Table of Metro I-90 route changesLately, overcrowding has become chronic on Metro’s I-90 commuter routes; Metro responded a few months ago, by tweaking some routes to not stop at Eastgate, but promised further readjustments in the new year. That package of proposed changes is now out, and it’s a fairly minimal reshuffle that adds or subtracts a few trips to try to more closely match the number of trips with the level of demand.

While I’m not an expert on the I-90 corridor, I’m not particularly moved by the proposal. It seems to create confusing service patterns, like routes which make certain stops only at certain times of day; the greatest total number of trips added is six at Issaquah Highlands, which, if the corridor is currently overcrowded and growing above the rate of the overall system, is only going to provide a fairly short-term fix; and it does nothing to clear away the deadwood on this corridor. Mercer Island, in particular, is an mess of weird and under-performing service, like the 201 (three one-direction trips a day!), 202 and 203, which seems ripe for restructure. Similarly, routes 210 and 211 languish just above the bottom-quartile of Metro’s peak Eastside routes.

Metro seems to be making the smallest change possible to address immediate crowding issues, rather than what I’d like to see, which is more aggressively shifting service from poorly-performing routes to crowded routes, but it’s better than nothing. I know we have some readers who commute on I-90; what do you guys think?

90 Replies to “Metro Proposes I-90 Reshuffle”

  1. I had a coworker who commuted from North Bend to downtown and I could not convince him to use a bus, no matter the cost savings and logic he preferred to drive in and pay $22 to park in the building!

    I wonder how many of those there are out there and what the switch would be to flip them into bus riders…it would probably reduce I90 traffic by 70%

    1. One thing that makes getting people to try the bus more difficult is that, for regular commuters, parking is typically purchased by the month, not by the day. Which means that driving 4 days a week and taking the bus one day saves you exactly zero (except for gas) over driving all 5 days.

  2. Having worked on Mercer Island for the last 5 years, I agree with your assessment that its a minimal reshuffle, and I think not actually going to do anything for the problem. And as crazy as a route like the 202 is, every time I saw it in the mornings or coming back in the evenings, there were people taking it – I see it more as an attempt to solve the overcrowded Park and Ride on MI – their other suggestion for people on MI was to drive to Eastgate.

    1. Driving from Mercer Island to Eastgate to go to downtown Seattle seems insane. A good portion of the people in Mercer Island could walk to the P&R in less time. And the south end of Mercer Island is Paul Allen territory – I don’t people like him are riding the bus anyway.

      1. “No all-day demand. Like, zero”

        Not true. The 550 has respectable loads all day and night long. Only the latest trips even remotely resemble the proverbial Eastside “empty bus”. It is Sound Transit’s best performing route with per-boarding costs dipping close to $3. It would do even better if Mercer Island service were revamped to better link the Island with the 550.

      2. I think d.p. was talking about Eastgate and Issaquah. Even there, we’re building a train to Lynnwood; I’d think Issaquah wouldn’t be too far worse.

        But how would you really improve Mercer Island service, given that every route already runs to the P&R?

      3. “I wasn’t talking about the 550, and neither were Bruce or Mic”

        My bad.

        Long term I’m wondering if the 554 service could be rolled into a beefed up 555/556 pairing, but I haven’t thought that all through. If service along the 555/556 spine, probably only as far as UW Station, were frequent and reliable, connecting to East Link at South Bellevue, it could be an interesting route.

        That said, I’d tend to agree with you that connections at South Bellevue not being seamless.

      4. OK Mr. dp-SmartyPants(tm), how is I-90 any different than going to Lynnwood, FedWay or Redmond? We have HCT flags planted in those towns as we build BART-v.2.0

      5. Rode the 554 today (a Saturday) to Issaquah at 9:30 this morning and the seats were mostly full. Rode the 550 back from Bellevue this afternoon and I actually had to stand because all the seats were taken. There is all-day demand on the I-90 corridor.

      6. Build it and they will come. The overcrowding on the I-90 routes is a symptom of success. There’s pent-up demand for transit if it’s quality.

      7. 554… The seats were mostly full.

        Photos or it didn’t happen. Suburbanites have a very strange definition of “mostly full”.

        550 back from Bellevue

        This I believe. Two-way demand is well-demonstrated. The 550 is still, of course, irrelevant to the corridor actually being discussed in this post, and which Mike wants to fill with expensive new BART spindles.

        Build it and they will come.

