Yesterday, Metro announced a change to the outbound downtown Seattle routing of Routes 306, 308, 312 and ST 522, and the inbound and outbound routing of the 301. These routes serve Woodinville and other areas of northern King County. From the announcement:
Beginning Nov. 5, Metro will shift five bus routes off of Olive Way and onto Pike Street, and move a Fourth Avenue bus stop one block north. The revised routes are 301, 306, 308, 312 and Sound Transit Express 522 – routes that carry several hundred riders on 21 trips during the busiest hour of the evening commute. Maps of the revised routes are posted online for route 301, routes 306, 308 and 312, and ST Express 522. […]
The change comes after a month of observations and rider feedback that identified lengthy travel times on Olive Way during the evening commute. On Sept. 29, these five bus routes were revised to travel via Fourth Avenue and Olive Way as part of major changes in the bus network in downtown Seattle. However traffic in the area – buses, general traffic and pedestrians – proved too congested. […]
To make the route revision work, Metro also will close the bus stop on Fourth Avenue between Union and Pike streets on Nov. 5. All buses that have been stopping at the stop between Union and Pike streets will serve the stop one block north on Fourth Avenue between Pike and Pine streets. This move will help buses and other traffic better make a right turn on Pike Street and head straight to the Interstate 5 express lanes. Other bus routes that continue north on Fourth Avenue also should see improved travel times.
The moved bus stop affects riders on:
- Metro routes 111, 114, 210, 212, 214, 215 and 217
- Community Transit routes 402, 405, 410, 412, 413, 415, 416, 417, 421, 422, 424, 425 and 435
- Sound Transit Express routes 510, 511, 512, 513, 554, 590, 592, 594 and 595
These four routes have been tweaked a lot lately, and riders may find useful to know more about why, so as to understand that Metro isn’t just fiddling around with these routes for fun.
The 301 was, until last month, in the Downtown Transit Tunnel, along with other Shoreline commuter routes like the 316. It was moved from the tunnel to the surface due to reduced bus capacity in the tunnel, caused by the elimination of Pay as You Leave rules when the Ride Free Area ended. The 306, 308, 312 and 522 previously operated on a unique downtown pattern, operating southbound on 2nd Ave, and northbound on 3rd Ave, and then to and from the freeway express ramp via Pike and Union; most other suburban service operated on 2nd and 4th Avenues and accessed the freeway via the Stewart and Olive couplet.
More after the jump.
Northbound operations for the 306, 308, 312 and 522 on 3rd Ave were problematic for a few reasons. Along with the tunnel, 3rd Ave bus zone capacity was also reduced with the elimination of the RFA, and 4th Ave had much more capacity available. Those routes didn’t really fit in with the emerging logical design of the downtown area, where north-south Seattle service was almost exclusively on 3rd Ave, and suburban service on 2nd, 4th and 5th. Finally, it was often difficult for buses to make the right turn from 3rd to Pike in the afternoons, due to the heavy pedestrian traffic at that intersection. (The 14 was also split, in part, for this reason). Delays making that turn badly disrupted northbound buses trying to serve the 3rd & Pike stop. Hence it made sense to move these routes from 3rd to 4th.
The Stewart/Olive couplet has some advantages over Pike/Union. It provides much better access to the Denny Triangle, and in the outbound direction, a very good transfer connection from the South Lake Union streetcar. At best, it is still somewhat slower, as the bus drives further on surface streets before entering the freeway, but planners presumably hoped reliability would still be adequate, and that improved access outweighed the slower speed. Unfortunately, adding all these routes to the stop outside the Medical Dental Building (6th & Olive) turned out to exceed the workable capacity of that bus zone, causing significant delays to all the routes on Olive, forcing Metro to make this latest change.
When changes introduce chronic unreliability or other problems to their routes, people sometimes write to me or the contact@STB address, and complain about it. While this is understandable, I always tell them they’re talking to the wrong people: they best thing to do is send Metro feedback through through any of the means listed on this page, and get everyone else on the bus to do the same thing. Having covered Metro in more detail than perhaps anyone else in the city, I can say that within the context of minor, non-political problems such as I’ve discussed in this post, complaining en masse through the feedback form is a surprisingly good, if not the best, way to effect changes.
Whether or not you check the box asking for a response, you’ll probably never hear back about your feedback (at least according to every single person who’s ever written to us), but Metro has an entire Service Quality team whose job is to sift through this and other data, looking for and fixing speed and reliability problems. The scope of what they can do is limited, but if enough people complain about one specific problem, they’ll almost certainly look into it, and if there’s an easy fix, they might well be able to make it happen.
Kudos to Metro for addressing this issue promptly, and I hope the expected speedier operations on 4th are also realized.
POSTSCRIPT: An attentive reader brought this Rider Alert to my attention, at the Pike & 6th stop:
It appears buses to Capitol Hill (10, 11, 43, 47, 49) will no longer serve that stop after Monday; I assume this change is also dictated by bus zone capacity. Closing this stop is actually great for most Capitol Hill riders, and is something I’ve wanted for ages — it’s only two blocks in either direction to another stop, and this stop’s presence caused buses to crawl through this quarter-mile — but Metro’s announcements regarding the Olive-Pike switcheroo failed to mention it.