Route 16 Detour
Route 16 “Detour”

If you’re one of the many bus riders who wants to travel to Wallingford from Belltown or Downtown, but doesn’t like travelling in circles on often-hopelessly-gridlocked streets, Metro has finally taken pity on you: on May 18th, Route 16 will switch from 5th Ave N to a direct route from 3rd Ave to Aurora, just like Route 5. Lane reductions on Aurora associated with SR-99 tunnel construction will likely screw up traffic for several years, but the agency has told me that a public process to make the Aurora alignment permanent will start before construction is complete.

Route 16’s horrifyingly awful outbound routing was the reason I started writing for STB, and I can’t wait to dance on its grave.

38 Replies to “Wallingford’s Long Transit Nightmare Nearly Over”

  1. That’s a horrible detour! Why in the world is the bus traveling in circles past the horribly-gridlocked Seattle Center!?

    Oh, wait… ;)

  2. What happened to the pair of stops near Mercer? Are they closed during construction?

  3. Excellent move by Metro and an excellent comment. I have long complained that the bus routes seem to zig zag around trying to cover every spot in the city, while taking forever to get anywhere. This is a great example. Basically, this bus route will now do what most drivers would do if they were downtown and wanted to go to Wallingford: take Aurora.

    Speaking of which, improving bus service to Aurora should be a top priority (in my opinion). I think it makes more sense to build special lanes, ramps and even tunnels or overpasses to serve it, rather than build another bridge over the canal. Unless you have grade separation, going from one side of the canal to the other will always bog down in traffic (regardless of how many bridges there are). There are just too many choke points on both sides. Aurora, on the other hand, is essentially grade separated from the rest of the mess.

    One hard part is getting people up to Aurora (from lower elevation spots on Queen Anne or Fremont). Again, I would like to see some money put into that (elevators and escalators) rather than just another bridge.

    1. Are there significant amounts riders going to or from points on Aurora from places other than downtown?

      1. A *lot* of people board at the 46th St stop heading northbound (or exit from a southbound bus). Many of them are transferring to the 44, or walking to somewhere on Aurora or Stone Way.

        If there were a 358 stop at 38th, I have no doubt that it would see a ton of use.

      2. I agree. I think with some work, that Aurora stretch could be really popular. There is likely to be more development along Aurora (besides motels) and there already are some really big building along east Queen Anne. The big change would come if there was an easy way to get up the hill at various spots. A spot on 38th along with an elevator/escalator/tram would be a hugely popular spot (it would be popular even without it). The same is true for a couple similar changes along Queen Anne. The nice thing about these types of systems is that they benefit everyone (not just bus riders). If you have to get from Westlake to the top of Queen Anne you have a major workout on your hand. A few elevators and you could get up there in a hurry.

        The other thing worth noting is that 99 is the main way to connect the western part of the city. When the tunnel is done, there will be no exits downtown. This means that if you want to get from West Seattle to downtown, you either slog through downtown traffic, or take the tunnel and arrive at the north end of downtown. A bus stop right after the tunnel makes a lot of sense for West Seattle riders.

        Now, here is the interesting part. A stop around there is only a half mile walk from the transit tunnel. This means that someone could take a bus from West Seattle and then transfer to any train or bus served by the tunnel. Improvements would have to be made to make a nice bus stop that allows the bus to continue without it having to fight traffic (or block it). These are the types of changes I’m proposing. Of course, that still leaves getting from the 99 bus stop over to the transit tunnel. I see three options:

        1) Cheapest — Walk
        2) Cheap — Gondola/Tram
        3) Most Expensive — Tunnel

        Again, this about a half mile. Building any tunnel isn’t cheap, but this would be way cheaper than building a real system along this side. Some of these changes might be cheaper than building a new bridge. They would result in way faster service.

      3. The north portal is a solid mile from Westlake. Seriously, check it out on Google Maps, which has recently added the “proposed” Deep Bore Tunnel route (zoom in to one of the top three zoom levels and set it to “satellite — labels on”).

        That’s quite a backtrack to ask of people, especially since the last attempt to create a “last mile” connection in the area yielded the slowest train in recorded history.

        Of course, the southern tunnel portal is only 2/5 mile from Stadium Station. But any connection you tried to make there would be just as laborious and inconvenient as the bus slog past the ferries and up Columbia.