        Yep. In one direction. At rush hour. From their sprawling McMansions eating up the foothills.

        Why anyone thinks Issaquah would buck the Dublin/Pleasanton paradigm is beyond me.

      8. I was talking about more bus service, actually. East Link is the line I’d be most willing to drop, if the buses had a way around the reverse-commute congestion on the bridge, and if the 550 were 15-minutes evenings and Sundays. As for additional Eastside Link lines, I don’t think we must have them but if the Eastside is ready to move on them I’ll support it. A line from Issaquah would probably go to Bellevue and Kirkland, not Seattle. That would avoid DSTT issues and connect the Eastside together, rather than having another one-seat ride from a distant burb to Seattle.

        You talk about people in McMansions in the mountains going to financial-industry jobs downtown, but there are also people in central Issaquah who go to Bellevue Square and the Kirkland waterfront off-peak, who might take transit more if it weren’t so dreadfully slow and infrequent. They might even choose a house closer to bus 200 rather than in the mountains, if there were something better to connect to at Issaquah TC. In other words, good transit makes people think about taking transit, and it also creates more places where urbanists can live, which makes them a larger and more vocal percentage of the community, which in turn makes it easier to do things like straightening out RR B or dropping low-productivity routes.

    1. I count 35 I-90 runs arriving in downtown Seattle during the 7:30-8:30 peak of peak, FWIW, not counting the 550, which would presumable be eliminated with the opening of Bellevue Link. There are also a couple 249 runs that arrive at South Bellevue Park & Ride during that hour.

      Mercer Island adds an additional 3 runs into downtown during this hour, and 5 other runs that arrive at Mercer Island P&R during the hour. There will be no bus overcrowding problem at Mercer Island Station unless a bunch of the further east buses are directed there.

      I don’t know the best truncation point for these 35 (or more by 2024) peak buses, but I hope the issue gets more attention than connections at Mt Baker, Rainier Beach, and Husky Stadium got.

      1. I will say, though, that the logistics of getting these 35 or so buses through downtown Seattle will be more problematic than having them terminate at Mercer Island, South Bellevue, or Downtown Bellevue Station.

  3. I ride the 216 from Sammamish to Eastgate and back every day so this change screws me over. The problem is that they’re trying to treat the 216 and 218 like they’re the same type of route when they really aren’t. The 218′s major purpose is to get from the DSTT to the Issaquah Highlands P&R, plain and simple. The 216 however collects passengers pretty evenly along its route and travels through some pretty residential areas, it’s designed for door to door transportation and not funneling people from a P&R. As a result, trying to delete a stop screws over a good chunk of your riders (not to mention Mercer Island commuters too). As mentioned in the previous thread, a lot of Bellevue College students use the 216 to commute to school which will now be impossible. Also, changing the route to not travel all the way down 228th will now cut some people off from bus service entirely. I’m also not sure what KCM means by “traffic in North Issaquah” as the 216 bypasses all of it by using the HOV lane on NW Sammamish Rd.

    The only solution that would make everyone happy would be to keep all the current stops but prevent people from de-boarding at Eastgate. I don’t see that ever being enforceable so the next best thing in my opinion would be stopping at the Issaquah TC. The Highlands P&R already gets enough service for its type of ridership (especially since they’re adding more 218 trips) and the Issaquah TC is close enough to the current 216 route to maintain the current route structure.

    Honestly though as a 216 rider, I would much prefer having to deal with all of the stupid Eastgate overcrowding than lose the stop at Eastgate entirely. It’s too bad we don’t have pay as you leave anymore or we could just charge anyone who gets off at Eastgate $10, I bet that would solve things pretty quickly.

    1. This may seem a little convoluted, but if all the buses going to Mercer Island were moved into the tunnel, and all the ones going directly to Eastgate were moved out, that might solve a lot of the overcrowding problems. Just a hypothesis. It would also be more convenient for several groups of riders.

      For the morning peak-of-peak hour, that would be 9 Metro trips, compared to the current 8. (Kick the 218 out of the DSTT and move in the 202, 210, and 211.) Adding the 2 ST 554 trips and moving it downstairs all day — so that all the off-peak routes to the southern eastside would be in the tunnel — would just make too much sense. The numbers are identical for the afternoon peak-of-peak. I think the tunnel could handle these additional three trips during the peak-of-peak hour, since that bay is not the bottleneck.

