By the Author

In just over two weeks, a day will come which many readers and authors of this blog have long awaited: the last, lonely trip of Metro Route 42. Once a major route serving Martin Luther King Way, with the third-highest ridership in Southeast Seattle, it was rendered superflous by the opening of Central Link and extension of Route 8 to Rainier Beach. Metro thus proposed killing this route in its entirety, but in a now-all-too-familiar example of excellent political organizing used to spike a smart idea, one local community organization — the Asian Counseling and Referral Service — scared the King County Council into keeping a gutted version of the route, which happened to be just long enough to connect the ACRS’s two properties.

The 42 limped on as a shadow of its former self, with practically nonexistent ridership. Metro attempted again, last year, to delete the 42 as part of a round of cuts to “worst of the worst” routes, and ACRS used the same tactics to delay the deletion of the route, and force Metro to undertake a program of “intense outreach” to Southeast Seattle. This consumed lots of staff time and produced lots of interesting reports which highlighted some problems with bus facilities, public safety, and customer communication, but failed to uncover anything remotely resembling a good reason to keep the 42 (although it did give me an excuse to write about splitting Route 8 and improving Route 106).

But enough of this history. The bell tolls; the shakeup is at hand. The last trip of the 42 must not be lonely. In death, we shall give Bus 42 what it had not in life: riders; many riders.

The next Seattle Transit Blog meetup begins at 4:43 PM on Friday, the 15th of February, at 3rd Ave S & Main St. We will board the last outbound 42 to Columbia City, disembark at Rainier & Alaska, and repair to the Columbia City Ale House for drinks. (Be a few minutes early, or check OneBusAway, in case the bus is ahead of schedule). The Ale House is 21+ (sorry!), but I’ll also be at Caffe Vita, just a block away, from about 4 PM, for those of you who can get away early and want to chat for a while. If you don’t work downtown or can’t get off work in time, you can join us at your convenience by using one of the many other vastly superior transit services (Link, 7, 8, 9X, 50) which can get you within walking distance of Columbia City.

This is an informal meetup; we don’t plan to have a speaker, but experience suggests that we can all have a great time both with or without one. More meetups with awesome speakers are tentatively in the works for spring. Please RSVP in the comments so we can get a rough headcount, and watch for a reminder post with confirmation of the venue closer to the time.

71 Replies to “Stuff Bus 42”

  1. Sure, the 42 deserved to go, but why dance on its grave? How is that going to help transit advocates build support for their work?

    1. All good transit decisions should be celebrated, and giving the 42 a good send-off is certainly just being respectful.

    1. Whatever Central Base has lying around. Since Central currently has more Gilligs than D40LFs, a Gillig is to be expected.

      It used to be out of Ryerson, which has more low-floors.

      1. I’m tempted to bring my car and a friend, and have one of us hop on/off at every stop to drive up the boardings.

  2. The 42 has turned into a talisman and a symbol.

    It’s just one bus, that’s out for just one 8+-hour run per day… a pretty minuscule number of hours. There is far more extensive waste in the route network, fully as deserving of reassignment to routes crying out for capacity. (249 Beaux Arts tail… 246… certain Eastside frequent service corridors… I’m looking at you.)

    1. None of this alters the fact that it’s an abject waste of money and diesel.

      If we can’t kill a bus that’s averaging <10 rides per trip, 2-5 riders on board, we’re screwed.

      1. Fair enough. Just want to make sure people know the need to rationalize is not finished because the 42 is…

    2. It’s interesting that you mention the 249 as I ride that bus in the morning/evening as the start/end of my commute to Totem Lake via Overlake/S. Kirkland P&R. That end of the tail also only averages 2-6 riders (or zero to 1 when I take it home from meetings at City Hall). Meanwhile, during my wait for a bus that’s chronically 20 minutes late I’m passed by three or four Metro buses headed to East Base. I’m wondering if that tail couldn’t be better served by simply keeping these buses in service and making the short 2-3 mile extension to S. Kirkland P&R before looping back to base.

      1. I’ve found the 249 to be pretty reliable except on the worst traffic days. It actually has two “tails” that could be decried as inefficient. The section between South Bellevue and BTC and the section between 156th & 24th and Overlake TC. I haven’t driven the route for a long time, but I don’t recall either of those sections being a cause for delays. If you’re going to provide coverage, I’d guess its about as efficient as you’re going to get right now.

