Whenever we talk about removing bus network inefficiencies, deviations are almost always a big part of the discussion. It’s a mathematic no-brainer that routes operating in a straight-line are safer, faster, and more reliable than their zig-zaggy counterparts. However, decades of bad land use planning and car culture have resulted in lots of destinations that are simply out of the way. Park-and-rides, like Eastgate and Federal Way, are some of the more egregious offenders that have likely cost Metro millions in operating costs over the years.
Most agencies have some sort of a deviation standard that weighs riders served by a deviation against through-riders. There’s a naturally flawed assumption built into this model– that riders accessing the destination are assumed lost if the deviation is eliminated. The broader assumption behind this is that the pedestrian environment has no impact on a rider’s choice to take transit. These types of deviation formulas would treat auto-oriented and urban contexts equally, assuming ridership generation remains constant.
For example, Metro’s deviation standard (according to the new service guidelines) is as follows:
More below the jump.
It’s well known, however, that good transit encourages farther walking distances and that better pedestrian environments are conducive to transit use. In areas with really good walkability, deviations become less practical. It’s partly why routes like the 5 and 358 can still “serve” Seattle Center even when stopping three blocks away*. It also justifies why I think Metro could get away with not sending every downtown Bellevue bus to the transit center. Many of the riders you would assume lost in a classic deviation formula actually turn out to be willing to walk the extra distance (within reason, of course).
It perplexes me, however, when people use walking as an excuse to justify a really bad route when planning rail. This was the case when Bellevue councilmember Kevin Wallace unveiled his Vision Line proposal for East Link, citing the Eastgate Freeway Station to justify the station’s long walk distance to downtown Bellevue. And similar arguments are also bound to crop up as Link extension planning to Lynnwood progresses. This will continue to be the case as long as you have the choice between routing a line through a major activity center or routing alongside it.
So why does it seem more acceptable to have rail deviate to major activity centers, but not buses? The answer actually has more to do with the guideway than the mode. Buses operating in mixed traffic are subject to turns, lights, and roadway configurations– all the things that make deviations slow, unsafe, and unreliable. Grade-separated fixed-transit modes, on the other hand, have the luxury of avoiding most of those things, all of which add time and cost for all passengers, but with disproportionately greater impact on through-riders**.
Take the 554, for example, which currently serves Eastgate via the I-90 direct-access ramps and the freeway stop. A deviation into the park-and-ride loop and back out would add eight turns and one 180-degree turnaround, all of which make for precious minutes Sound Transit can ill afford to waste. A grade-separated transitway, on the other hand, could greatly minimize the travel time penalty by gently veering off the freeway and back on, thereby eliminating every turn. There are obviously significant construction challenges and costs to doing so, so we’re willing to tolerate a longer walk out to the freeway station in the meantime***.
What’s more, forms of transit that make this kind of deviation more palatable (i.e., fixed-guideway, grade-separated) also tend to be high-capacity services which make fewer stops, but higher-ridership, higher-value ones. Plugged into the deviation formula, the proportionately greater number of riders generated by each stop helps justify a deviating routing when it means serving major activity centers. It’s an important mathematical principle to remember as we continue to expand rail regionally, even as the temptation to build freeway-running routes remains high.
*This particular stop is temporarily closed until SDOT is finished with Mercer construction.
**This is the case from an operational standpoint. There are admittedly additional barriers to constructing the infrastructure not mentioned in this post.
***Eastgate happens to be one of those cases where its poor walkability and road connectivity are both attributable to the surrounding topography. Nonetheless, it still stands as one of the least transit-friendly facilities in our region.
68 Replies to “Thoughts on Deviations and Walking”
Some of Seattle’s worst are the VA Hospital and South Seattle CC. At some point, the VA is going to have to remodel their facility and it will be imperative that buses be able to load/unload without performing a major route deviation. SSCC must have been located with the idea that public transit would be obsolete within a few years.
There’s also a major disconnect between the Rainier Beach business district and the Rainier Beach Link Station that requires some very indirect bus routings to ensure that the schools, housing and businesses in the RB area are connected to the station.
In the original proposal for the big restructure last fall, the egregious out-and-back deviation of the 128 to SSCC was going to be removed in favor of simply sending it past the college and down the hill to Delridge (via the #125 route) and then up to the Junction (via the current #50 route). I’m still not entirely certain why this plan didn’t make it through to the final version, unless perhaps there was a very loud Morgan Junction resident who needed his one-seat-ride to the college.
