Magnolia Map Excerpt

Today in the Seattle Times Traffic & Transit Blog, Mike Lindblom has a post about community activists in Magnolia, fighting to restore some late-night Route 24 trips to Magnolia:

Late service on Route 24 was cut in the countywide Sept. 29 service change. Metro restored one of those lost trips, leaving Sodo for Magnolia at 10:20 p.m., in its February 16 change.

Last week 30 people met with County Councilman Larry Phillips and Metro’s director of service development, Victor Obeso, in a Magnolia church and advocates say they gathered 500 petition signatures.

They want the 11:20 p.m., 12:20 p.m. and 1:20 a.m. trips from downtown Seattle restored.

While cutting these trips was probably the right thing to do given the current route structure, it was the wrong to do if Metro and the King County Council member for this area were interested in actually maximizing the ability to get around on transit, as opposed to minimizing the number of pissed-off people. The surprising thing about Route 24 is not that the late-night trips perform so badly, but that anyone rides the thing at all past Interbay.

Route 24 is one of the few non-streetcar routes that has never been changed since its introduction as a motorcoach by Seattle Municipal Railway in the ’40s: it has a bizarre zigzag structure that forces most riders in Magnolia to travel miles out of their way to get anywhere. The only two pockets of density in Magnolia served by the 24 are at the top and bottom of its segment on 34th Ave W (at Government and McGraw), neither of which are served very well; the section on West Viewmont is virtually unused, presumably because it’s surrounded almost exclusively by fabulously expensive, low-density housing.

Presumably for these reasons, Metro planners in September originally proposed axing the 28th and West Viewmont sections of the 24, and instead running the bus up 34th, to Gilman, and then to Ballard. Doing this would have provided far better service to downtown for the pockets of density in Magnolia, and given them a new option, to go to downtown Ballard without a car — an option I suspect many residents might have considered, given that downtown Ballard is precisely the kind of active, pedestrian-oriented, parking-constrained place that transit exists to serve.

Such a route would cost less to run than the current arrangement, and be better patronized; it would therefore likely not be subject to deletion under the Service Guidelines. The loss of coverage in West Viewmont (whose residents would keep commuter service on Route 19) is a tiny price to pay for this. It’s incomprehensible to me why the managers and elected officials in charge of Metro, who cannot fail to be aware of these facts, are not willing to stare down a small amount of organized opposition to do the right thing for the larger population they serve.

65 Replies to “Fight for Sane Bus Routes, Not More Trips on Insane Routes”

  1. Although this would mean the 24 would no longer stop a block from my house near Magnolia Manor Park, I’d be very much in favor of this if it meant easy access to Ballard.

    However, speaking of Magnolia Manor, don’t those condos and apartments count as a pocket of density that would lose service? Gilman’s just down the hill but it’s a very steep hill (though not as steep as Dravus).

    I’m also wondering if this might turn out to be shortsighted if they ever do something with the old school at 28th & McGraw (though I suppose it’s, again, only a few blocks down the hill to the Village).

    But the good thing about bus routes is they can easily be changed.

    1. “But the good thing about bus routes is they can easily be changed.”

      Funny to say that in a post about an underperforming route that has nevertheless remained unchanged since FDR.

      1. Doesn’t it require Seattle DOT authorization to use new streets as “authorized bus routes”, or whatever?

    2. There was a little more to the service change that I glossed over. The 33, instead of wandering off into Discovery Park, would have turned south and served 28th Ave W, laying over somewhere near Blaine St, making a loop. So while most able-bodied people would walk to a more direct trip on the 24, there would still be direct coverage of 28th Ave from the 33, although to go downtown the bus would have to backtrack a little.

      1. Not into the center of it, no. Similar to the 24 on West Viewmont, the tail of the 33 past the apartments on Government Way is almost unused, and I believe mostly exists because Metro needs a place to turn the 33 around.

      2. That seems like it’s moving the 24’s zig-zag one block over. Since the 31 already serves Gilman and Thorndyke, though going downtown requires a transfer, could the 33 have been sent straight up 28th instead?

      3. “That seems like it’s moving the 24′s zig-zag one block over.”

