Metro's 209/215 Proposal

Last week, Metro presented a set of ideas for improving mobility in the Snoqualmie Valley area, ideas which could also save the agency a little money. You can read the slides here, but here’s the gist of it, for those of you who are already familiar with the existing network:

  • Route 311 would be truncated at Woodinville. Riders from Duvall headed to Seattle would transfer at Redmond Transit Center from the 232 to the 545 or 542; to Woodinville, they could transfer to DART 931 (but let’s be serious here, they’re going to drive).
  • Route 224 would be truncated at Duvall. Its frequency would increase to every 90 minutes, and it would deviate to serve Redmond Ridge. A DART-like service would take over coverage of the Valley, from Duvall to North Bend.
  • Route 209 would shift east to serve Snoqualmie Ridge, rather than Fall City, except during peak periods, in the peak direction, when it would serve its current alignment. (At those times, Snoqualmie Ridge is served by the 215). Its frequency would increase to every 60 minutes.
  • Route 215 would skip the Issaquah Transit Center, making for a faster trip into downtown.
  • Metro is also seeking grant funding for a “Community Mobility Center” where local residents could sign up to reserve a car or bicycle for a certain time.

My only objection to this is that the peak-only route of the 209 should be renumbered (208 is available). Routes which share the same number, but go to different places, are an abomination which should be scoured from our transit system. If the bus you took to get to work (or wherever) won’t take you back home, your transit agency has failed you (and Metro is about to start failing a whole lot of Eastgate riders). With high-quality urban service, you shouldn’t have to memorize a schedule; with high-quality suburban or rural service, you’ll need the schedule, but you shouldn’t have to carry around a map. We should demand high quality in all Metro service.

Overall, the proposal seems to do a good job of moving service to where the people are, emphasizing connections at well-served suburban transit nodes, improving frequencies (such as they are) and providing alternative service types in places where fixed-route service is unworkable and pointless. By any measure, what happens in the Snoqualmie Valley isn’t going to make or break our transit system, but changes which improve mobility and save money are no-brainer optimizations that Metro should be seeking out, investigating and executing everywhere, relentlessly, as fast as humanly possible; and such opportunities are in essentially limitless supply with our current transit system.

I’m pleasantly surprised at the level of ambition demonstrated in the proposal. I hope it’s well received and implemented without much ado. You can email comments to Metro at

24 Replies to “Metro Presents Ideas for the Snoqualmie Valley”

  1. I agree. If the route goes different places at different times you have to use a different route number. You can use the same timetable (like the 71/72/73) but it needs a new route number.

      1. It looks a new number is warranted in the example above, but I don’t think it’s always best practice to number turnbacks or minor terminal deviations differently. For example: Metro has a few trips on the 12 that turnback at 15th & Madison; should those trips be renumbered 22? The 7 goes to 2 different terminals (Prentice St. & Rainier Beach); should those be renumbered 6 & 7? The vast majority of the 12 riders would be confused by a bus signed 22 and likely skip it and wait for the next 12. Very few riders on the 7 route are affected by the Prentice/Henderson split, so why introduce confusion for the vast majority with new numbers? The 5 Greenwood/Northgate split was a case where a new number was likely warranted, but the best solution to that problem was the one that Metro ultimately chose–eliminate the alternate tails and redesign the route.

      2. IMO, turnbacks should get a letter (7a, 12b, whatever). Alternate routings should get their own number.

        Unfamiliar turnbacks are a disaster for non-expert riders. It seems like everything’s going fine and then “Wait, why are you kicking us all off here? This is the same bus I took this morning!”

  2. My only objection to this is that the peak-only route of the 209 should be renumbered (208 is available). Routes which share the same number, but go to different places, are an abomination which should be scoured from our transit system.

    This is a well solved problem in other cities. Letter suffixes.

    1. You know Metro would program their headsigns the same asinine way they do for express variants, where the side and rear headsigns read “18X” but the front one just reads “18” and flips between its terminus and “via EXPRESS.”

      Just give it another number. There are plenty available.

  3. Routes that have the same number, but go to multiple terminals? GRTC (Richmond, VA) is a perfect example of what NOT to do. Routes 62/63 as one example. The route has 4 different destinations on the same schedule

    1. Yeah, before the re-org I used to ride the 5 northbound in the afternoons, and there were always confused riders about the Northgate/Shoreline split. I always wondered why they didn’t label them 5a and 5b.