The 128 links High Point to the Morgan, Alaska and Admiral Junctions, as well as to the West Seattle High School. And, as you note, an excessively torturous route to White Center and beyond.
One problem with that idea is that it would have eliminated High Point’s crosstown service and one-seat connection to the Junction. That doesn’t make a lot of sense given that High Point is now a fairly dense and growing area, which generates quite a bit of ridership.
My FNP solution would truncate the 128 at SSCC and start a separate frequent route to provide both the current 128 crosstown service and another brand-new crosstown connection at the north end of 16th SW, as well as frequent connections to downtown to replace the infrequent, span-challenged 125. (Note: the 52 and 55 are one through-routed route.) There aren’t many through riders on the 128 (partially because of the huge deviation), and most of the few that do exist would have other good options.
The VA deviation is very aggravating for riders of the 50. I would suspect that the only way to solve it is to lobby the local congressional delegation to change the way that the parking lot works, even though it’s tempting to pull it out of there. VA management seems to react better to Washington influence.
The bus 50, I believe replaced the 39 bus, The reason it was probably replaced with the 50 is the 39 was being under used. Which, with my limited time to observe the 50, is also true of the 50 bus. When I lived on Beacon Hill, the 50 was a great route for me. Anyway, I am not sure but the 50 route to the VA maybe changed due to the VA planning construction of a very large park lot on the VA site. Also the VA hospital provides care for a fair number of Vets with disabilities, so a close drop off can be important for them. Your last statement is true.
Also the NW Hospital detour on the 345.
For people that really need Door-to-door-service to hospitals, we have something called taxis. There are enough hospitals spread over Seattle that almost everyone in the city is within a $15-20 cab ride of some hospital. If you’re talking about hospital trips in response to an injury that prevents you from walking, trips like this should be rare enough that forking over the money for a cab if you don’t have a friend or family member to drive you shouldn’t be a big deal. Even if you have to make the trip multiple times for follow-up visits, the cost of transportation is going to be trivial compared to the cost of the medical care anyway. Even a 15-minute visit with a specialist can easily cause $200 or more.
Furthermore, if you need door-to-door transportation to a hospital, you are probably not using the bus in the first place because the walk on the other end of the trip would be too big. There are very few people who live as close to any bus stop as the 50’s VA stop is to the hospital entrance. Even those that do, if that bus isn’t the same bus as the one that goes by the hospital, you’ve got transfers involved and a likely very arduous trip. These people are unlikely to use the bus unless there is absolutely no alternative.
If the out-of-pocket costs of transportation for medical appointments is an issue, the solution is insurance. If people who wanted to had the option of paying a slightly higher premium in exchange for the insurance company covering taxi transportation to and from essential medical appointments if you have a disability that prevents you from utilizing other options, that problem could be solved.
Meanwhile, we should not lose sight of the fact the overwhelming majority if trips to hospitals every day are made not by patients, but by staff and visitors. Staff and visitors are more than capable of walking a few hundred feet from the nearest not-detour bus-stop location.
I will also say anecdotally, based on actual occasions when I have ridden the old 39 through the VA hospital that the number of people getting on or off the bus at the hospital stop was on the order of zero or one. And, even when someone was getting on or off the bus there, it was always someone who looked more than capable of walking from the street.
Bottom line – using the bus to provide door-to-door hospital service at the expense of all other riders is just plain bad. Keep buses on the street, and let people that can’t walk from the street use other forms of transportation.
Federal Way is where it is because there was no cheap land available anywhere else. It is sited relatively close to the freeway on a parcel that was abandoned by a now defunct electronics company (Silo).
Despite there being a few destinations immediately west off the I-5 off ramps, the current TC is sited closer to more (and more popular) destinations for when Link eventually passes through Federal Way.
Sound Transit seems dead set to declare Federal Way TC’s parking garages as the primary destination to be served by Federal Way Link, even though the foot path to nearly anywhere else in Federal Way is a mess. Unfortunately, fixing the Metro formula won’t help keep Link where it ought to go: straight down Highway 99, especially when the DEIS treats serving the parking garages as an already-finalized decision.
Lynnwood Link route planning made the same huge error. It treated the parking lot as the assumed most important destination in Lynnwood, and engineered backwards from there, resulting in a bogus determination that serving Highway 99 would result in longer trip time. and ruining the line’s possibility of ever providing neighborhood service with large walksheds and reaching major real destinations like Edmonds Community College and the Lynnwood office complexes. I’m actually willing to wait a few more years for a more useful Lynnwood Link line if it were to end up with a walkshed instead of being a series of park&rides. Where were the NIMBYs when we were trying to point out the ridiculousness of serving park&riders exclusively?
