West Seattle Ridership table, fixed

Yesterday, Metro dropped a couple of very substantive posts over on the Metro Future Blog: one about post-service-change feedback from riders in West Seattle, and one regarding a proposal to tweak service on the I-90 corridor to address overcrowding; there will be a separate post on the latter. You should read the post, and the PDF report, and the ridership table in their entirety; there’s lots of great information in there. Here are my initial takeaways:

  • We’re going to get printed RapidRide schedules in February. Thank heavens.
  • RapidRide C & D are victims of their own success — and inadequacies. Mostly, people are complaining about crowding and unreliability, which (I think) are consequences of inadequate frequencies, inadequate or incomplete capital improvements, and pent-up demand (particularly in urban villages), for anything remotely resembling high-quality transit. Imagine how many more riders we’d have if downtown had ORCA readers.
  • In all other respects, the restructure worked. In spite of the totally underwhelming delivery and reception of the C Line, ridership overall went up, and it went up the most in areas where most rationalization was done — particularly the California/Fauntleroy corridor, where an indecipherable tangle of routes (54, 54X, 22, 116) have now become C and the 116.
  • Bellyaching… Public reaction, in this survey and in online forums, has been almost uniformly negative; and online (away from this blog), often included thundering denunciations which asserted gross incompetence or malfeasance on the part of Metro, accompanied by cast-iron predictions that ridership had cratered. Turns out, these people didn’t know what they were talking about, and judging by the comments on the Metro Future Blog, they still don’t… but they won’t let that stop them from sounding off!
  • …and the tyranny of the status quo. Sadly, these people get to vote, and to deluge their Council Members with complaints; and this is why we’re not going to get any changes whatsoever with the introduction of RapidRide E, and why virtually no changes were made in Magnolia or Queen Anne, even though there’s no good reason we couldn’t achieve similarly higher ridership and improved mobility in those neighborhoods.
  • Please no more half-baked RapidRide launches. Don’t launch the E Line ’til it’s good and ready.

Thanks to Metro for collecting and publishing all this information in such an accessible and readable form.

62 Replies to “West Seattle Rider Feedback”

  1. It’s probably too soon to see the effect of the restructure on ridership. Depending on when they did the fall counts, there may still have been people trying to make it work who have since given up. It will be more clear when we see spring numbers, if they share them with us. Even if ridership is up, I suspect the well-publicized problems and complaining have turned off quite a few potential riders.

    I hope Metro can find ways to continue to grow the system in SW Seattle. With 2,000 multifamily units in the pipeline, most on or near the C, the capacity issues are not going away.

    1. While the predictions of giving up on the bus system seem to be universally inaccurate, judging from the data, I think some riders have figured out the difference between RapidRide and express (e.g. 116 and 118), and are choosing those more often if they know they are coming soon.

      As you can see from the data, ridership on the 125 is dropping, and yet nobody seems to be complaining about that route.

      I’ll bet you that ridership on the 560 will also go up later this year, even as some predict lower ridership (due to getting rid of its unproductive tail and providing a better all-day connection for the whole of West Seattle). Thank you, ST Board, for listening to the wisdom and expertise of your staff.

      1. With regards to the #125, they really made some drastic cuts to the route, both the scheduling and routing. I wrote and suggested a few tweaks that I thought might help without costing much of anything, but I never heard back. Anyhow I imagine those cuts didn’t help the ridership any.

      2. Brian, what type of changes to the 125 did you propose, I would be interested in how closely they match the opinions of riders of 125, also very critical of the changes made.

      3. Well I suggested that rather than the southbounds turning right from 16th onto Henderson, that they continue on 16th, take a right on Roxbury, and then another right to head north on 25th. That’d put them right back at Westwood Village, but you’d be able to get to White Center proper for only and extra 4/10ths of a mile.

        I could understand having to disconnect it from the #11 if their frequencies weren’t a good match, and by all reports the south end of the route beyond White Center was really unproductive, but not making it all the way into White Center proper is a real bummer.

        Does that sound to you like it’d do any good?

  2. So great success… That will never be repeated.
    What did we do or not do as transit supporters to make Metro never want to do a improvement overhaul again? What can we do moving forward to try and get them to do it again?