        Sort of. The basic tradeoff here is turning the tail of the 33 into a coverage route for 28th Ave W, and then making the 24 the primary route for Magnolia — making it a route worth walking to.

      4. Unless there’s significant density on the 33’s current route, I’d still run it the other way around, with 28th getting the direct-downtown leg and Gilman/Thorndyke run backwards.

      5. I’d be fine with either. I mostly want the 24 zigzag to die, and for the 24 to actually go somewhere.

      6. The Discovery Park visitor center is about a 5 minute walk from 34th and Government, which all proposals would retain service to. If you’re willing walk a little further, it is also possible to reach Discovery Park by walking across the locks from the 40 or 44 bus stops in Ballard.

      7. Morgan, the reason the 33 was proposed the way it was is so that commuters would never have to walk uphill. If they catch the bus on Thorndyke and return on 28th, they are always walking downhill. It’s pretty ingenious.

        If you ran it the other way everyone would have to walk uphill both ways.

      8. There’s something going on with the tail of the 33 and Daybreak Star. I think some subsidy.

      9. In addition, the 33 tail would serve the Fort Lawton low-income housing development if that ever gets off the ground.

    3. “… the good thing about bus routes is they can easily be changed.”

      Even if they haven’t for 70 years!

      1. I don’t know where Bruce is coming from here on the no changes thing – the 24 and 19 certainly have changed. The 24 used to not overlap the 33 on the north end in days of yore, instead looping back by what’s now the met market, and it used to end in the Village rather than take over the all-day part of the 19 route. And it used to go through LQA too, I believe.

        so far as “no multi-family housing except on 34th” – have the people who say this actually stopped on 15th and -looked- at Magnolia at any point? Or ridden the 33?

      2. I’ve seen maps from the ’40s showing it on almost exactly the same route as today (except that it continued up into what was then Fort Lawton). And yes, it used to go through LQA before the Ballard buses were switched to that alignment. Its possible that it changed for a while somewhere, then changed back, and I didn’t notice.

        Yes, I have ridden the 33 and walked extensively all over Magnolia. I am aware of the many apartments on Thorndyke and Gilman. If you read what I wrote carefully you’ll see I said “The only two pockets of density in Magnolia served by the 24”; perhaps I should have said “served only by the 24″. Changing the 24 would not affect riders on Thorndyke and Gilman, as they could use the 33 just like they do today, or use the (improved) 24.

        Ben L. above did point me to one pocket of density I forgot, by Magnolia Manor, and I believe I addressed that above.

        Overall, I still think Metro’s proposal would be a vastly better network for Magnolia.

      3. There’s something like 250 feet of vertical between the 24 route and the 33 route in the critical section by Magnolia Manor. The loop setup has its pluses, but the commuters in that area were decidedly unconvinced that they’d be adequately served at peak by it.

      4. “There’s something like 250 feet of vertical between the 24 route and the 33 route in the critical section by Magnolia Manor.”

        Right, hence the 33 loop onto 28th.

        “but the commuters in that area were decidedly unconvinced that they’d be adequately served at peak by it.”

        As in, not enough capacity? Seems implausible.

      5. On capacity – I have seen a crush-loaded 24 in the past few weeks. You might be surprised. The 19/24/33 shared corridor downtown is 10 minute frequency in the morning and I think it’s fair to say that reshuffling it to the extent suggested might produce some imbalances. I definitely heard peak capacity concerns that the 33 loop would end up taking too much of the current 24 load.

  2. That map doesn’t do justice to how ridiculous the 24 routing is. The One Bus Away version makes it pretty obvious that this route should be the definition of the word “scoliating.”

    1. Given the geography, it’s more reasonable than you think. Magnolia is two parallel ridges, the center of density is Magnolia Manor on the first ridge, which gets the most direct route downtown… from there you have to go down to the 33 route anyway, no other route a bus could use, that creates a frequent service pocket. From there you have to loop back if you want to give the Village service. The last loop is from when they took all-day service on the 19 away, it goes around the second ridge out to Discovery Park on the direct right of way that has no stop signs. That part doesn’t run nights, some early mornings, or when the 19 is running,

      1. Again, if you read the proposal as I outlined in the discussion with Ben above, all the multifamily service in Magnolia still has direct service with the changes Metro proposed.