        Come time for a budget crunch/cutting service, I’d cut midday service first (which I use) and then rush hour service to the tails. Given routes like the 61 which are sparsely used along its entire length, the tails of the 249 are the least of our problems.

      2. The 249 route was substantially altered in the big shake-up about a year ago. It used to be (or whatever route number it replace) omni directional going east on NE 20th/Northup toward Overlake/Microsoft in the AM and west from Overlake to S. Kirkland P&R in the PM. Now it’s bidirectional all day on Northup/NE 20th. I don’t know what else the reroute involved. It’s reliable as in reliably 20 minutes late which means it’s pulling into S. Kirkland P&R just as my 255 toward Kirkland is pulling out. Fortunately I’ve found I can substitute a 235 and trade a longer walk for a quicker bus route. If, after a year they know the bus is always 20 minutes behind then why don’t they change the schedule to match reality? My PM 249 is usually right on time or even a minute or two early. Which can be very annoying when it leaves S. Kirkland ahead of the posted time point as the PM 255s are chronically late and suffer from bus bunching.

      3. Bernie: I don’t complain to Metro often, but I’m a stickler for one thing. *Every* time I see a half-hourly or hourly bus leave a time point early (and it’s not an estimated time point), I file a complaint. Maybe together we can end this scourge!

      4. (and it’s not an estimated time point)

        Well, I thought S. Kirkland was an actual time point but I noticed today that all, every last one, of the scheduled 255 routes have the double dagger “Estimated time”. Yet on the map for the 234/235 S. Kirkland is identified with a T indicating a TIME POINT/TRANSFER POINT for the 249, 255 and 540.

    3. The 42 is a different sort of waste than many low-performing suburban routes. The 249’s tail and the 246 at least provide some extra geographic coverage. The eastside’s frequent corridors are generally decent corridors (though they may be somewhat overserved for political reasons, or saddled with indirect, slow, unreliable routes). The 42 is pure duplication at this point. I don’t think we’d celebrate loss of coverage anywhere in this way (I hope not!).

      But I certainly agree — a lot of suburban services could be more efficient, and I’d really like to see that happen. In particular, between Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, and Kirkland there’s an opportunity to build a really good network that, in conjunction with smart infill, could make our suburbs a model for those with similar histories.

      1. Question: How would this really good network differ from the existing Eastside frequent service network?

      2. I’d trade some of that extra geographic coverage for improved frequency. Even though it would nearly double my walk I’d gladly drop the 249 for 15 minute frequency on the 226. My door to door commute time would likely be less and it would certainly be more reliable and flexible. Better to have transit that 50% of the people can use than for 90% that won’t use. PS I can’t imagine the 249 Lk Sammamish loop is any more productive than the 201 on Mercedes Island.

      3. The question is whether extra geographic coverage in areas where no one rides the bus (such as Beaux Arts or West Mercer Way), or 15-minute service in areas where demand warrants 30-minute service at best, are worth passing people up for lack of capacity on routes like the 8, 40, 120, and 358 (among several others). I say “not hardly,” and thus I think those hours should be repurposed.

      4. Well, it’s true that if you combined the ridership of the 249 and the 226 but maintained the same number of service hours you’d still have pathetic ridership but better faster service at no additional cost. I’d like to believe that better faster service for the same cost will increase ridership and improve productivity. More is not better if it’s more of the same.

      5. I’m assuming that Metro can’t move significant hours from the eastside to Seattle for a number of reasons, some political…

        For one thing, there are actually some overcrowded buses on the eastside (there was an STB post about I-90 routes recently). They’re mostly peak and mostly headed to Seattle on freeways (and some are ST and some go to the tunnel… and the hills and blah blah blah) so there may not be a ton that can be done about them, but moving hours from empty routes to overcrowded ones would be one sort of step.

        Another class of problems: downtown Bellevue isn’t that far from downtown Kirkland. Both have some measure of density, mixed use, and walkability (though they look very different). Frequent transit between the two exists, but is indirect and slow. Unfortunately we’re compounding the problem with TOD at South Kirkland P&R, which is part of the problem, not the solution — eliminating turns and getting buses through there quickly should be goal #1 of this project (not just for the 234/235 but also for the 255 and 249), but it isn’t mentioned at all in project literature. The B-line, similarly, should make more of a beeline. There are a bunch of routes that look like they hit the Bermuda Triangle around Microsoftland. I’m not close enough to the situation to know the exact solution but damn.