    If we are ever going to have anything resembling an efficient, coherent network we need we need this kind of improvement in every section of the city

    1. Well, lets see. Our reviews of Metro’s handling of the restructure were quite negative, filled with belly-aching about not wanting to give them more funding in the future. And this was as they were doing a follow-up restructure of the 16 to make it more tolerable.

      I’m not sure why Metro would want to listen to this blog if they do 90% of what we ask (a huge restructure, creation of trunk lines albeit before all the capital improvements were ready, and elimination of the gawd-awful RFA), only to get fiercer denunciations here than they get over at the West Seattle Blog, which has been more a defender of the status quo.

      When it comes to Metro, this blog seems to leave no turn un-stoned. So, why wouldn’t they write us off as unswayable, and focus on constituencies that can be swayed?

      1. Hmmm, I think you are referring to a different post. The two of us did not intersect on any threads on that post.

      2. No, others did a good enough explaining the situation to you that I didn’t have to.

    2. “So great success… That will never be repeated.”

      Just because there’s no north-central Seattle and Queen Anne reorg in September 2013 doesn’t mean they will never be reorganized. It may happen later, and it may be in smaller chunks (e.g., north-central in June 20xx and Queen Anne in September 20xx). Beore this big series of Link and RapidRide reorganizations started, Metro used to focus on one quarter of the city or one section of the suburbs in each service change, and round-robin through them. It will probably return to that as the burst of RapidRide, streetcar, and Link openings subside.

      1. •There’s not likely to be any more “big bang” service changes like the last one.

        Kevin Desmond at the STB meet up.

        It was precisely BECAUSE it was a ‘big bang’ reorg that West Seattle was successful. We need more such reorgs, all over the city. Including some of the great ideas that were cut out of the watered down ‘big bang.’

        Bits and pieces changes, while certainly good, don’t really allow you to fundamentally shift our service from one seat rides to everywhere to a real network of routes built around frequent service corridors.

      2. There is not going to be another big bang service change because there are no more Ride Free Areas to get rid of. It’s all pay-as-you-enter (except for Rapid Ride, at select stops outside of downtown, between the hours of 6 am and 7 pm, and only *if* you have an ORCA card that you’ve tapped or a valid transfer, as of the start time of the run) until a pre-pay zone is created.

        But service restructures will continue, such as what is being discussed for I-90 routes and what will be happening in Renton.

  3. Do you know whether these are linked or unlinked trips? If it’s unlinked, increasing the number of transfers needed to get somewhere will show up as an increase in trips.

    1. Oh never mind, read too quickly (these are average loads and all head downtown, so transfers wouldn’t be included.)

      1. Correct. When you consider that crosstown service was improved with the addition of a new route (50) and an extension (and frequency increase, I think) of an existing successful route (128), ridership probably went up even more, even accounting for possible downtown transfers.

  4. I think it’s great they did the survey and have some responses. The thing that’s interesting to me is that there seems to have been a shift on messaging about ridership increases – whereas initially it seemed like they were saying they didn’t accurately gauge demand based on the Spring counts now they seem to be attributing the increases to the restructure. I think it’s an open question as how much of the ridership increase was independent of the restructure and how much was because of it.

  5. Anyone know when RR-D will get the same level of detail on how that’s going. Also, it’s great that more signals are coming on-line. That would make the C and D ?? faster than before RR was rolled out. Where’s that number? IIRC the ordinance creating BRT in 2008 called for it to be 25% faster than the service it replaced.

  6. As Yogi Berra might say, “the C Line is so crowded that nobody rides it anymore.” Actually, my 8:20 bus today carried 65 riders, an ideal situation, and reached downtown in under 20 min.
    Would agree with Bruce N. that Metro is losing riders b/c of the downtown non-ORCA delays, not to mention “civility challenges” on Third Avenue that will lead my daughter into the Water Taxi instead of the C Line tomorrow morning.

    1. Could you define “civility challenges”?

      Also, I saw complaints about fewer buses connecting with the Water Taxi in West Seattle.

      1. I believe Mike is referring to the fact that the block bordered by 3rd, 4th, Pike, and Pine is generally frequented by unsavory characters at nearly all times of day.

        I know lots of people — especially people who aren’t young white men — who go out of their way to avoid any bus route that would bring them through that intersection. It’s far sketchier than such a major transit hub should be.