      1. The problem Metro has always been facing is trying to get all of the Eastgate people to take the 212. Metro has tried everything from adding more 212 trips to moving the 212 out of the tunnel but for some reason they’re just really stubborn in their ways so Metro has had to resort to making it literally impossible for them to take the 216 or the 218.

        Moving the routes around as you’ve suggested is essentially what Metro is trying to do but I don’t think they have the bus resources to do it. Even if the 545 was operated using completely non-tunnel buses, I don’t think Bellevue Base has enough hybrids to operate both the 550 and 554 in the tunnel. Also, I’m not sure about the others but I know the 211 is operated with a 40′ bus so operating it with an artic might be too expensive.

      2. Ah, I missed that the 211, like the 205, is a First Hill Express, so it wouldn’t go in the tunnel anyway. So, kicking out the 218 and bringing in the 202 and 210 would be trip neutral.

        What would happen if ST just got rid of its peak 554 trips? I realize that the tunnel agreement, which is impossible to re-open until 2016, makes it financially not ST’s worthwhile to mesh the Mercer Island routes together, even if they did make the 554 off-peak only.

        And then, run a local route that takes over the tail of the 216.

      3. ST can’t add more buses to the tunnel because it’s already at the limit established by its agreement with Metro.

      4. The 554 is the only option for reverse commuters who want to get from Issaquah to Seattle on a weekday evening. If you’re going to operate in the reverse direction, you may as well operate it in the peak direction too.

      5. So is the primary problem that the 554 doesn’t have enough capacity to replace all these routes?

      6. So is the primary problem that the 554 doesn’t have enough capacity to replace all these routes?

        To me, it sounds like the primary problem is that ST buses and Metro buses aren’t fungible.

    2. I agree this change completely screws over people who commute from Samammish to Bellevue College. Dean – what do you plan on doing with your personal commute once this happens? Wait until 7 PM every day for a Sammamish-bound 554 bus? Take the 216 in and hitchike back? Take 554 to Issaquah Highlands and wait up to 30 minutes for the 216 to show up to continue your trip? All these options sound terrible.

      1. I work in Bothell and I carpool with a co-worker that comes up from Renton so I usually take the bus into Eastgate and meet up with him there. IF they go through with this, I’ll probably have him drop me at the BTC in the afternoon instead and I’ll use the 232 to hook up with the 269 which is almost as fast as a 216 when I factor in the walk to my house. This is kind of off-topic but the 232 is by far my favorite route that KCM operates, screw RapidRide when you can get from BTC to RTC in less than 20 minutes.

      2. I met someone at the last STB meetup who lives in Sammamish, doesn’t have a car, and commutes by bus to Bellevue College every day.

        At first, I thought this was you, but I guess not.

        He’s the one I really worried about the effect on when this change goes through.

      3. I think long-term, Metro would rather stop the 216 and 218 from stopping at Eastgate at all, making the 210, 212, and 554 the only three routes going between downtown and Eastgate. People like you could take the 211 from Eastgate to the Highlands (possibly the only useful segment of that milk run of a route, though getting rid of the South Bellevue stop helps) and transfer to a 216 or 269.

      4. I’m sorry, but the transfer between the 211/554 at the 216 at Issaquah Highlands is guaranteed to be awful because it will be completely unpredictable when that 216 is going to show up.

        Remember, the 216 has to get through 5 tunnel stops where, at any time, it could get stuck behind another bus, followed by unpredictable traffic on I-90 itself.

        All this should be completely unnecessary when your origin is somewhere the 216 already goes right by – that’s the whole point of building the freeway station in the first place.

        This is what happens when you build a network that focuses nearly exclusively on travel to and from downtown. Everyone that doesn’t want to go downtown looks at the awful transfers and/or backtracking that would be required and ends up driving instead.

      5. asdf, The person you met at the meetup was me. Thanks for your concern. I almost never take the 216 back from Bellevue College. Depending on the day of the week, I take the 554 and transfer to the 927 because that’s the only route that serves Sammmamish between 10AM and 4PM. Other days I take the 554 or 211 to Issaquah Highlands and transfer to the 269. The best option is the 211 to 269, by far the shortest transfer only about 5 minutes it also runs earlier then the 216, I get home about 35 minutes earlier. I only use the Sammamish bound 554 when I’m out late (and that one quarter I decide to take a class that got out just before 10PM). Which reminds me that I wish that they sent the Bus that leaves Eastgate freeway station to Sammamish, by this point it would have saved probably over 24 cumulative hours of waiting.