        And the opportunities. The eastside is going to grow, and, like it or not, maybe more (in percentage terms) than Seattle. Obviously eastside downtowns have room for walkable, mixed-use infill if they can make it happen. But there are some durable frequent corridors outside of them (where land is cheaper) where we should be making sure future development supports walking and transit. NE 8th is one. South of downtown Kirkland (SuDoKir?). Most of the B Line. That’s all I know about the eastside. If I’m wrong I’m wrong.

      6. “TOD at South Kirkland P&R, which is part of the problem, not the solution”

        I’m not so sure of that anymore. Even if it doesn’t improve the situation immensely, it won’t be worse than the status quo. The issue of straightening out the bus route is separate from whether the housing and retail should be there. The answer is to pressure the cities to incorporate straight-path bus stations, not to veto the housing. Somebody will live in those units. If they drive everywhere, it’s no worse than if they lived somewhere else. If they walk to the immediate shops and take transit some of the time, that’s great. They will have direct bus routes to Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, the U-District, and several hospitals. That’s better than most of the Eastside has, and it’ll encourage them to use them at least some of the time. If we don’t build the development, the alternative is a stagnant P&R nothingness. How is that better than some TOD, even in a place like that? What bothers me more is apartment complexes far from any bus route or businesses.

      7. The problem is it enshrines S. Kirkland P&R in it’s current crappy location just like Ron Simm’s stupid Overlake Village has done. Worse, in this case they’re shelling out 30-40k per stall just to maintain current capacity. STUPID WASTE of TAXPAYER DOLLARS. There’s a perfectly good parcel of land just down the hill owned by WSDOT and adjacent to 520. Or the money and TOD could have been at the woefully underused but ideally located Wilburton P&R. But no, we’ll forever have only a handful of buses diverting off into the bowels of SF Kirkland because someone scammed federal 520 mitigation dollars to build a project that would never have happened without that market abomination.

      8. You’re against buses going down 108th to Northup Way? I thought Kirkland decided that was the best place for them. Metro moved the routes off Lake Washington Boulevard because it gets so congested. And while I have long wished southbound routes from downtown Kirkland would just get on 405 rather than going all the way down to 108th & Northup Way, that seems to be the established corridor.

      9. You’re against buses going down 108th to Northup Way? I thought Kirkland decided that was the best place for them. Metro moved the routes off Lake Washington Boulevard because it gets so congested.

        There’s no problem with having a bus on 108th. It doesn’t currently warrant 15 min. frequency outside of peak but maybe sometime in the future if “greater” Kirkland steamrollers the neighborhood it might. The 235 still goes over to Lk WA Blvd and despite the much more intensive development bus riders are few and far between.

        And while I have long wished southbound routes from downtown Kirkland would just get on 405

        DT Kirkland isn’t on 405; it’s on the lake front. It’s both Kirkland’s blessing and curse that it’s in an out of the way location. It’s isolation makes it hard to serve with transit and it’s isolation makes it an enclave onto it’s self as though it were a remote San Juan Island. What sucks is routes from S. Kirkland P&R which pretends to be a transit hub have to take the scenic tour to get to Totem Lake. Kirkland is a bunch of mini centers which all lack critical mass; Juanita, DT, Rose Hill, Totem Lake, Kingsgate. Kirkland is the ultimate anti-grid.

      10. “it” (south Kirkland 108th) may not deserve 15-minute service off-peak, but Kirkland-Bellevue and Kirkland-Seattle do.

    4. The 42 has overlapping service on Link and the 8 that, while it requires a transfer, provides plenty of service to those who would ride the 42. If cut, the other routes you mention would eliminate service along those routes and require about a mile or more walk to the nearest service. I’m not justifying the tail of the 249 that serves my home. I AM pointing out that the few people who use the 42 will still have adequate bus service once it is gone.

  3. Oh, and I don’t think I can make it. One of these days a STB meetup will be scheduled at a good time for me…

  4. Count me in. I’m curious to see if the driver has any idea that it is the final run of the 42. (Before, that is, a curiously large number of people pile on to a single run of route that no one ever seemed to use.)