        The fundamental problem with the current 24 structure is that by doubling back, you guarantee the bus can never go anywhere else, that the route will always dead-end somewhere in Magnolia. Effective, well-used bus routes connect multiple (dense, active) destinations, like Ballard. Looping the 33 and straightening the 24 achieves this while maintaining coverage of all of Magnolia except West Viewmont.

  3. Any thoughts on running the 24 (whichever form it takes) as a RR shuttle in the deep-off-peak? Even a glorious restructure is unlikely to turn the 24 into a late-night ridership champion, but Magnolia routes could wring more frequency and span out of the same number of hours if they weren’t chasing RR down Western.

    Unfortunately it’s probably even less popular to do that than to just cut span. Could probably do it if RR was a train…

      1. Accept? This is night service to Magnolia that was cut for low ridership, not a packed bus stuck in gridlock. It’s the transfer, not the uptown thing. Hell, at night you’re as likely to be coming from uptown as downtown.

      2. Can I raise my hand as the only person who rides late night Magnolia service in this thread?

        People ride the bus late-night into Magnolia. Really, they do. They do not so much ride it out of Magnolia, which drags down the stats, but the 24 isn’t particularly emptier than other late night buses I’ve been on.

      3. Nobody is going to be willing to spend up to a half a hour at 15th and Dravus late at night, waiting for a Magnolia shuttle bus to show up. Any day, I would choose a 40 minute walk over waiting at an ugly street corner 20 minutes for a shuttle. Most would choose neither and simply drive.

        IMHO, the best realistic late-night, low-cost transit option to Magnolia is not transit at all, but Car2Go. Now if we could just solve the problem of the lack of available cars downtown caused by the lack of legal Car2Go parking spots downtown, especially on Sunday when the free-for-all makes parking spaces almost impossible to come by.

      4. @DJR: I think Magnolia deserves useful transit service after the end of peak… and more than that! It needs a handful of pretty easy pedestrian improvements, and better bike access to Interbay businesses and routes toward downtown. Frankly it could use more businesses to go with its beautiful homes and parks, but that isn’t exactly something we can vote on :).

        Magnolia will get the most useful late-night service if it prioritizes its demands. Numbers on the late-night 24 are dragged down by lack of people riding out, the tail on Viewmont, and its general indirectness, but Magnolia’s night ridership numbers aren’t going to set the world on fire no matter how you slice them, so its routes will be among the first on the chopping block when Metro is low on cash. It’s kind of a travesty that Metro is low on cash when the state is blowing billions on the deep-bore tunnel and other freeway expansions, but that isn’t something Metro has much control over. So if Magnolians demand a one-seat ride above all else they’ll end up with span-of-service cuts.

        Of course, if Metro offers span and frequency in exchange for an RR transfer they have to keep up their end and not cut span on the shuttle even if ridership sucks.

      5. It is only with this service change just now that they’re not running inbound late night 24s from Discovery Park. They stopped inbound 24s at the village previously, but then the 24s drove out along the rest of the route to come back from the park. There are a lot of little factors like that that make me dubious about the stats… all I can speak to otherwise is personal experience, which is that going up the hill (the critical part) those buses really aren’t more empty than other late night buses I’ve been on.

      6. Bruce has done detailed analysis of stop-by-stop boardings, deboardings, and cumulative passenger loads, based on the automatic counters in the stairwells. The Viewmont tail really is not used. Ever.

        This is not anecdotal. This is data-driven.

        You are right, however to identify the paucity of late-night service as a reason that ridership might drop in the early evening as well (since people won’t choose to leave Magnolia on the bus if they know they can’t get home).

        But inefficient routing (and the resultant time-consuming nature of Magnolia) transit remains the primary reason that non-commute transit usage to and from Magnolia is forever in the toilet. Fix that, and watch your demand numbers (which influence future service) improve overnight!

      7. I use the Viewmont tail. But yeah, basically nobody rides the tail outside of peak. The point is, they were stopping service from downtown in the Village for a while (making me and others get out and walk sometimes), then running the bus out to Discovery Park, then running it back empty to the Village… and then adding that wasted time into the stats. If you’re cutting service from downtown at a certain hour, cut it to downtown too! No-brainer.