What Federal Way DEIS? It’s still in alternatives analysis, and I have seen no concrete station proposals, just an abstract “we might put a station on this street somewhere”. Has anyone in Federal Way asked ST to put the station on 99 or next to the mall or wherever? I took a look around the area between the station and the mall at the last open house, and it seemed like uniform low density everywhere, and uniform opportunities for pedestrian destinations anywhere. The main thing Federal Way should work on is pedestrian circulation, wherever the station is. And put some pedestrian destinations around the transit center while it’s at it.
As for Lynnwood, everyone has expected the station to be at the TC since the beginning. The bus bays are already there, and they’ll be needed when Link starts running. The P&R is unfortunately considered necessary. There’s no major location in Lynnwood that’s obviously better. The problem is really 99, which bypassed downtown Lynnwood when it was built. I thought downtown Lynnwood was moved east when I-5 was built, but if the Interurban Trail alongside the P&R is really where the Interurban went and thus where the original Lynnwood was, then it’s really 99 that’s out of place. I don’t see Lynnwood willing to move the city center now to James Village, and the station must of course be where the city center is or will be.
You could always walk over to Cafe Arizona. And get shot.
Federal Way has gangs? Or was that one of those one-time mass shootings that could have occurred anywhere?
Several stories spanning several years.
In order to minimize deviations and provide effective, efficient transit service, we need to invest in transit-specific infrastructure. Unfortunately we don’t seem to do that around here.
Here are some examples:
The interchange between Link and buses are Tukwila Int’l Blvd and SeaTac stations are terrible. For most riders going to RapidRide A, the Seatac station should be more efficient – but it’s missing stairs to/from the southbound side of Pacific Highway aka Inte’l Blvd. And at Tukwila, while the buses are underneath, they require about 5 minutes to get out of the parking lot, and stuck at traffic lights until they get onto Pacific Highway/Int’l Blvd. How much a deviation is the new Renton-Burien RapidRide going to be burdened with to connect with Link?
We are about to repeat the poor infrastructure at Montlake and the new 520 project and the UW Husky station. First, we should be investing in enough transit infrastructure to allow 520 buses that are continuing to I-5 to make a transit stop – just like today – without having to go through three traffic light cycles – and let their riders transfer. The north-south buses like 43 & 48 should have stops in both directions there so that riders can switch. There should be dedicated lanes for transit through this congested area that also provide a convenient connection to Link at UW Husky station and let those buses continue on Pacific without being always stuck in traffic. All of this would require some transit-specific infrastructure – stops on 520 – and probably two-way dedicated transitway along the east side of Montlake with a new 2-lane bridge, a stop at the Link station and then a direct shot to Pacific though the Montlake/Pacific interchange. It’s entirely do-able.
I can’t remember the last time that we built transit-specific infrastructure other than for Link. Maybe the I-90 bus tunnel. Many of the HOV ramps that get built either are no good for transit or only of marginal utility. Example: the 520 project at S. Kirkland, promoted as a transit project, won’t allow the 545 to make a stop there. Might have been an ideal place to connect to north-south service, and even some commuter service, especially if it were combined with an HOV ramp to NB 405.
I don’t see the link in our planning between thinking about good transit routes first, and then designing infrastructure that supports it. Instead we seem to build random infrastructure (or cheap infrastructure), and then try to adapt buses to use what’s built.
Metro’s efforts to push municipalities into taking responsibility for transit infrastructure improvements within their limits yields some rather random results, such as suburbs calling bus pull-outs transit infrastructure improvements, and even occasionally calling them “bus bulbs”.
My understanding is that the City of Tukwila refused to allow on-street stops in front of TIBS. Might the Tukwila City Council have become a more enlightened bunch than the ones who doomed north Tukwila to long-term blight by eschewing having a station there?
Each deviation decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.
Thought 1: One of the negatives that maybe needs a little more discussion is the sometimes stomach-churning problem of lots of turns. Our methods never really discuss the negative “user experience” of having one’s balance and orientation thrown out of kilter.
Thought 2: The “user experience” at the stop or station is also very important. Standing in the middle of a noisy freeway alone in a median is not pleasant. Neither is standing in a transit center designed so no one from the street or nearby businesses see you. I suspect people will walk a little further if their waiting spot is made pleasant and safe if not desirable or fun. I really hate it when stations are designed to look pretty and photograph well in some portfolio, but don’t really provide a visual and pnysical tie-in to the community pedestrian life.