      6. I’d like to reroute the 211 so it serves Swedish Cherry Hill last, skips King Street Station and Rainier Freeway Station, and only stops at Mercer Island, Eastgate Freeway Station, and the Highlands, perhaps continuing on to Sammamish from there. You might convince me to keep its stop at Factoria and have it serve the park-and-ride. That way maybe it could not only pick up the slack for Bellevue College-Sammamish commuters, it might actually be useful everywhere it serves to boot (except for those who were using it to get to King St Station).

    3. The 269 with a transfer is the solution. Oh wait, the level of service on the 269 is crap.

      1. I’m not a fan of the 269 but you have to make do living in Sammamish (if you want to see a REALLY bad route, look up the 927). There are far too many stops along its route and I think the only reason it still exists is because Microsoft pays off KCM. There are also certain trips you learn not to take because they have never ever been close to being on time.

      2. Back when I lived out in that neck of the woods, the 269 and 927 were the only service to Sammamish, and the northern terminus of the 269 was still Bear Creek P&R. It was just as unreliable back then, though.

        I once tried to dial a ride on the 927 weeks in advance, but was told it was fully booked.

        I suspect the stop spacing on the 269 dates back to the days when 228th had no sidewalks, and ridership was low enough that it would pass most of the stops by anyway.

      3. The 269 probably should be an all-day route (the 927 shouldn’t be Sammamish’s only option off-peak, not when it also has two peak-only routes still), but it’s pretty respectable during the peaks. Problem is its route is really awkward because it U-turns at the Highlands (a later addition to the route) and both directions stop at the same bay; I once tried to take a bus from there to Fred Meyer and the bus initially passed me by, then the driver tried to ward me off from taking it in case I was trying to get to Sammamish. But with the 216 bypassing North Issaquah, the 269’s segment through there becomes all the more important.

        I wonder if the 269 could have been rerouted to follow the 216’s route – is there that much at all on Issaquah-Pine Lake Rd?

  4. The trouble is the outsized influence wielded by wealthy Mercer Islanders. Metro knows the 201 is a joke, and the 204 isn’t much better. The 202 works as a commuter route and the 203/213 actually do pretty well. But Metro has tried for years to cancel the 201 and limit service on the 204, and they’ve been stymied politically every time.

    It’s a bunch of powerful people with long memories who remember having five trips each rush hour along West Mercer Way and can’t accept the fact that people in their shoes just don’t take the bus anymore.

    1. Only 7 of the 33 Metro peak-of-peak trips from further east stop at Mercer Island P&R. The overservice of Mercer Island is really on the 550.

    2. Furthermore, if the 216 stop at Mercer Island would cut, it would become even more overcrowded with Eastgate commuters.

    3. My comment was in reference to Bruce’s wish to cut underused Mercer Island service and apply the hours to the overcrowded 216 and 218.

  5. I literally had a customer yelling at me last night because he received an email notification that “Metro is taking away Mercer Island service by cutting the 216”. He’s right to be upset.

    The loads I carry on the 550 around 5pm are the most consistently packed I’ve experienced in my career at Metro. I frequently have to leave people behind, sometimes starting at University Street station – and that’s despite having loaders encourage people to pack in through the back door. (Once I witnessed a loader pushing people into the back door so the doors would close) These buses are FULL.

    I would alleviate the pressure by adding a surface 212-like route that serves only Mercer Island, South Bellevue, and Wilburton Park & Rides – every 15-30 minutes during rush hour. Beyond South Bellevue P&R, current 550 headways are mostly sufficient, although it can get a bit crowded on inbound afternoon trips. You could probably scrounge the service hours from the massively underperforming tail of the 342 between Renton and BTC, which duplicates the not-so-full ST 560. (Queue Bruce Nourish-like rage over the seeming stupidity of operating that underperforming and overlapping section of route for so long…)

    1. I like the idea of a downtown-Seattle-to-downtown-Bellevue peak superexpress, plus an express to Wilberton. Mercer Island already has more than its share of express service. The Wilberton express should go upstair. I presume the superexpress would go downstairs, and draw from 550 platform hours.

      Does anyone ride the 342?

      1. “Does anyone ride the 342?”

        Very few from Renton to BTC, the segment I’m talking about. This segment also overlaps the 560 almost perfectly, although it does have more stops.

