What if there were a budget-neutral restructure that would make Route 8 dramatically more reliable (and possibly more frequent) in Southeast Seattle, improve connectivity between the Rainier Valley and Renton, and make trips between downtown Seattle and Renton faster, without sacrificing anyone’s access to the transit system? In this post, I’ll outline one restructure idea, which I believe does all of those things. Below are the basic components; throughout, refer to Oran’s lovely map above:
- Delete Route 106 west of Rainier Beach Station. Instead, inbound 106 trips from Renton would turn at Rainier & MLK and follow the current 8 route to Broadway & John, then head to a layover near Convention Place station (discussed below); outbound trips would do the reverse. This new route would either be number 106 or some “new” number, but for this post, I’ll label it descriptively as “8S/106“.
- Extend Route 107 to serve South Beacon Hill, serving the alignment of the 106 between MLK and Myrtle, before heading to Othello Station. In Rainier Beach, the 107 route would be straightened to serve Rainier & Henderson before Rainier Beach Station (just like the 106 does), avoiding a time-consuming backtrack.
- Operate Route 8 on its original alignment, which is the same as the current alignment, but terminating in the east at Group Health Capitol Hill.
- Make the 8S/106 frequent service. While it’s difficult to estimate exactly how much frequency improvement this configuration would make possible, I’m confident it would at least suffice to raise the frequency of the 8S/106 to that of the current 8.
After the jump, the details on what this restructure would achieve, and how.
- The 8S/106 would be dramatically more reliable than the current 8. I’ve requested timepoint data from Metro to get numbers on this, and I’ll publish that data as soon as I get it, but I suspect everyone who’s set foot on the 8 on a bad traffic day (e.g. most weekdays) would agree that the 8’s egregious unreliability can almost all be attributed to the segment on Denny, which the 8S/106 would avoid.
- Travel between downtown Seattle and Renton becomes faster. Several months ago, Oran ran the numbers to show that at most times of the weekday, a two-seat Link-106 ride beats or ties the one seat 106 ride between Westlake and Renton TC in travel time; and it’s an easy win when the 106 runs every 15 minutes, as it current does only in the peak. Extending the span of frequent service would extend that advantage throughout the day, and when the 8S/106 was not frequent, the schedule could be set up so the Link connection would still be timely.
- For reasons I hope are obvious, it better connects the Rainier Valley and Central District to Renton and Skyway. What brought this idea to mind was Metro’s Southeast Seattle outreach report, which contained the following observation: “A new travel pattern of note that was consistently reported was more and more people traveling from the Rainier Valley south to Skyway, Renton, Tukwila, and White Center to visit family and friends. We heard references to routes like the 106 and 107 that take them there”. This restructure would directly cater to that emerging community travel pattern.
- South Beacon Hill would maintain a two-seat bus-Link ride to downtown, and one seat ride to shopping, services and other bus routes at Othello Station, at a similar frequency to its current 106 service. While this would make downtown commutes a little slower, I’d argue this actually provides a service that’s more generally useful to get around the city and the region than what currently exists. Outbound transfers through Othello could be timed to minimize delays.
- In September, service in Georgetown and SODO is being extensively restructured. The tangle of current routes will be replaced with the 124 serving Georgetown via Airport Way, and the 131 and 132 serving Georgetown via 4th Ave S. Thus, deleting this segment of the 106 wouldn’t cause any loss in coverage in Georgetown or on Airport Way, and the effective frequency will probably not be reduced much, as the 106 and 124 will be routed differently in SODO and downtown, so they will not form a usable high-frequency corridor.
- The only reduction of transit access is on Swift Ave S, a sparsely populated street next to I-5 which (in my anecdotal experience; I have a request in with Metro for boarding data) generates little ridership. Swift residents south of Graham St are within walking distance of the 36, and north of Graham, the 60. So their transit access isn’t great, but they’re not cut off. A tiny piece of Renon Ave S would also lose service, but only a couple of stops would be a affected.
Judging by the feedback I’ve had so far, the thing people are confused by is the routing to Convention Place. The reason this is required is because Metro’s current layover spaces on Capitol Hill are fully utilized, and it would be prohibitively difficult to obtain more, in any of the areas where turnaround loops might be available. Group Health has enough curb space for one new route, which would be taken up by the 8N. It’s highly desirable to get the 8S/106 as far west as the business district and future light rail station at Broadway & John, to provide a good northern anchor for the route.
On Broadway, the only turnaround loops available are those of the 60 and 9X (both of which would require an upgrade in transit classification from SDOT) and the chances of taking enough parking to lay over a new route on north Broadway are probably nil. Convention Place is thus the nearest viable layover, and while some riders may find this part of the 8S/106 useful, this segment is not intended to make the route a downtown-oriented service; it’s basically just providing a little extra service because doing so is free.