IMHO, the best bus corridors in the city are streets that are relatively narrow, but that have lots of non-car activity. Queen Anne Ave and University Way are two great examples.
Queen Anne Ave is especially interesting, because the 2N and the 4N effectively deviate from that main corridor, onto streets that are not nearly as hospitable for waiting. Boosting frequency on the 3 and the 13 seems like a win for almost everyone.
There’s plenty of big thinking to be done here, but also quick-wins too. Little route deviations that don’t need to exist can be eliminated mostly efficiently.
(I have the 8 at Yesler/23rd/Jackson in mind, as well as Upper QA, and I’m quite sure you all can think of others…)
I feel Metro’s standard is too tolerant of deviations. First, I think the threshold of the formula result should be 7-8 minutes rather than 10. Secondly, the denominator should be “riders entering and exiting along deviation that would not ride without the deviation,” although I know that number would be much harder to establish.
The trouble with at least some deviations is that they are put in place to serve people who would have trouble walking, so just asking people to walk is troublesome. Route 345 is the best example. It has three deviations: one to serve the south edge of North Seattle CC, one to serve the Northwest Hospital driveway, and one to serve Four Freedoms. These deviations together add 8-10 minutes to a less-than-six-mile trip that should take about 25 minutes without them. The community college one is dumb, but eliminating the other two will create hardships for a number of people that have to be addressed. I’ve proposed eliminating them in the FNP anyway, because the time savings are so extreme and I think that should be the end result, but some mitigation would almost certainly have to be done.
I think Bellevue College is the winner for most impactful deviation for a generally ambulatory population.
The deviation through Bellevue College was one of the many reasons I came to the conclusion that commuting from the middle of Mercer Island to Microsoft by public transit wasn’t really viable. It remained an annoyance when using public transit to get to car dealerships in the Eastgate area.
The article you link to is interesting in so far as it points out that there’s a reasonable sense in which this is a deviation from a deviation.
There are other ways to get from Mercer Island to Microsoft, like 550->566/567. Or, if you don’t feel like waiting for a half-hourly 566 after 9:00, Microsoft shuttles do an almost identical route every 10 minutes.
Microsoft Shuttle isn’t public transit [although, I did use it a few times as part of a trip]. 550-566 is something I never tried. In practice, I had schedule constraints that made it difficult for me to travel until after the peaks. This meant that the 202/4 were useless for getting home, and that the P&R’s on Mercer Island and at South Bellevue were generally full. With a fast link from Eastgate to MS I might have considered parking at Eastgate and taking the bus, although I think doing so would have been like putting solar panels on a North facing roof,
Honestly, the one that most gets me is Northgate.
There are *so many* buses that deviate to serve the transit center. If you look at David’s map:
– The 16 could continue north to become the 85/86.
– The 67 could continue north to become the 87/88.
– The 40 could stay on Northgate Way.
And in Metro’s current network, there are probably half a dozen more buses that deviate to the transit center.
The U-District and Roosevelt link stops are perfectly placed to be served by east-west buses (the 44 and 71). In contrast, Northgate basically can’t be effectively served by *any* straight bus.
I should read the EIS for North Link — I’m incredibly curious to know why they didn’t choose to build the station at Northgate Way. I hope there’s a good reason…
Northgate Way is a freeway interchange and 92nd is not, so there are compelling operational reasons to prefer the latter. The college is also the kind of important destination that, for broader reasons beyond attracting riders, it’s desirable to provide good service to if at all possible, and it would not be effectively served by a bus on Northgate.
Sure. I don’t mean to suggest that the deviations aren’t worthwhile. It just bugs me that effectively serving Northgate basically requires major deviations for every bus that goes near it. I feel like better land-use planning could have created a neighborhood that was possible to effectively serve with straighter buses (among other benefits).
All the more reason we need a train stop at 130th and a bridge across the freeway at Northgate. Buses then can deviate (or simply serve other buses that go) to a stop at 130th. The only reason the transit center exists is because of the express lane on-ramp and exit there. It makes for quick travel if you are going downtown in the morning (via the 41). The rest of the buses allow for a transfer there. Unfortunately, in every other respect, the station is terrible. The transit center street does not cross the freeway. The closest crossing if either Northgate Way (which is extremely busy) or 92nd.