      2. Aleks is exactly correct.

        My senior-citizen mother, who lives right by the Junction, won’t take RR C at night because she has to wait either at 3rd/Pike or 3rd/Seneca. She feels (IMO justifiably) threatened by some of the people who hang out at 3rd/Pike, and feels that 3rd/Seneca is too empty and desolate to be safe at night.

  7. “(away from this blog), often included thundering denunciations which asserted gross incompetence or malfeasance on the part of Metro,…”

    Bruce is being generous and politic today with us.

    No, I’m not saying Metro is without incompetence or malfeasance. I’m just sayin’… they haven’t been spared the rods of such accusations on this blog. We could mince words about things Metro has been accused of here, but my point is that making it sound like the conversation on this blog is above such stuff is off-mark. We commit a lot of the same sins people do on other blogs.

    1. September was Metro’s grand opportunity to show people how a frequent network based on transfers can be more convenient. When the original restructure was announced, this blog declared it a “red-letter day” for transit advocates.

      But first they watered down the restructure, and then they bungled the rollout of RapidRide. TSP wasn’t enabled at most intersections. “Stations” had started construction a week before. No ORCA readers downtown, and there are still ones outside of downtown that are nonfunctional (1st & Denny). Insufficient frequency during peak, coupled with terrible reliability largely as a result of the through-routing.

      Many of the initial problems were addressed within the weeks and months after launch, but by then people denied their one-seat rides had found RapidRide to be so inferior a substitute, and complained so bitterly, that now Metro is terrified of trying to build the frequent, connection-based network Seattle deserves.

      The CRC expiration is looming. Will Metro go to the Legislature, hat in hand, begging for more taxing authority simply to maintain the status quo?

      1. Last Friday, I had an interesting experience where I got to choose between the “frequent” core network and the peak-only one-seat ride. I was hiking in Saint Edwards State Park after work and needed to get there from my office in Redmond. A one-seat ride in the form of the 244 was available, but would leave no opportunity to get food on the way. So, I instead rode the 245 to Kirkland, got a snack, then rode the 234 out to the park. In the end, the core network triumphed over the special-one-seat-rides-for-the-peak network.

      2. The downside, though, was that both buses got delayed and, even with OneBusAway available to time my arrivals at the bus stops, I was still waiting at least 10 minutes for each bus. Enough so if I didn’t need food on the way, I would be demanding the one-seat ride option.

        A connection-based system, if done right, can work great. But the routes in question have to be frequent and they have to be reliable.

      3. It’s weird to think of the 234 as part of a core network… it’s sort of like the 26 of the eastside. (I’d never thought of it this way, but I sort of like the parallel this draws between Kirkland and Fremont as flawed and conflicted half-walkable gentrified-post-industrial low-rise mini-centers bypassed by major highways).

      4. Metro continues to go hat in hand, to Congress, to get funding for things like fleet modernization. That includes the impending delivery of low-floor trollies.

    2. STB has a better signal/noise ratio than most forums, which is why I read it regularly. Any agency looking for feedback here or anywhere, has to take into account that dissatisfied people speak up more than satisfied people do. I believe the STB comments as a whole give Metro some good suggestions and recognition even if it’s mixed with the whining they see everywhere else.

      I personally am disturbed by the number of dedicated transit fans who over the past month have given up on Metro and said they won’t support funding increases because the changes aren’t substantial enough. That’s shooting yourself in the foot. The only way is forward. If Metro got more funding, why would it not apply it to, e.g., overcrowded routes and filling in the evening frequency gaps on the 40 and 5 and pushing night owls further north, as we have suggested? The legacy routes die hard but they’re not being increased, and they’re coming under higher scrutiny now every year. It would make some sense to delete the 61 and 4S and break up the 7, but it’s not a life-or-death issue, and it’s not worth starving Metro over.

      “Will Metro go to the Legislature, hat in hand, begging for more taxing authority simply to maintain the status quo?”

      From what Ben “Mr Campaign” has told me, King County, and a dozen or so city and suburban mayors, along with Pierce and Snoho and some other counties, are preparing a joint proposal that would replace the CRC funding and add some for expansion, and address the similar transit needs in the other counties.

