital costs.

        If the demand was high, all of these issues could be overcome.

  1. There are other routes between Edmonds and Lynnwood TC, but they are far more circuitous than a short detour off the 196th would have been.

    In line with the topic opened by Chad N in the open thread, how would the powers that Sound Transit has affect the outcome of the request CT made to the city, if CT were an operating arm of ST?

  2. It is unreasonable for a city that we’re making a big investment in, by way of Link, to deny a bus stop there. If Lynnwood can’t deal with a bus stopping every half-hour it doesn’t deserve light rail.

    1. Fully agreed. Perhaps that money could be used for design and the first little bit of the build for a University District-Ballard line. As a bonus, it would even attract all-day walking ridership, not just park-and-riding commuters.

      1. I’m all for Seattle subsidizing bus service in Lynnwood if it means we can build light rail in far-more-deserving corridors in Seattle instead.

  3. I second Al Dimond. Swift coaches stop in-lane on Highway 99, for heaven’s sake, and they do it every 12 minutes. Several of those Swift stops are in Lynnwood city limits, and I haven’t seen it causing any additional backups there. I believe 196th is one of the corridors that CT is looking at for a future Swift line. Does Lynnwood seriously want to nix that possibility just to avoid making SOV drivers stop for maybe 30 seconds every half hour?

    Ideally a traffic engineer would be interested in promoting mobility through and within the city they serve, which is precisely what adding these stops would do. Too bad Lynnwood’s doesn’t seem to have this as a goal.

  4. Holy cow. This would have completely screwed up my commute when I lived on 196th near 76th. I used to catch a bus on 196th a block from my condo and take it to the P&R, where I caught the first bus headed to downtown (CT or ST, didn’t care, had a bus pass that covered both). I was going into work earlier than the Sounder ran, so it wasn’t an option, and at the time there was no direct service to the Edmonds P&R from my place–and actually, looking at it now, there still isn’t, you have to walk there from 212th. Then they added the 406, which stopped a block away, and that was AWESOME, but it’s gone now too. I guess if I still lived up there, I’d have to take a bus to downtown Edmonds and then catch the 416, if it ran early enough? But that would be a much longer commute, since the 416 would take a lot longer to get downtown than a bus leaving Lynnwood P&R. Or just walk really really far? Reason #532 why I’m glad I moved back into the city of Seattle, I guess…

    1. Apparently Snohomish County and Lynnwood think that commute would be best accomplished by driving to the Lynnwood P&R, adding another car to a congested area for an inefficient, high-polluting short trip.

      1. +1. When you take what is a five-minute drive and turn it into a half-hour bus ride with a mile-long walk at the end of it, big surprise that people choose driving over transit.

    2. Also, I can’t see why detouring to 200th is so bad. If the route coming from Edmonds turned right/south onto 68th (or whatever that street is that runs in front of Edmonds CC) and then turned left onto 200th and just went straight down that road, you wouldn’t even need to run it into Lynnwood TC to have a not-ideal-but-reasonable connection. Then have it run up Alderwood Mall Blvd. instead of on 196th and Alderwood Mall Pkwy. There’s less traffic on 200th usually (especially west of 44th), and Alderwood Mall Blvd. is more direct, so it would probably save time overall. It would make service to the big box stores around 196th & Alderwood Mall Pkwy. not as good, but I think the improved Edmonds CC connection balances that out, let alone the better connection with Lynnwood TC.

      1. There are a couple issues with this idea. One is that it is not only the transit center that needs service in downtown Lynnwood. Fred Meyer is a major destination, and the stop at 48th would make it much easier for riders to get there, as well Pulling the 196 off of 196th would also limit customer access to Trader Joe’s, Albertson, and all the other stores at 196th and 99. And traffic on 200th is worse than you might think – long backups to get through the light eastbound at 99 and westbound at 44th are not uncommon. Also, the bus would have to enter the transit center even if it were running on 200th, because there are no stops on 200th near the transit center. Given Lynnwood’s current attitude, I wouldn’t expect them to approve those, either.

      2. What’s needed is a single frequent routing that’s reasonably fast. 200th looks feasable for Edmonds CC to Lynnwood TC, then turn to 196th for Fred Meyer and further east. 200th’s density is not that much different than 196th. The Scriber Lake curve on 196th is especially low-density office-in-the-park construction. Long-term Lynnwood can decide how to rezone the two streets, but right now 200th is acceptable for consolidating service on a single street.

      3. There is already 15-minute service on 200th between the college and the transit center (Routes 115/116).

      4. So why are we talking about 196th?

        (BTW, it’s 15 minutes until 6:30pm weekdays, and half-hourly otherwise and on Saturday.)