        The point of this “super express”, as you put it, is to alleviate crowding on the 550 and make it run more efficiently. From what I’ve seen, this “super express” would draw the park and ride crowd and alleviate crowding on the 550. Effectively, it is the same routing and stops as the 550 with Wilburton thrown in as a bonus that would make for a relatively easy deadhead. (Wilburton is on the base route to/from East Base where these routes would originate from.)

        If you run this thing in the tunnel, it should be timed to go in front of 550s. The 212 used to be timed to run before the 218 to try and pick up the crowds going to Eastgate.

      2. It’s ironic that people are talking about a 550 super-express at rush hour, because that’s what some people have been wishing for twenty years that the 550 all-day route did. Most people are going from BTC or the P&R to Seattle but everyone has to go through the Bellevue Way milk run because of a few people. It doesn’t bother me that much because at least it’s faster than most other milk runs around, but it does irk me that those who would like to see the 550 on 405 are considered unimportant — at least until East Link comes around which will do the equivalent.

    2. The issue is that ST, according to its agreement with Metro, can only run ten buses per hour through the tunnel. ST knows the 550 needs more service, but can’t add it without a revision to the agreement or moving the 550 to the surface.

      The volume isn’t driven by Mercer Island, though — it’s driven by Bellevue.

      1. Except that having a consistent all-day route between Seattle, Mercer Island, and Bellevue is why the 550 exists. It’s the network that matters, not one representative or one resident.

    3. “The loads I carry on the 550 around 5pm are the most consistently packed I’ve experienced in my career at Metro. ”

      This is why East Link is being built. Isn’t there any way to hurry it up? They’re taking a *very leisurely* approach to building those “two way HOV lanes”, and they aren’t even starting East Link construction until those are *done*.

      1. Given the crush loads/missed buses, I think many would be willing to accept taking an accelerated East Link as far as South Bellevue and transferring to temporary shuttle buses to complete the journey…

      2. Hopefully ST will stage the construction so that East Link could open to either Mercer Island or South Bellevue early. Even without that it could be helpful to add the structured parking for the Mercer Island station before the station itself opened. MI P&R is one of several P&R that are at or above capacity. SB P&R is overcapacity, but I don’t see how adding structured parking there could be done without losing part of the existing capacity.

      3. Opening East Link in stages would be great, but given that ST is making its schedule assuming it will all open at once, it’s very unlikely unless you tell ST now to do it, and get the city governments to push for it (because ST will listen to them more than you). Opening it in stages would undoubtedly cost more, but the first thing to do is to find out how much it would cost, and then figure out how to help ST pay for it without dropping its other promises.

      4. Wouldn’t it cost much, much less to just keep running more and more 550s, to match ridership demand, until Downtown Bellevue Station opens? … even including ST’s extra share of tunnel expenses?

    4. I completely agree with this. I ride the 550 and many peak trips are packed every day. As in, it’s difficult for the driver to shut the rear door. In the afternoons, I get on at ID station and often passengers have to wait for two or three buses before boarding. If the 216 no longer servers Mercer Island, this will just get that much worse. It would be interesting to know how many route 216 riders get on/off at Mercer Island.

  6. I think that Metro and ST as part of ST III should invest in more HOV Direct Access Ramps/and Flyer stops from the HOV lanes on I-5 and I-90, and than invest in BRT on these corridors like Foothill Transit does with the Silver Streak. I don’t know too much about the east corridor, but on the South Corridor (I5), you could install a Flyer Stop at South center Blvd (Transfer to RR F), Star Lake, K-D Road, 48th St in Tacoma (and Possibly at EQC in Fife, working out an agreement for use of their parking garage). And Install Direct Access Ramps for the Tacoma Dome Station and Lakewood Station. And than Cancel most of the current I-5 long haul routes (peak and non peak) and reinvest those hours, plus add hours from ST III into the new branded “I5” BRT, which could than run at ten to fifteen minute headways throughout the day and every few minutes at peak to handle the traffic. I’d also keep the 574 split off and on its own route to avoid a lengthy side trip through the airport. I’m sure a similar thing could be done on the east corridor.

  7. Agree with comment on faster 550. However, if South Bellevue P&R still needs 550 service, best to route it along 112th, same as the 560. Present Bellevue Way local service doesn’t belong slowing an express route.