      1. Okay first off, aren’t we just talking about permanent funds to replace the CRC? So no new hours. To add more to overcrowded routes we’d have to take them from unproductive ones, which I am not that confident in Metro to do, especially in light of their watering down of the fall restructure and their response to its implementation.

        I can’t speak for others, but my thinking is that a little pain may be worth it for long term gain. If they do have to cut hours, the law says they have to cut them from the least productive routes. And when added they have to the routes that are overcrowded. Seems to me like a bit of lean times followed by a tax measure down the road is the quickest way to start getting the network we need.

        Now that’s just my thinking. I’m willing for Metro to prove me wrong by putting forward a great plan, but if they don’t, if it is just more of the same, they can’t just expect my support to be a given.

      2. Matthew, with a very few exceptions that won’t come remotely close to accounting for all the funds we’d lose from the CRC, the “least productive routes” in the Seattle portion of the network are still quite productive. We know perfectly well that all the cuts are not going to be concentrated on the Eastside (where there is actually some ineffective service to cut) because that’s not how our council system works. It’s not “a little pain” we’re talking about, but substantial cuts to well-used bus service, all for the sake of making a point.

        Yes, Metro needs to improve. No, taking away lots of essential transit from innocent users is not the way to force them to improve.

      3. My understanding is that they’re going to ask for enough taxing authority to replace the CRC funding and add service hours to make a significant contribution to the frequent transit network we’ve been talking about. They can either ask for both together or separately, and it makes more sense to ask for them together and show you have a vision for the future and a plan to realize it. Seattle’s TMP says where the frequent network should go, and the other cities are making similar TMPs. Now they need the Legislature to permit them to fulfill their plans.

      4. At the end of the last meetup I told Ben, “This has given me an idea for another campaign.” He said, “Oh no.” I said, “Seattle Subway has succeded in getting subway planning moved ahead, but what about the rest of the transit network? The county is going to ask for permanent funding to replace the CRC, but we need to go beyond that if we’re ever going to get this frequent transit network built, and that’s not being addressed by Seattle Subway or anyone else.” He said the county is planning to ask for more than just what’s needed to maintain existing service, so that the cities can start implementing their transit master plans. Because they all want to move forward on this too.

      5. @David L: I’m not totally sure I’d be in favor of forcing cuts upon Metro, but here’s an argument that’s halfway in favor of it.

        Yes, most Seattle routes seem to perform adequately (at least when you compare them with other routes in similar US metros, which isn’t a very high bar). The ones that don’t are mostly essential for basic coverage or something, and those don’t represent a huge number of service hours. But all these adequate routes don’t combine into a network that’s efficient and effective, that has a serious impact on transportation in this region. Why?

        The answer is that we’re doing in most of the city what we did in Magnolia instead of what we did to West Seattle. Running marginal-to-adequate-performing routes downtown all day and night, and if we have to cut, cutting span of service. We can have frequency and service span and coverage if we truncate the low-performing routes at the trunks. Not during peak when the trunks are overcrowded, but off-peak, when the coverage routes are mostly-empty and the trunks half-full.

        Metro isn’t stupid — we know they know how to make the sorts of changes they did in West Seattle. And faced with having to cut some service hours they could make a network that provides coverage, span, and frequency at the cost of some high-quality transfers.

        Of course, this doesn’t work at all unless the trunk lines are good. This is where a strong RR program comes in. It defines trunk lines, buys them new equipment (today you’re much more likely to ride a low-floor bus on the 255 than the 358 — what’s up with that?), and prioritizes them for speed and reliability improvements. Even if parts of the RR program aren’t as good as we’d like, it’s a move in the right direction.

      6. Except, will they have enough service hours left to make high-enough-quality transfers without the CRC? I remember someone saying here that the West Seattle restructure required a small infusion of money from Transit Now; I’d be surprised if any half-decent restructure would let us save significant amounts given that we’d need to bring the trunks up to ten-minute service.

      7. William, that’s certainly a concern, and one of the reasons that, on the whole, I probably oppose “starving the beast”. Others include the difficulty of actually getting new revenue for more hours once revenue is cut and general importance of momentum for transit funding (it’s unfortunately easier to scare people with the specter of terrible cuts than wooing them with a great future of more frequency), the risk that we’d get Magnolia cuts (nibbling off the edges of service span) instead of efficient consolidations, political unpopularity of shuttles, etc.