      8. Most of the stats, with the exception of the farebox recovery percentage, measure only in-service time, so they’re not actually counting the time spent deadheading to Discovery Park.

        My point in bringing up Bruce’s stop-by-stop load data is that the rest of the 24 is quite lightly used as well, averaging count-’em-on-one-hand loads by the time you hit the very first zig: no one’s even using the thing to access Magnolia Village.

        Direct all-day service between downtown, Magnolia Village, and Ballard, with close-enough service to every other pocked of density in the neighborhood, is guaranteed to yield more riders, because ridership has nowhere to go but up!

        But yeah, basically nobody rides the tail outside of peak.

        That means no one’s using the 24 tail at any time, since the peak riders are all on the 19.

  4. Bruce, it seems to me there’s a good argument for making the 24 the coverage route and the 33 the route that “actually goes somewhere” and continues to Ballard. The 33 has higher ridership than the 24 at the high-ridership times even without serving 28th. It doesn’t serve Magnolia Village, but it seems to me the residents in that area have made clear through their ridership patterns that they are less likely to use the bus off-hours than folks in East Magnolia.

    1. Well, it’s complicated.

      My sense is that a fair fraction of Magnolia night commuters (including me, though sometimes I walk the whole two miles) will take the first bus that will get them up the hill and figure it out from there.

  5. I wonder if you figured out all the money spent for all the routes in Magnolia if you could replaced it with a 24 Hour available on-demand jitney that would ferry you to main line buses.

    1. Still wouldn’t help if you’re dealing with riders that refuse to transfer

    2. On demand jitney means show up at a deserted bus stop and wait up to 30 minutes for the shuttle to show up, with absolutely no idea when it’s going to come until you see it coming. This is not a substitute for regular transit. Not to mention that the ridership of this jitney would be so low, you could almost just put everyone who would use this on a taxi for the same cost.

      1. No, “on demand” means you call it up on your cell phone when you need to use it.

      2. Yes, you call it on your cell phone and wait…and wait…and wait… until it finishes dropping the previous user off, then comes back to pick you up.

        I have experienced plenty of “on demand” transit routes, mostly in the form of airport->hotel shuttles. Even if the hotel is a mere 10-15 minute drive from the airport, it is not at all unusual to expect to stand there a full half hour until the shuttle shows up.

        In Newark a few years ago, my airport->hotel trip was just 1/4 mile long – about a 2 minute drive and would have been a 5 minute walk had they built sidewalks that would have allowed be to do it without getting run over. But because there were no sidewalks, I called the hotel shuttle and waiting about 20 minutes for it to show up.

        This is not an acceptable level of service, nor is it a level that anyone with other options would ever use. Even if walking all the way isn’t faster than waiting for the shuttle in the average case, it’s at least more predictable and, when it’s cold outside, it’s a lot warmer because at least the physical activity of walking uphill warms you up, compared to just standing there at a bus stop.

      3. Isn’t half an hour about what you spend waiting on the average low volume bus route?

        Also, you could wait in your home like with a taxi.

  6. The late night bus riders are not the people you should be yelling at for opposing the restructure, by the way. They really don’t care as long as there’s something that goes up the hill at night. The people who opposed the restructure were the 24 and 33 commuters, who didn’t think a merged route would have the capacity for them all, and the West Viewmont daytime riders who were losing all service.

    So far as I can tell, the worst-performing route in Magnolia is actually (the Magnolia section of) the 31. But somehow that never turns up on these hitlists.

    1. “The late night bus riders are not the people you should be yelling at for opposing the restructure”

      I’m not. I’m yelling at Metro and Larry Phillips.

      Please understand, I am not out to kill late-night bus service in Magnolia: quite the opposite, I am trying to make the 24 and 33 more useful and therefore more used, and thus less likely to be on chopping block. Looping the 33 and extending the 24 to Ballard is a way of doing doing exactly that.

    2. I’m wondering if anyone in Magnolia is asking for (let alone demanding) service to Ballard? I imagine Larry Phillips is mostly just hearing from folks who are looking to have connections to Downtown.

      Has anyone heard how the 61 is doing? My recollection is that it would have been similar to the northern half of the 24 as initially proposed by Metro.