If we get a station at 130th, and a bridge across the freeway at Northgate, a lot of these bus routes can be altered to be much faster. They won’t need to wind their way to Northgate. They will unload their passengers at 130th, where the passengers can (at worst) take a one stop ride to Northgate, then walk across a bridge to get to campus. By the time the rail is there, of course, the campus (and the other side) will be filled with apartments and medical buildings (there are already a few now).
“The only reason the transit center exists is because of the express lane on-ramp and exit there.”
And the mall. It’s the single largest destination north of the UW. Shoreline Community College is its only rival. But Northgate is central while SCC is isolated, and Northgate has a lot of ancillary businesses that leverage off the mall patronage, or at least find it convenient to locate around the mall. And I haven’t even mentioned the office buildings or medical clinics south of the transit center. In short, if you’re looking for a location where a lot of passengers are going anyway and can walk to their destination, or do something while they’re waiting for their transfer, I can’t think of any place in outer north Seattle better than Northgate.
Also, Northgate was long the bus transfer point before the transit center existed. The buses used to go into the mall and stop in front of Macy’s (then the Bon Marche).
I actually think they got the station location right, by accident. The pedestrian bridge (an afterthought in the planning process) should split the difference between NSCC and the medical complexes, so buses no longer have to go all the way down to the south end of the college. At least, I hope they will stop doing that after the station opens. The deviation to serve the station will still exist, but at least it won’t be a much longer deviation to cross I-5 at the next bridge south. Mayor McGinn’s somewhat more expensive suggestion of a non-automobile bridge is also intriguing. We’re spoiled having a mayor who actually pays attention to transit and *safe* pedestrian connectivity.
Personally, I’d like to see buses coming from the northwest of Northgate (i.e., 345, 346) using the N 117th/1st Ave NE bridge over I-5 instead, because there’s so much less traffic along there. But I think that’d kill service to Northwest Hospital.
FYI – Northgate Link aka North Link search for both in ST website to find info.
NG Link online Library
NG Link Project Phases for FSEIS and subsequent addendum links
The transit paths are influenced/affected by many factors, constraints and stakeholders. MANY stakeholders! (My head aches on that one).
Roads aren’t straight in Seattle due to water/soil/historic planning. Why should we expect transit to be? Would be lovely though. Portland = on grade rail, marvelous! Just visited there and am inspired to relocate for their TriMet system, reduced density and fairly flat city.
Another non-obvious deviation around Northgate is the southbound 41. When the express lanes are open, the route is something close to direct, albeit with long dwell times at numerous bus stops along 5th Ave. and in the TC itself. When the express lanes close, however, the bus has to go south to the transit center, only to go right back north again to Northgate Way to actually get on the freeway.
Not only is that a bad and very time-consuming loop-de-loop for anyone getting on north of Northgate Way, it’s also bad for anyone coming from west of I-5. You literally walk right by the entrance ramp on the way to the bus stop, only you have to walk an extra 10 minutes to get to the transit center, only for the bus to turn around and drive right by the area you just walked through! Fortunately, all of this nonsense will go away in 2021 when the 41 gets replaced with Link.
This is a lesson that can’t be learned (or re-learned) often enough. If you care to read the EIS for the proposed 1968 rapid transit system, one of the things mentioned right off the bat is that freeway stations are not preferred for many of the reasons you discuss (one reason the routings of that plan, IMHO, are considerably better than what we have ended up with). While freeway running itself is acceptable, diverting away from it where there are to be stations was considered vastly preferable.
Atlanta is a decent example of this where “modern” (i.e. post-freeway) lines were built. (It’s not a particularly great example of a good transit system, but that’s for another discussion.) There are nearly no stations built on the freeway themselves when a line uses the right-of-way or parallels it; Buckhead is the only one I recall offhand. Deviations from freeway right-of-way occur at other suburban stations such as Medical Center or Dunwoody; in the more urban areas of Midtown and the core, the line was sited 3 blocks or so to the east of the freeway which has created a vastly better walkshed. Siting the line and stations ON the freeway would have been horrible there as I-75/85 and its ancillary exits and frontage roads are as wide as 32 lanes.
Where the purpose of a station is predominantly for bus transfers and little or no development at the station is foreseen, it might be somewhat better (N 130th being an example), but even there a Lake City and/or Bitter Lake station would be orders of magnitude better. Otherwise–move the station away from the freeway!
Moving the stations away from the freeway means undoing the awful decision to have Link routed along the freeway. That would mean spending a lot more money for right-of-way, and perhaps having to keep some duplicative bus service for the parking garages, since abandoning them would involve having to return some money to the feds. (If only those parking garages weren’t included in the bond packages. Sigh.)