        It is hard to graft usable transit solutions onto infrastructure that was never built to serve transit. If downtown transfers are going to be needed — and in our “x”-shaped city, they happen to make sense for a lot of trips — you need to have quick access into and out in all directions, and you the transfers need not to be fudged. That’s why so-called “solutions” like this are basically obscene.

    2. The Seattle DOT classifies streets as being principal arterials, minor arterials, collector arterials, or access streets.

      By my count, there are about two dozen buses which use local access streets, or which use a collector arterial instead of a minor arterial that’s only a block or two away. And that’s just counting the two-digit buses.

      If we designed a route network from scratch, it would probably look similar to what we have today. But it’s hard to imagine that it would have so many buses running on such narrow, slow, and out-of-the-way streets.

      With this change, we’ve crossed half of one bus route off the list. I hope the rest will follow soon. :)

  4. Yahoo! I saw the construction reroute notice – great to hear they’ll be working to make it permanent.

    I’m a regular 16 rider between Downtown and Wallingford – still frustrated this took so long but glad to hear it’s happening.

  5. It’ll be nice for going downtown, but now it’ll suck going to Lower Queen Anne and Seattle Center. I regularly socialize in LQA and SC and live in Northgate; the old 16 was great for that. :/

    1. You’d nearly always have a faster trip via the 41 and a transfer to the 3/4.

      1. I’m more specifically in the Licton Springs part of Northgate, so the only buses that are close are the 16 and the 48. Walking over to the 358 at 90th works ok, but isn’t as convenient as the current 16. I may end up having to walk all the way to Aurora and Prospect from karaoke night near Mercer and Queen Anne.

        I see that it’s an improvement for more people than it’s an inconvenience for, so I like the change as regards the system even though it’s worse for me.

      2. The 40 goes right through the Licton Springs part of Northgate and takes you to SLU.

      3. The 40 goes to SLU via Ballard. Someone coming from Northgate to Lower Queen Anne is far better served changing to the RapidRide at Mary Ave NW than they are riding the 40 to SLU via Loyal Heights just to backtrack via the notoriously unreliable 8.

    2. Aurora/Denny is only a few blocks from 5th, though the closure of the Mercer stop during construction makes it harder if your LQA destination is closer to Mercer than Denny.

      When construction is finished the Mercer underpass of Aurora should have much better sidewalks than the current one (or the awful Broad Street underpass), Broad Street won’t be cutting through the grid east of Seattle Center, and I think there will be a signalized surface crossing of Aurora somewhere between Denny and Mercer. So if they keep the 16 on Aurora, when it’s all said and done it will be a little farther from LQA/SC than today, but much easier to get to than the 5 and 358 are today. 16 riders will get faster trips to downtown (not so important to Northgate, which has the 41) and better access to SLU (possibly important, though the 41 is probably still faster). I think it will work out pretty well in the end.

      1. There will be signalized crossings of Aurora (possibly renamed 7th Ave N) at John, Thomas, and Harrison.

        Adding a stop at Harrison would provide parity with Dexter and easily serve the Gates Foundation and Seattle Center without an obnoxious detour.

      2. @Matt L: They shouldn’t call it 7th Ave N if they sever the connection to 7th Ave N! And that’s what they plan. Where did you hear it would “possibly” be renamed? Everything I’ve seen calls it Aurora. Granted discontiguous streets are pretty common around here, but it would be really odd to rename a strip of Aurora to 7th when it won’t actually connect with 7th.

        What I actually don’t see in as many of the plans is where the Aurora bus stops will be… probably not over Mercer. hmm.

      3. Don’t know what you mean by “severing the connection” to 7th Ave N – there currently isn’t a 7th Ave N.

        The proposal to change the name was discussed at 77:40 in this video of the Transportation Committee meeting on 3/12/2013.

      4. I think stevesliva is talking about severing Aurora’s connection to 7th Ave (full-stop), not 7th Ave N. Which, as anyone that’s ever biked into downtown on Dexter will tell you, will be the best result of all the construction and worth the entire cost of the project (because then there won’t be any reason to allow cars to cross the bike lane and we can put in a Jersey barrier to force traffic coming from Dexter to merge legally instead of pushing into the bike lane and driving down it all the way to Bell).