      1. The 61 is vacant. Since Metro kept the 17X, there’s no need for it during peak, and it has zero demand at either endpoint. Residents of 32nd Ave NW do not rely on public transit to get to Fred Meyer.

        The 61 is an abomination and needs to be cut. I favor extending the 48 to the layover on Leary outside the Canal Station condos.

      2. Yes, I absolutely think people from Magnolia would make use of an extension to Ballard; we’ve had at least one Magnolia resident (who would actually have to walk further to the revised 24) come out and say he’d like the ability to use the bus this way.

        I also think people in Ballard would use it to get to restaurants in Magnolia. I’m moving to Ballard in a month, and once I move, the only way I’ll be able to get into Magnolia is by car2go (which I shall be sure to park in a two-hour spot outside the post office). If the 24 went to Ballard, I would use it.

      3. “Not until you split the 48 in the U-District.”

        The 48 should be split, but this is not a reason to. The 61 is unused, so none of its nonexistent riders will suffer from less on-time performance. 32nd and Leary are low-congestion streets so it wouldn’t make performance much worse. At the same time, it will give a closer one-seat ride to Greenlake and the U-District, which may attract some people.

        “I’m moving to Ballard in a month,”

        Wow, Bruce and DP in the same neighborhood. That will be interesting. I predict side-by-side comments with opposite views on Ballard’s transit situation.

      4. Yeah, I’m in favor of splitting the 48, but the 48’s problems are not on e Ballard segment.

        They should be done at the same time, but one is not a reason for the other.

      5. For the record, I’m not precisely against the proposed restructure (it would have worked for me for the most part), but I certainly understand why people were.

      6. I’m a Magnolia resident who would love to have better transit access to Ballard. I don’t have a one-seat ride to anywhere I want to go via the bus, even if I walk the half-mile to the D-line on 15th. I still need to transfer downtown or in Fremont to get into or out of Magnolia. Car2Go is so far the best “transit” system for that area if I don’t want to drive my own vehicle.

    3. DJR is exactly right. What I never understood is why the 31 and 24 weren’t combined. i.e the new 24 would continue to the U-district instead of Ballard and the new 31 would serve Government Way and 34th instead of Thorndyke as it goes towards Magnolia Village. This route would probably have the demand to bump up frequencies to 20 minutes.

  7. As a regular Route 40 passenger living along the old 17, I notice that in the evening when the 40 goes to half-hour headway, it’s always at least a ten minute wait at Market and Ballard for the outbound 61.

    It seems like a no-brainer to give the 61 a scheduled meet with the outbound 40. Also seems like Metro could do anything it wants with it, since it doesn’t seem to carry any passengers at that hour.

    Also notice that some drivers on the 61 carry an attitude that shows little gratitude for the work. Would like to hear someone who’s driven that route to know why. Suspect no bathroom breaks. Am I right?

    Bruce, how about putting the north terminal of your Magnolia route at NW 85th and 32nd Avenue NW, the end of the old 17?

    Mark Dublin

    1. With bathroom arrangement with 24-hour 7-11 at current 44 terminal.

      Mark Dublin

    2. “Bruce, how about putting the north terminal of your Magnolia route at NW 85th and 32nd Avenue NW, the end of the old 17?”

      That’s exactly what was supposed to happen.

      1. Yes, this was the original proposal, and what I would have liked to see happen.

  8. Thanks. I think it’s worth some ongoing Ballard-side communication with Larry Phillips to replace the 61 with the original plan for Magnolia service.

    Both Ballard and Magnolia business communities should be happy to have this change, since it would result in new clientele for both. And nobody will miss the 61. The 40 already covers everything between Ballard and Fremont.

    Seem to remember that a meeting at Ballard Senior Center with Larry and Victor brought once positively influenced service on the 17. Let’s try again with the Ballard Magnolia idea.

    Mark Dublin

  9. My only thought here is to wonder if there are other routes that should have more late night service too. Yes, Magnolia deserves it, but unless the situation is analyzed system wide where late night service doesn’t exist, how can anyone weigh in for Magnolia alone? I know this is in Larry’s district. Perhaps this analysis has been done, and I am not aware of it.

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