If Lynnwoodites want real Link neighborhood service, but it would push construction back a few years, I’m down with that.
Yes, it is about money and speed. Using the freeway right of way allows you to build cheap and fast (while, in this case, maintaining grade separation, which means the trains can be fast). It is not the ideal run (by any means) but it provides a fair amount of bang for the buck. Northgate will quickly transition from a mall to a fairly dense area (made up primarily of apartments and medical buildings). It should be able to catch up to Bitter Lake, if not Lake City, by the time the station is actually built (especially if a bridge is built).
Overlake Transit Center is a very good example of freeway stations done right, especially the northbound one. Even southbound, the walk between the transit center and the freeway station is less than you think. With a new pedestrian bridge over 520 that bypassed all the stoplights and took the diagonal route directly to the freeway station on the other side, the walk time from OTC to the southbound freeway station would be as little as 2 minutes. Even today, it is actually possible to run to the southbound freeway station to catch up to a 545 you just missed at the transit center stop.
That last sentence sounds more like an indictment of how awful the traffic is getting back to the Freeway than an endorsement of the TC.
For RapidRide A, I think that it should go to Pacific Highway via S 312th St, and not S 316 St for a few reasons:
1. The SB left turn at 316th is a rapidity killer, especially when two RR buses are bunched together.
2. SR99 is generally slow through downtown FW, so the sooner it gets off of 99, the better.
It will also allow the bus to serve steel lake park. At the transit center, instead of having a stop inside the transit center, it can have a stop very close to the TC right on 23rd Ave S, and can get extended to the Commons and FW P&R.
As far as deviations are concerned, the one deviation is moved where it is more efficient, there is no deviation at the Federal Way TC or the Commons mall, and doesn’t turn again until it gets to the Federal Way S 320th St Park and Ride (that’s a mouthful), where rapidity isn’t particularly important. The buses also get the entire park and ride to themselves for storage for most of the day (and all of the weekends).
The Vision Line is only two blocks away from where the East Link route finally settled. Both are a half a dozen blocks away from the current downtown Bellevue.
huh? I seem to recall the Vision Line route was across the Freeway on 116th following the Wilberton rail line.
The Vision line whould have been along 114th NE on the west side of I-405. But that is more than 2 blocks from the eventual station location if you measure from the end of the station closer to BTC.
It’s not clear to me that’s “a half a dozen blocks away from the current downtown Bellevue”. It depends on where you think the center of downtown Bellevue is these days. I personally don’t think it’s in the middle of Bellevue Square.
@aw: My guess would be around NE 5th and 107th NE — roughly where Bungie have had offices, which is pretty close to half a dozen blocks from where the station ended up.
I could make some arguments for NE 6th & 106h NE or NE 4th & 108th NE. Those are a bit of a walk from the station, but a little closer.
I do think the current center of downtown Bellevue is the east side of the Bellevue Collection. I’m not making a claim of support for the mall or Kemper Freeman. I’m just being (in my opinion) realistic.
The train route we ended up with is ridiculous. STB keeps dissing the Vision Line but, frankly, it would have been only slightly worse for riders than the currently planned route. Bellevue will have a difficult-to-use two-block stripe of land between 405 and the train tracks.
Hate on Kevin Wallace all you want but the Vision Line wasn’t all that bad. He tried to make a single, cohesive plan out of the mess that we all created. Instead, we ended up with a ridiculous set of compromises that more accurately reflects the prejudices of the region than it does the needs of the people.
And in the “we” of “the mess we all created” I’m including Wallace, Freeman, the Surrey Downs residents (both crazy and not) and the whole Bellevue City Council. I’m also including Sound Transit, who didn’t have the chutzpah to stand up for a line that made sense, such as running down Bellevue Way or over the existing train tracks with a spur into BTC running over the highway along 2nd Street.
The dispute with Bellevue was also raising ST’s expenses and delaying the line, and it would have been much worse if ST had chosen a line Bellevue didn’t like and Bellevue sued them and refused to issue building permits. ST may have prevailed in the end but it would have taken years and a lot of taxpayer’s money.
“Take the 554, for example, which currently serves Eastgate via the I-90 direct-access ramps and the freeway stop. A deviation into the park-and-ride loop and back out would add eight turns and one 180-degree turnaround, all of which make for precious minutes Sound Transit can ill afford to waste.”