    Agree on bus-lane ramps too. As long-time and permanent regional passenger, I’d like to see this region lose its age-old bad habit of using future rail to excuse a half-century present of slow buses. My vote on ST-next could swing on this one- I haven’t got forty more years left, and every miserable hour on a bus trapped in traffic takes another service-year off my kidneys.

    And Velo and everyone else whose job description includes personal apologies for bad service, word to the public should be to tell the King County Council individually and collectively to get those God damned fareboxes out of the way of Tunnel service.

    In those exact words.

    Above communication should also mention that thirty years ago, the world’s best architects and engineers spent a fortune in tax money to make that Tunnel proof-of-payment. And to install the dispatch signals and controls presently under three decades of dust. Every service delay is a debit item with an empty credit space next to it.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I appreciate all your effort to speed up transit in the tunnel, but every time trial I’ve done southbound in the tunnel during PM peak has shown a 2-minute total delay during peak-of-peak, and most of it can be attributed to loading volume, both on the buses and on the train. I honestly think a few more eastbound peak buses could fit in the tunnel.

      1. Imagine how many more buses could fit with RapidRide ORCA readers at the curb, 3 door buses, and proof of payment. Dwell times at each station, even the peaks, would go from minutes to seconds.

      2. And regardless of all those nifty features, no more 550s could be added at peak-of-peak hour, without ST and Metro putting their heads together to renegotiate joint operations. We’re going to lose hundreds of potential Bellevue commuters before 2016 because of inability to tweak that agreement.

  8. Also, mindful of deportment rules for operating personnel on duty, might be best just to tell the public to google my name, today’s date, and Seattle Transit Blog comments on fareboxes. If my transit life has got a defining statement right now, above says it.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Nevermind, it appears that the -ment suffix has a different meaning. Now I have to look into the etymology to see if it has the same root.

      2. Sorry about that, Jim. Worse than VISA attack: Torture by repeated train-delay apology message. This is how they really got Saddam Hussein out of his hideout. ^ ^
        . .
        ! = With werewolf teeth.
        v v



    1. Mark, Your transit life’s defining statement was when you left Metro for reasons I won’t go into here. A noble stand but pyretic.

      They are going to cut the 212? The 212 is always packed to the gills. What a ridiculous thing to do.

      What I find interesting is that the people here are always ready to cut other peoples service while complaining about their service. They seem to think that they deserve more service but others should have their’s cut.

      As to the tunnel ST would love to get all the buses out of the tunnel not put more in. They feel it slows their trains.

      ST should be finishing their first line before they build a new one. Why isn’t Link to Northgate by now besides mismanagement by ST. Until they finish that they shouldn’t be building anything new and they shouldn’t be wasting money on the First Hill Streetcar. Sorry Rail fans.

      1. “Why isn’t Link to Northgate by now besides mismanagement by ST.”

        Are you a transit engineer? Have you looked at the plans and identified ways ST could have speeded it up? Do your plans fit into ST’s goal of keeping some bonding capacity unused in case a major contingency occurs?

        “Until they finish that they shouldn’t be building anything new”

        That would be fine except real people are suffering with overcrowded, slow, infrequent buses, or are driving because of said inadequate buses, and not considering urban living options because of said inadequate buses. The lack of Link is hurting the city’s and region’s effectiveness and economic competitiveness now. If we postpone the other lines until North Link has been running for five years and “proven” itself, it means they won’t open for twenty-five years — an entire generation.

  9. This service change appears to be applying a short-term solution for the outbound Eastgate overcrowding problem at the expense of causing a medium-term capacity problem for Bellevue commuters. If the 550 is at capacity during peak of peak, cannot add trips (per the apparently non-renegotiable tunnel agreement), and riders who would otherwise take the 216 to Mercer Island now have to take the 550 (since waiting for it is a better bet than waiting for the half-hourly-at-peak and nearly-pointless 554), do the math.

    That’s one more reason to bring the remaining Metro peak routes that serve Mercer Island and the length of downtown Seattle into the DSTT. Even if the 202 and 210 are currently 40-footers, they will probably get additional riders if they are brought into the DSTT. Run them right in front of the 550s, and they will absorb riders from the 550 — not just those going to Mercer Island, but those realizing they can get a seat on the 202/210, and then transfer to the 550 that pulls in at Mercer Island P&R right behind them.

    Due to the 180-day notification clause in the tunnel agreement this might not happen immediately. But it would certainly be to ST’s advantage to agree to a waiver of the rule so that the 550 can get immediate relief. Oh, and this assumes simultaneously kicking out the 216 and 218.