      5. Because the original topic of the post is of a now streamlined route that serves 196th St between Edmonds and Alderwood Mall. The discussion moved to alternative routings that could get a stop closer to the transit center on this route.

  5. For them to make a stink about a bus that will impact one lane direction for 1 minute in each direction every hour is absurd. I hooe these traffic engineers get canned. They are useless.

  6. Having been living on the east coast when the this transit center was planned and constructed, I don’t know the history of it.

    But one would think that CT, ST and the city would have figured this all out beforehand.

    1. Note that the park and ride is located directly along Interstate 5, rather than on 196th, the local road. It was designed for people taking the freeway to the transit station, rather than local roads. The problem is that there’s no real integration between local streets and the interstate, and prior development favored the interstate. Well, given that Link is going along I-5, it’s not just prior development that is aligned relative to the freeway.

      Ultimately, the problem is that I-5 was poorly situated for long term growth, and it’s drawing development (including the transit center) away from the longer-term center along 99 and its major cross streets. This mess is really the result of decades of poor planning and misplaced priorities. Hopefully light rail (even though it’s aligned to the freeway) and plans for greater density will finally start to reverse the longer trend.

    2. All the problems with the I-5 siting can be fixed with proper redevelopment, which Lynnwood has already zoned for and has stated as its goal. Downtown Lynnwood is a cluster of strip malls and big-box stores that nobody will miss when they’re incorporated into larger buildings. Perhaps the TC could be moved to 196th/44th, but there’s a viable alternative of putting development around the TC.

      1. That is fine, except that the transit center appears to have no east/west connections. Can Edmonds somehow work around the bad siting?

  7. Slightly off topic.. but what about the route the 810 takes when it gets onto I-5 North on-ramp to get to Lynnwood transit center. Instead of taking the carpool lane into that center, it exits to 44th Ave and the loops back to the transit center. Wastes maybe 5 minutes?

    Sure I know it’s a short distance from the on-ramp to veer left back into the carpool lane to get to the transit center, so I am sure a few folks will call it a safely issue/policy of CT.. but even on times when there is light traffic, the bus could easily make that route (I’ve been on a few where bus drivers have done that in the past).. Alas.

    1. You can’t plan bus operations around the best case. There are plenty of times when changing that many lanes in that short a distance would be impossible to do safely.

      1. Well, my point is…why not give the bus driver the discretion to do that shorter route… I still think it’s a good distance to move over those lanes… driving a car, I know I would.. I guess it’s different with a bus, but you’d THINK that drivers on the left side would make way for a big bus. heh… oh well.

  8. I kind of wonder if the proposed stops were before or after the intersection. We favor after-the-intersection on arterials in Seattle because it allows traffic to turn right without first passing the bus.

    1. And for a whole lot of other reasons, safety foremost (see my discussion with Charles and Bernie in the open thread).

  9. Any claim that a half hourly bus blocking a lane of traffic for 30 seconds would cause massive backups on any roadway short of a freeway is complete B.S. This is just another example, that what a traffic engineer claims is about safety is really about drivers who, once every half hour, can’t be inconvenienced to wait 30 seconds behind a stopped bus.

  10. I never would have put in the route on a street where I knowingly wouldn’t have stops near a major retailer (Fred Meyer). Instead, I would have put it where there are stops, e.g. for the street on the other side of Fred Meyer; I believe there was/is a bus that uses that. In addition, my driver said that the route wasn’t even timed before it was put in, that’s why it’s always off-schedule and unreliable to transfer to and from. By the time one bus makes it to one end, it’s supposed to be at the other. Timing it out before instituting it also seems to be a prerequisite that was missed. As for the Park & Ride, using the road on the other side of Fred Meyer might have allowed a stop at 48th on the northwest corner and northeast up from the intersection, and possibly use 48th to/from 200th, as Mike Orr seemed to suggest. I’d rather have fewer buses that are close to or on schedule that serve where/near riders (abled-bodied and not) want to go instead of unreliable service that doesn’t meet the riders’ needs…which, granted, nobody can meet 100% of. The hopeful news is that the city got a grant to look at adding a bus lane for the stretch from the convention center to Fred Meyer, but that only funds design if I remember correctly.

    1. If the route is unreliable, the solution is to add longer layovers and adjust the paper schedule to more accurately reflect reality.

      Turning a straight-line route into a zig-zaggity route that is unnecessarily slower and more expensive to operate is not the solution.

  11. Bike share might be a partial solution. There’s a wonderful bike trail that goes right to the park and ride. I doubt that will happen in Lynnwood, but it would be an amelioration.

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