  6. “…and I can’t wait to dance on its grave.”
    I hope this doesn’t end your ‘in-depth’ analysis of routes, stops, hours, and ridership in the future. We seem to be in the doldrums as we all wait to see how deeply Metro has to gut the system to remain financially solvent if all the new tax authority is not granted from Olympia and then approved by council and/or voters to plug the $80 million hole next year.
    It’s painful to watch CT, then PT and maybe soon MT cut out all the gains made by transit over the last several decades, which is precisely why Metro needs citizens like yourself pointing out ways to serve riders better using existing resources.
    Now that MT has ‘dumbed down’ the annual route performance report to little better than an elementary school report card of A thru F grades based on two metrics, and omit things like service hours assigned to a route, and many other metrics, I have to wonder what will happen when guys like you quit requesting the data dumps, and sharing it online.

    1. mic, did you read the appendices to the Service Guidelines Report? It has the same metrics Metro used in 2009 and 2010. The letter grades were just a summary.

      1. Only data junkies make it into the Appendix, but even if they read that far, it still wouldn’t answer some pretty basic questions about a route like:
        How many riders does it have per day or year?
        How many service hours does it consume? or
        How much did it cost to run for a year?
        Instead, we get riders per hour or mile, and that’s about it.
        (and while I’m venting, what’s with the sideways data pages. Does Metro really expect everyone to print the damn report so they can read it – all 100+ pages) end of rant. {ot} [ad hom] [etc]

      2. @mic – Try Adobe Reader’s “Rotate View” option on the “View” menu, to turn those tables rightside-up. I know Evince PDF reader has the same option, and I’d imagine others do to.

    1. As a regular rider I would say without traffic this should easily trim 5 minutes of the route. With traffic (especially congestion along 5th and Mercer) you will easily save 20 minutes.

      A key benefit of the reroute is an increase in reliability. The trip along 5 is wildly variable in terms of the time it take and the loop it was doing was also frustrating (you could get stuck on 5th, then Mercer, then again on Dexter headed S if there was congestion on Denny).

  7. But how will I survive without my one-seat ride from Sushi Land to Hiroki?

    Stop ruining my progressive Japanese dinner .

  8. Does anybody know if Metro makes any attempt to quantify the cost savings for smart adjustments like this? It could be a powerful tool for arguing for more route adjustments in times of budget shortfalls (hint hint).

  9. This is a improvement to the current crawl east on Mercer.
    While losing the stop on Aurora at Mercer is a bit of a pain, the stop at Denny certainly works.
    The current route since the Mercer stop has been a bit of a adventure with some at Metro thinking the buses cannot safely stop at the Dexter/Roy stop. I am not sure if this is official or not, the buses have been stopping there.
    As a regular 16 northbound rider, the last couple of weeks have been a adventure.

  10. Wow Bruce, between this and the 42 you are really having a banner year. I can’t wait to see which of your other improvements Metro implements next!

  11. Well this sucks if you work near Seattle Center East Side one less bus you can catch leaving just the 3 and the 4 which not all continue from Downtown to Queen Anne via Seattle Center East. Might speed up the 16 but it screws those of us who get on the 16 by Channel 9 and the Gate foundation.

    1. And now that the stops on Aurora at Mercer are closed in both directions those working in the area around 5th Ave N and Mercer have that option gone.

  12. I can’t get excited about this because we are about to trade one problem for another. When the viaduct replacement tunnel is complete, southbound Aurora will have ONE LANE for exiting to downtown. In contrast, today there are 2 lanes that exit at Denny, a third that exits at Western, and arguably, a fourth that until recently exited at Broad. That’s 4 lanes of traffic that will attempt to squeeze into just one lane. To avoid tunnel tolls, some additional drivers will exit whom otherwise would not. Perhaps that will be the equivalent of a 5th lane trying to squeeze into 1.

    Who cares, as long as buses have the BAT lane speeding them along, right? The problem is the BAT lane is on the right-hand side, but the one and only exit will be on the LEFT side! Buses for all routes southbound on Aurora (RapidRide E, routes 5, 16, etc.) will have to cross 2 lanes of traffic and then wait for some kind driver to let them in. This mess MAY make the current north-bound route 16 delays look like a speed demon.

    I cannot believe that we got to the construction phase without someone noticing these flaws.

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