    1. It would be logical to run in the tunnel *those and only those routes* which will be replaced by Link trains. Get people used to the boarding locations.

      This would imply Sound Transit paying more for the tunnel and Metro paying less, so I guess it won’t happen.

      1. I double-checked the joint operations agreement (from 2002), and it specified ST is limited to 10 buses and 10 trains per hours each direction. But the 550 is reaching a peak-of-peak capacity ceiling, and about the only ways around it are to renegotiate, have Metro create a peak Bellevue express, have a new route that goes to northwest Bellevue via SR 520, or have ST run a 551 superexpress (skipping Mercer Island and possibly south Bellevue) instead of the 550 in the peak direction.

        For PM peak, a few empty 550s could start at Mercer Island in the peak direction, and 554 service could be amped up. For AM Peak, have a 552 peak-only from Bellevue to Mercer Island, which could then be renumbered as a 554 as it approaches MIP&R.

        Whichever way, ST has to come up with a plan for the 550 peak-of-peak capacity ceiling.

      2. I think the easiest thing from a bureaucratic perspective would probably be the redundant Metro express. This is a well-known service pattern throughout the service area. Unfortunately, Metro doesn’t exactly have the wherewithal to start new routes at the moment.

      3. The issue with the agreement is not that King County would refuse to negotiate, it’s that ST would have to assume a larger percentage of the tunnel’s debt service.

      4. ST already took a big hit when their cost share went from 40% to 46% as of the end of the RFA. Simply lifting the 10-bus ST limit, and then adding another 550 peak-of-peak trip, would be a much smaller hit for ST, but even one more 550 would make a huge difference for the riders, especially as the 216 is set to start skipping the Mercer Island P&R at the beginning of the February pick. ST needs to be allowed to deploy one or two more 550s during peak a.s.a.p.

      5. If Metro were to allow ST to add more trips in the tunnel, I see no reason why ST wouldn’t take up the offer, even with the increased cost share for DSTT operations and capital debt paydown.

        There are those who have said ST didn’t put the 545 in the tunnel due to the opportunity to get Metro to shoulder a larger share, but that would have been an issue back in 2002. Things have changed a lot since then. ST raised no red flags when their cost-share went from 40% to 46% due to Metro’s decision to end the RFA. I think they get it that they work for the same taxpayers.

        Lift the limit, and ST would likely add more 550s, up to the level of ridership demand. Then Metro could get real efficient by running all the Mercer Island routes out of MIP&R, and running the rest of the I-90 expresses out of South Bellevue P&R (or out of downtown Bellevue during the temporary closure). ST could run the 545 out of Mercer Island P&R, and match it to demand.

  10. Before ST 550 existed, Metro ran the Route 226 (not be confused with the present day 226 eastside shuttle). In the late 90’s (I think) there were two 226 versions. A local version that stopped at Mercer Island, and a peak direction express version that skipped Mercer Island and stayed on the freeway. Eventually Metro got rid of the express version and made them all local, to simplify the service.

    1. I vaguely remember a 226E, but in any case it was common in those days to have a same-number peak express. Nowadays most of the expresses have separate numbers and unique routing. They generally fall into two categories. New expresses to a P&R that consolidate previous residential-downtown peak routes; and cases where the local has been reorganized and renumbered but the express remains intact. September’s reorg broke up many of the remaining local/express pairs: 15X, 18X, 17X, 29, 56X; and earlier 74X. In any case, this proposal is not really like these; it’s more like the skip-stop A/B routing that some cities’ trains do peak hours.

      1. Or skip-stop like buses do on 2nd, 3rd and 4th Aves downtown. With the notable difference that downtown it’s possible to walk between the stops. That’s not possible in this case (except for Eastgate P&R/Eastgate freeway station).

  11. I wouldn’t ride at all if it weren’t for the 216 stop at MI Park and Ride.
    And the line of riders to get on in the morning is insane.
    Why would they cut that out?
    Isn’t the goal to serve as many as possible?

  12. The cost of winding around past Uwajimaya as opposed to running through the tunnel has made the 212 less reliable and slower since it moved from the tunnel to surface streets. This despite the fact that it avoids the delays getting through the U District station that it used to encounter. Even the 202 feels more efficient in its traversal of city streets (although I admit I haven’t ridden it as much since Spetember as I did previously, and of course, it is subject to delays on I90 itself).