Doesn’t the WB 545 deviation into the OTC take 7 turns and a 360-degree turnaround? Plus, it has 6 traffic signals to contend with, where as the 554 would only have 1 traffic signal.
It would also have to traverse the 4 way stop sign at the North end of the bridge, which tends to be very congested in the peaks.
But my point is if the 554 shouldn’t serve the Eastgate P&R because of too many turns/too much time, then by the same logic, shouldn’t the WB afternoon 545 not deviate into the OTC?
If your car is parked on the upper level of Eastgate P&R, the freeway station is actually just as close as the bus bays. Similarly, the freeway station is actually closer to Bellevue College than the bus bays because it’s already elevated, so no stairs to climb.
The WB 545, as I recall, only makes the detour on some trips, and is doing so because so many of it passengers board there. Arguably, those buses are services from OTC to downtown via 520 that start in Redmond (and thereby incur some performance risk) for operational convenience.
Every WB 545 after about noon makes the OTC detour. I’m still not entirely understanding why the 545 makes a transit center detour, and the 554’s don’t make the Eastgate P&R detour. This isn’t apples and oranges. These two routes are facing very similar situations, but one makes a deviation, and one doesn’t.
It’s not apples-apples. The 545 detour isn’t really about better connections to of Metro routes – even though a lot of people board the 545 at OTC on weekday afternoons, very few of them are transferring from Metro buses. Most are either walking directly from work or transferring from Microsoft shuttle routes.
In contrast to the OTC detour bringing the bus closer to the side of the freeway where most people work (although there are still quite a few that work on the other side), a 554 detour to Eastgate P&R wouldn’t bring the bus any closer to Bellevue College. When you take vertical distance into account, the bus bays are actually at least as far, in not further from Bellevue College than the freeway station.
It should also be noted, that if you want to improve connections between the 554 and local routes, the proper way to do it not to make the 554 waste time on stupid detours – it’s to make the local routes, like the 221, 240, and 245, which pass right by the freeway station already, actually stop there.
The ones that cross the bridge actually do have stops closer than the P&R either on SE 36th St or up at the corner by BCC. If, as is likely you have to wait, the P&R is likely to be more comfortable — in the case of the stop on SE 36th St, I’d only even consider using them if I had to run to catch the bus.
One central purpose of a transit center is to provide seamless transfers to other routes and a modicum of comfort and safety to waiting riders. I get that we would like our system to operate as efficiently as possible but I also think we should remember that this system serves us and not the other way around.
Hub and spoke systems have their own systemic efficiencies. We also have to remember that Seattle, unlike a large percentage of our country, has challenges of topography. A 2 block walk at steep grades is the equivalent of walking much father.
Speaking of the particulars of Eastgate, the walk I about 3 blocks, mostly level, 1 covered, and an elevator ride to the transit center bus stops. For passengers who drove to the P&R, the freeway stop really isn’t much worse than the downstairs stops — just park on the 4th or 5th floor, (remembering that for many users, the third floor road entrance is the most convenient) — although you do have a better chance at a seat boarding downstairs in the morning. Likewise for Bellevue College users, it’s pretty much a wash. For people headed South of the Freeway the Freeway stop is better. So really, the only users who are meaningfully inconvenienced by not taking the detour are transferring passengers, and people trying to get to the businesses on the North side of Eastgate Way. In this particular case, not taking the detour is almost certainly the right call.
William, if it’s acceptable for transferring passengers at the Eastgate P&R to have to walk 5+ minutes from Bay 1 or 2, up to Bay 3 on the freeway ramp (over an uncovered bridge, btw) to catch a ST 554, then you see nothing wrong with the future Bellevue Station being a 5 minute walk from the BTC, correct?
@Sam: two minutes. tops. I do the walk at least four times a week. Moreover it’s a tradeoff between the convenience of through passengers, transferring passengers and other passengers. In this case, I believe that through passengers dwarf usage by passengers headed of other buses.
As for BTC to the Link station, I don’t think the transfer itself is bad, what’s bad is that the transfer is no better than what they’d get by just staying on 112th and stopping near 6th street, and not building the worthless tunnel. What’s bad is that the whole route through Bellevue is so bad. What’s bad is that even given the awfulness of the route they could have built a station that served both BTC and downtown offices better. Frankly the 5 minute walk is the least of my worries.
Self replying (sorry, but what I wrote is God awful I have to correct myself.
> What’s bad is that the whole route through Bellevue is so bad. [jeez, it’s bad because it’s bad.]