        It might be that we (as advocates with some measure of influence, to whatever extent we aren’t just shouting into the void in blog comments :-P) are better off recognizing that Metro and ST actually do have a vision for more efficient service and promoting that vision through our connections to our local neighborhood groups and blogs and that often complain about restructures. And, of course, advocating for walkable, transit-connected neighborhoods: strengthening the ones we have and building awesome new ones.

      8. “the West Seattle restructure required a small infusion of money from Transit Now”

        Transit Now was always intended to fund RapidRide, and as these are knock-off effects of the C’s creation, it’s not surprising Transit Now was tapped. I assume it will be tapped again to fill out the E’s frequency, especially since other deletions are now off the table.

  8. They left the 37 out, which probably makes other numbers just slightly better than they actually are. The 37 had two trips each way cut in the reorganization, and the riders who didn’t switch to driving probably moved to the 56 or 55.

      1. Has anyone ever looked at the cost effectiveness of the Water Taxi? It’s a nice trip, but I can’t help but wonder if the money would go farther if used for bus service instead.

      2. I know most people on this blog were excited for the 37 reductions and actually wanted to dissolve it completely but for what it is, it is a very productive peak period route. If Metro were to get rid of the 56X and replace it with additional 37 and 57X trips, many peak period riders would be happy. Also the 37 should run on 3rd Avenue downtown in the afternoon to avoid playing the walk a block game.

      3. Most of the King County Ferry District money is used for bus service instead. Of course, a lot more people than those who are near the ferry docks pay that tax, so the raid is an appropriate way to make more equitable use of the funds.

        I don’t know if the cost-effectiveness of having the ferries at all has been looked at recently (vs. more direct bus service downtown, including from Fauntleroy). But it does seem fair that the Admiral District should have to make a choice between using the water taxi as their express transit option to downtown and having good direct bus service on Admiral Way downtown. The sparse population of that area just doesn’t merit the extravagant expense of gold-plated bus-to-water-taxi connections and gold-plated mostly empty all-day direct bus service to downtown. Choose one, and the travel time downtown might get a lot better.

        The same goes for Vashon. Choose the 116 and 118, or choose the Vashon Foot Ferry. The sparse population of Vashon does not merit having both services funded at gold-plated levels.

  9. I think it would be more accurate to say that ridership is up in the four hours that Metro is reporting here. It’s really an incomplete picture. How is midday ridership doing? Saturdays? Peak ridership may very well be up because people that used to have all day service to downtown and took trips later (say 10am to downtown, 7 pm back) have changed their schedule to correspond to when the (now) peak-only routes run. That also might not be true. Its impossible to tell from this snippet of data.

  10. For a commute between Admiral and Pioneer Square, the changes meant:
    increase in commute time from 25 minutes to 50 minutes
    restriction in available hours: service degrades sharply outside specific rush-hour times
    increase in fare, by moving trips from nonpeak to peak hours

    So I get poorer service with time restrictions, at an increased price. What part of this does Metro think they should be proud of?

    1. Under what circumstances would that trip be 50 minutes?

      Admiral to Sodo on the 50 is scheduled at 20-22 minutes.

      You’ll never have to wait more than 7 minutes for a Link train.

      Sodo to Pioneer Square on Link is 8 minutes.

      1. The times are door-to-door, not just time on the bus. The main difference is increased walking time because the stops are nowhere near where I’m going.

        My choices are the 56, the 50 with a connection in Sodo, or the C. At the WS end, that often leaves me walking 18-20 mins between Admiral and 35th&Avalon. And downtown, it’s the walk between Seneca/Columbia and King Street.

        Plus there’s the time spent waiting. The morning 56 is the only one of those whose schedules I can trust. Evenings, I routinely wait 20-30 minutes for the 56 or cram into a standing-room-only C line that leaves me down on Avalon.

        So yes – real commute time doubled for me.

      2. Trip planner for an arrival of 8:00 am at 2nd S/S King St from Admiral/California has a 38 minute travel time. That allows for a generous 18 minute transfer time between the 56 and Link at University Street Station when in reality one would just catch the first thing in the tunnel.