    My feeling is that the tunnel is currently underutilized. The platforms seem deserted, and there are rarely any delays in operation. It’s insane that a dispute over who is going to pay for debt service is allowing us to just throw away this investment.

    Where are all the people on the am 550’s coming from after 8am? It can’t be the P&Rs. MI’s fills up by about 7:50 these days [this is significantly earlier than before the 212 moving out of the tunnel, it was closer to 8am last year.] and South Bellevue seems to be full by 8am. In practice my commuting choices are the last 202 of the morning (if I don’t need to take my kids to day care in the morning or pick them up in the afternoon — impossible to reliably leave work at 5, get home on the 202, and get back to daycare by 6) or to drive to Eastgate and take the slow overcrowded 212 [If we are going to be honest, SRO on a Freeway route is not safe and is therefore by definition overcrowded]. Last year I could (barely) also manage the P&R and 550.

    1. As I 211 rider to/from South Bellevue P&R, I agree with all the comments about the 550 above. To think of transferring from the 211 to the 550 at the ID Station in the evening is just a non-starter given how loaded the 550 is at peak times. Driving to and from Eastgate is also problematic, especially in the evening. Both Eastgate Way going west to I-90 and the entrances to I-90 east of Eastgate are packed with long lines of cars. I’d much rather deal with the I-90 bridge and drive into Seattle than rely on transferring to the 550 or going to Eastgate. And, I guess that’s what I’ll be doing come September.

    2. [If we are going to be honest, SRO on a Freeway route is not safe and is therefore by definition overcrowded]

      I don’t think it’s scientifically prudent to conflate a slight difference in accident severity (un-buckled passengers, seated vs. standing) in a freeway-speed collision with a hard nexus between “safe” and “not safe”. Are airplanes “not safe” just because a crash is more likely to have severe consequences? It’s a fairly complex calculus, but consider that a bus on the freeway is MUCH less likely to be in a collision in the first place (than one not on a freeway) due to sight lines, vehicle separation, and road design, to name a few factors. I feel a lot safer standing on a moving bus when it’s on the freeway than when it’s on 2nd/3rd/4th Avenue in the peak.

      Also, to a few others: Not everyone on Mercer Island is wealthy, nor should they go without transit service completely because because some of their neighbors are. However, I can see that the 201 is a joke from a transit operations standpoint.

      As an MI resident, one challenge with Mercer Island is that so much of the P&R capacity is taken by non-residents (I’m guessing this has been covered by STB before). Looking at the Seattle-bound morning commute, in the trade-off between MI and Eastgate/S. Bellevue, MI residents lose a lot more than Issaquah/Bellevue residents gain by their skipping ahead to the closest lot. Bypassing those two lots might gain them up to 5 minutes, but the MI lot being full costs MI residents much more than that, either in time to go east S. Bellevue/Eastgate (which I’ve done a few times) or cost to drive into Seattle instead. They have viable alternative P&Rs, we don’t. If it doesn’t make sense to limit who can use the MI lot (for example, charge everyone but rebate MI residents), then Islanders need local transit alternatives even when they don’t necessarily score well on the productivity scale compared to every other route in the system. If that’s “political”, then I guess my dictionary needs to be updated.

      So, Moderate Man (below), the 211 switch doesn’t mean you have to drive to Eastgate or drive into Seattle, because the 211 would still stop on Mercer Island. While I don’t like the idea of even more non-residents parking there, I don’t blame anyone individually for doing what they need to do, as long as it’s within the law.

      1. @Nate – I have to admit your comments and another poster’s comment made me realize what should have been obvious: I can transfer to the 550 not at ID but at MI. I won’t take an MI parking space, but I think enough people get off the 550 in the afternoon at MI making it easy to hop from the 211 to the 550 there, something that is hard to do at ID. So maybe I can still use the Bellevue Park and Ride after all!

  13. Let me step back from my previous resistance to ending the 216 stop on Mercer Island. If Metro were to bring the 202 and 210 into the DSTT, along with ST getting to bring in the 554, I think the Bellevue and Mercer Island capacity issues would be taken care of for a couple years at least. Then, ending the 216 stop on Mercer Island would make sense.

    I also think the 216 and 218 should be kicked out of the tunnel, and join the rest of the routes that head to Eastgate, but that is not necessary for bringing in the 202, 210, and 554.

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