  5. I’m in, but I wonder if there will be a “tab”–will there? IMO I feel kinda guilty on buying food on the STB tab when I can’t pay–I’m usually broke and foodless for most of every month (though that’s geeting taken care of).

    Anyway, now that Metro is junking the 42 finally, I have an Idea for a Service Revision:

    All NE 125th-only trips on route 41 get renumbered route 42 to 1)avoid misleading riders, and 2) fill in the numbering gap.

      1. I see the argument for giving turnbacks their own numbers, but there’re decent reasons to not do it too. People riding them within the most populated parts before the turnback don’t have to remember two numbers but just one; otherwise, someone waiting for the 41 to Northgate might not know that your new 42 would take them their too.

      2. There is no gain, just pain, from giving inbound turnback trips their own number.

        Outbound, it’s best to eliminate turnbacks if at all possible. If there is just no reasonable way (as with the 41), then I think it’s better to have a big “ONLY” on the sign than a separate number, all things considered. Even though it has one, the 41 turnback signage fails because “125th St ONLY” is still ambiguous…

      3. Yes, I agree with lettering turnbacks! As someone said here several months ago, we already do it on the schedules; just put the same numbers on the buses.

      4. There are additional complexities on the A (and W) routes in DC: namely, that you are likely to get beat up if you board the one that goes to someone else’s block…

        Security issues aside, the network on the east side of the river is an inspiration for how not to do these things.

      5. Why does the 41 have a turnback anyway? It’s only a mile or so from the terminus, so why stop just short of it? It’s not like the 73 turning back at 65th.

  6. Good ideas on Routes 8 and 106, too. In the first days of the DSTT, I really liked driving the 107- which in those days ran along the lake between Rainier Beach and Renton. I always thought it had express potential- might be good to revisit, feeding LINK at Rainier Beach.

    Agree with above comment that 42 situation is annoying, but that power of other constituencies to warp transit policy is worse. Now…

    Would like to be at the meet-up, but having main meeting at a place where our younger members aren’t welcome leaves a taste like a bad peanut in a bowl of bar snacks. Resonance is especially wrong for a transit organization, since the chief rationale for this piece of discrimination is likelihood of kids driving home drunk- precisely because nationwide our public transit reeks so bad that it’s a safe assumption that travel always means a car.

    And the crowning dropping on the pile is that the young people associated with us are exactly the ones who don’t have “an alcohol problem”- or a bad driving problem or any other defect of citizenship- and never will.

    Even after the days when I would’ve had to swallow that “sorry”, bars and pubs were never my scene anyhow, but over the years learned enough manners to meet with friends at places they liked and drink tea. Caffe Vita isn’t my brand of espresso, but that won’t let that keep me off an STB event. The Attibassi-brand coffee at Tutta Bella right by the ale-house is better, though it’s more of a restaurant than a gathering place.

    But apology not accepted on this one. I was a pro-transit radical at fourteen. At 67, where I wasn’t welcome among my comrades then, I don’t go for transit stuff now.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The problem is there aren’t a lot of great gathering places that aren’t bars, so requiring underage cuts out some 75% of the choices, and sometimes not enough selection remains.

      I would suggest Jones BBQ though (although its name has become ambiguous on its signs). It’s a large place, rarely crowded, and it’s a two-generation small business.

  7. This is the way the 42 ends: Not with a bang but a whimper. Good riddance! Hopefully the hours go somewhere productive.

    1. I’ll see your Eliot and raise you an Adams. Last I checked, 42 was the answer to life, the universe and everything.

  8. It’s worth remembering the specific reason the 42 was supposedly needed. I didn’t realize ACRS had a second location that the route travelled to. But anyway, the argument wasn’t “We (ACRS staff) need it”, because they do not seem to be riding it. The argument wasn’t even “We want our clients to have it to increase business”, since it’s not a for-profit company but a social service. The argument was, “Non-English speaking residents who need social services find transferring between the 7 and 8 too complicated so they need the 42.” This has also not been borne out because said non-English speaking residents don’t seem to be on the 42 anyway.

  9. But they have to keep the 42 – They can’t cancel the answer to life, the universe, and everything!

  10. So, I’ll be at the meetup. I may not be able to get off work early enough for the bus ride but I’ll be at the ale house.

  11. Count me in. Although I’m extremely new to the city, so there is a very high probability that I will get lost…!

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