What I mean is that the whole route through Bellevue does a terrible job of actually serving Bellevue. It really doesn’t serve the area around Bellevue Square. It serves the area near Paccar and Barnes and Noble at best very poorly. And it could even do a better job of serving the office buildings on the East edge of town. At least it’s not bad if you’re headed to City Hall.
I want to see Sam whistling as he frequently walks from a bus to the train because it’s so close and convenient that it doesn’t bother him in the least.
You have to think of thru-riders too. If you are forced to squander 10 minutes of meandering in and out of a transit center just to go in a straight line, the net effect is you serving the system, not the system serving you.
Except in vary special cases, such the 40 intersecting Link at Northgate in David’s FNP, there will always be more thru-riders than transferring riders at any stop. For the same reason that it almost every traffic light, there are far more cars going straight than turning. Just as you would never time a traffic signal to make people driving straight wait for a several-minute left-turn cycle, you don’t design a transit system to make everyone going straight deviate for the sake of a few people making a connection.
You also have to consider that if the bus moves through the deviation at or near a walking speed, after stoplights are taken into account, even the people supposedly benefiting from the deviation aren’t actually saving any time because of it.
Does anyone here use the new-ish Mountlake Terrace freeway stop? I remember when it was built, some people were complaining about the walk from the freeway stop to where other busses had their stops. I have not used it so I don’t know how useful it is, but when I drive by it, it seems like the freeway stop is in a good location for the freeway-oriented bus routes.
I grew up in Houston near a perfect example of a horribly designed transit center. It was situated in the median of a busy east-west street right next to an intersection with a medium-traffic street, with long cycles of 3+ minutes between green lights.
Pictures describe this better than words. Here is a picture of one end of the TC: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Bellaire,+TX&hl=en&ll=29.705844,-95.469131&spn=0.003222,0.004128&sll=47.272986,-120.882277&sspn=7.261467,16.907959&oq=Bellair&t=h&hnear=Bellaire,+Harris,+Texas&z=19&layer=c&cbll=29.705832,-95.469234&panoid=ZsLlore8Gkiavm4o57FMmw&cbp=12,214.49,,0,16.26
Notice the grocery store across the street, combined with the fences and “don’t walk” signs to discourage bus riders from shopping there. As you can see from the worn path, though, everybody ignores the signs and jaywalks anyway. After all, if the bus is going to have a way out, they can’t fence in the area completely.
Here is the other end of the TC: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Bellaire,+TX&hl=en&ll=29.705498,-95.468694&spn=0.003222,0.004128&sll=47.272986,-120.882277&sspn=7.261467,16.907959&oq=Bellair&t=h&hnear=Bellaire,+Harris,+Texas&z=19&layer=c&cbll=29.705498,-95.468694&panoid=Bmpf3s20Md0_HxlsUIKXyw&cbp=12,83.25,,0,-5.79
Notice that buses are left to fend for themselves merging back into traffic and if there’s a line of car cars queued up waiting for the light, it can be difficult for buses to merge in at all. Also notice that turning right requires cutting across 4 lanes of traffic in about 30 feet. Usually, this is not possible, so southbound buses have to pull a straight/U-turn/left-turn maneuver instead that requires about 5+ minutes of waiting at multiple stoplights.
Also, note that northbound buses can’t turn left here because they’re facing the wrong way when they come in – they have to continue going west for a mile, then go north at the next major street, then go east again a mile later, and finally north again. Also notice how Metro really doesn’t want bus riders to patronize the shopping center on the south side of the street either.
Fortunately, Seattle is, by and large, far better than this. But, this is a good example of transit centers at its worst and something we absolutely need to avoid.
The joys of Houston. We used to talk about escaping.
You do have to admire the perseverance it must of taken to build something quite that bad. It’s hard to understand who, precisely, they think they are serving there.
Even worse, because it’s been this way for decades, the crazy routing of the north-south bus is now virtually impossible to fix. There are too many who have chosen their home relative to their work location with the assumption that the zig-zaggity-ness would give them a one seat ride. Switch to a sane grid-routing and all these people would suddenly have to either move or get to work on a 3-seat ride. They’re pretty much stuck with the network they’ve got forever.
I think you are making my argument against TOD.
I previously suggested that you don’t want anything near a busy bus stop, because it makes it harder for people to get to and from that stop.
Building a centralized hub, jamming everything into it, and thus walling off access seems like madness from the get go.
Kent, for example, wisely put the bus part of our station on one side of the rail tracks and the mall side on the other!
While cars jam in and out of the mall side, buses are not impacted getting to the bays.
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