      1. Richmond’s biggest problem is 99% of all routes are oriented to get you to/from Downtown (outside of a few oddballs like the 18 and 101). Imagine, going from Northgate Mall to Aurora Village: There’s a required transfer between the 41 and 358 in Downtown Seattle – instead of being able to take the 346 straight from Northgate to Aurora

      2. This also describes Dayton OH perfectly (where I live when I’m not in Seattle). I live near downtown, so I get a one seat ride to 97% of destinations served by transit. But it’s far from optimal for coaxing anyone but a downtown commuter to use transit.

      3. I had to carry around a blasted 5 schedule because I could never remember which would would take me where I wanted to go and which one would take me 5 miles in the other direction.

  4. This proposal is very good as far as it goes, but it should go further.

    The entire 224 should have been replaced by alternative service. Ridership is better between Duvall and Redmond than in the valley, but that is like saying that a broken toe is better than a broken foot.

    The 215 change is good but would be even better as part of a comprehensive I-90 reorg along the principle of “one destination, one route.”

    Taking the 311 out of Duvall is long overdue. For 25 years (ever since Microsoft started growing in earnest) commuter service from the far Eastside to Seattle has been steadily declining in ridership and relevance. Giving people one, more frequent, peak service to Redmond is a smart move.

    1. For the 224, the revised routing in Redmond Ridge should serve a lot more people. Whether those people turn into riders remains to be seen.

  5. I didn’t see anything about the span of service. Is this expected to be the same as before, or will there be changes? I also don’t see how increasing the frequency of the 209 to hourly would be considered an improvement, since it is already hourly. Am I missing something?

    1. The weekday frequency of the 209 is currently between 70 and 80 minutes. It’s only hourly on Saturday.

  6. Somewhat off-topic, but I almost wonder if I bear some responsibility for some of the changes to I-90 service, since I complained in some comment threads a while back about how redundant the I-90 routes seemed, and I think I proposed, among other things, moving the 216 to serve the Highlands.

    More on-topic, I’m not sure I agree with the 209 and 215 changes in combination; if your commute takes you from Snoqualmie Ridge to Issaquah, you’re actually worse off than you were before, and if it goes from anywhere else in Snoqualmie and North Bend to Issaquah, you’re penalized for making that commute during normal commute hours. I’m not even sure what the point of the deviation is if Fall City is going to lose even the 224 and get only DART as a replacement. I’d think most people here would rather have dumped 215 commuters onto the 214 and made them transfer to the 209.

    I’m not holding my breath for this to go through; people from Preston, Fall City, and Carnation will scream bloody murder about it. I wonder, though, if rerouting the 215 to Fall City would work?

    1. If I’m reading the proposal correctly, the off-peak 209 would still serve Preston P&R between Snoqualmie Ridge and Issaquah, so Preston would still have service, same as before. Preston would lose off-peak service to Fall City, but oh well.

      Fall City would be the biggest loser here, but the number of people that live there that actually rely on it is so small, it doesn’t really matter.

      This proposal is long overdue and is a natural consequence of the fact that bus service needs to reflect people’s travel patterns today, not people’s travel patterns 30 years ago.

      1. It would be possible to serve the Preston P&R from the westbound I-90 ramp, but there are problems with doing it eastbound. As I understand it, there is no suitable place to get buses turned around if they get off the freeway and go to the P&R. If the buses just stopped on the ramp, there is no decent way for pedestrians to get across the I-90 bridge.

      2. One possible solution might be for the eastbound bus to exit the freeway at I-90 and exit 20, then take High Point Way to Preston, stop at the P&R, then get back on the freeway. It would add about 5 minutes of travel time compared to staying on I-90 the whole way, but it might be worth it that’s what it takes to avoid leaving Preston with no off-peak bus service whatsoever.

      3. Then again, if such a deviation is going to be worth it, it would need to serve something other than just a P&R. Anyone that already has a car they can leave at Preston all day can just as easily drive it on to Issaquah and catch the bus there (and would probably be doing this anyway to avoid depending on the 209).

      4. The best thing to do would probably be to pester WSDOMA to build a sidewalk across the freeway.

        The 209 already stops on the High Point Way ramps, so I’m not sure deviating onto High Point Way would be a complete disaster, though whether it’s worth the delay is another matter.

    2. Mmmm, what if you ran a bus route and nobody came? Obviously what needs to happen is a rezone for 400′ heights since restricting transit dollars to where there is existing demand isn’t an option.

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