    2. You’re arguing that I can’t time my own trips. Really?

      Basically you didn’t count the walking&waiting times at either end. Door-to-door time is what matters. And remember the schedules are a best case: traffic slows things down but never speeds it up. And a precise rush-hour commute is also a best case; service degrades sharply if you’re not exactly 8-to-5.

      Try adding 20 minutes for the walk between Admiral and 35th&Avalon. Or in the evening, try dealing with service only every half hour that doesn’t run on schedule. Try making the trip on a weekend, inbound after 9 am, or outbound after 7pm.

      So yes, 50 minutes is typical. 45 is a best case, and I complain to the drivers when it’s over an hour. That’s unusual, but it does happen.

      1. Complaints directed to the operators will die on the wind. Complaints directed to 206-553-3000 will get into the record. Even better would be to contact your county council member.

      2. I know, and it’s not really fair to the drivers. I have posted complaints to Metro’s online forms a few times. Once (asking about transfers and fare police on the RR) I did even get a reply. Another time I got a formletter promising a reply but then nothing else. It really feels like those die on the wind too.

        Haven’t tried the city/county councils. I’d be appalled but perhaps not surprised to find that any of this is news to them. The whole thing looks like Metro deliberately decided to sacrifice certain areas, and it just happens that both ends of my commute are in those places.

  11. One topic Metro is avoiding vis-a-vis West Seattle is all the extra platform hours West Seattle was getting from the monorail tab income, that is now gone.

    West Seattle was indeed getting higher transit expenditures per capita than areas not receiving the monorail tab income, and is now back to joining the rest of us with a closer-to-bare-bones transit system, save for the foot ferries (See my rant further up).

    1. Not aware of extra funds from the monorail tab income, but we’re currently getting extra from WSDOT as mitigation for viaduct construction.

      How did Metro get monorail tab income?

  12. My thoughts on the 125 are this: I get on north of Henderson. Before the change there were usually about 10 people on the bus. Now, there are 2. (5:44am bus). It used to pick up those with a choice to downtown in White Center, which it now doesn’t. Nor does it pick up transfers for the college in White Center. These folks now have only the 128. So, the decline in ridership is understandable.

    1. Metro wanted to make the 125 a route that would connect riders on the 16th Ave SW corridor to the rest of West Seattle via the Alaska Junction. Riders spoke up in favor of continuing the one-seat ride downtown instead. It looks to me like Metro’s planning staff had the right idea the first time.

    2. The changes to the 125 strike me as a deliberate attempt to hobble it.

      There’s just no justification for the night and Saturday reductions. (Because of the college, it had no ridership on Sunday, so the Sunday cut is easier to justify.)

      16th Ave SW is a place that generates enough ridership to deserve something better than the byzantine 128. It’s too far away from the Junction for a Junction transfer to make any sense. I think it would serve the people there better to make the 125 a frequent route between White Center and Delridge/Genesee with a good transfer to the 120, that runs 7 days a week at 15-minute frequency.

      1. I like that the 125 maintained the one bus to downtown concept. it is funny to me to think that I can get to the west seattle bridge (by car) 1 mile away no stop lights, yet you think we should have to make a transfer to get to a bus to downtown???

        this area will have access to the Alaska junction whenever the regular routing for the 50 every starts.

        I used to see elderly (a neighbor and other people w/out cars) waiting for buses on Sundays> to go to church or their errands. unfortunate for them but I guess the ridership wasn’t there. hopefully they are able to find rides or something.

      2. Which is better: a bus that runs every 45 minutes with no late-night or Sunday service but goes downtown without a transfer, or a bus that runs every 15 minutes (including nights and Sundays) but requires a transfer anytime except rush hour? I think the second option is far, far better.

  13. Alki to Downtown Seattle (Seattle Art Museum) off peak is now 45 minutes (50 plus C with 8 minute transfer wait). About 10 minutes more than before restructure. My friend in Kenmore, almost twice the distance, made the trip on ST 522 in under half an hour. With West Seattle’s proximity to downtown, getting there from most locations north of the Fauntleroy Junction is faster by bicycle (even faster than an SOV during rush hour). This is why we desperately need better bicycle infrastructure into and out of West Seattle, so that more of us will feel safe and comfortable commuting by bicycle.

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