I was impressed and gratified by the reader reaction to my post last Monday introducing the Frequent Network Plan. Almost 300 comments, lots of interesting and knowledgeable discussion, and not a single post needing moderation: this is what an online community should be, and STB readers rock.
The discussion helped me to figure out a few areas of the plan that I wanted to refine. In this post, I’ll talk about one neighborhood in particular — covering both the general ideas there, and a couple of specific improvements I’ve made in response to last week’s comments. That neighborhood is the University District. Other neighborhoods warranting special attention — particularly Magnolia, northern West Seattle, Rainier Beach, Fremont, and Madison Valley/Park — will be covered in future posts.
Details below the jump.
The current University District service pattern (as shown in Metro’s map below) is a bit of a jumble, and has a lot of redundant service. Many half-hourly routes, some overlapping and others crossing each other, converge on either 15th Ave NE or the UW campus. Traveling from east to west is awkward (although somewhat less so with Metro’s creation last year of a 15-minute corridor on routes 31, 32, 65, and 75). Buses spend a lot of time winding slowly through the U-District on congested streets, and sometimes (particularly in the area of 45th and 15th) stack up to a degree that they create congestion on their own. Even without Link, this can be improved; Link can make the improvements even better. Below are a few details in the Frequent Network Plan that could help.
U-District to UW Hospital. The trip between the central U-District and UW Hospital is a huge ridership generator. Link will make this into a 2-minute trip, and substantially reduce the need for the redundant service that now serves this trip (taking 7-10 minutes) on current routes 44, 48, and 271. This frees up route 44 to take the much more logical crosstown path suggested by the city’s Transit Master Plan, continuing east to U-Village and Children’s Hospital rather than turning south at 15th. It would have super-easy transfers to Link at U-District Station. Service every 10 minutes on the 48 will be easily sufficient to accommodate those riders between UW Hospital and 45th for whom Link is not effective.
The UW Campus. Another trip that generates big ridership numbers is the one from Campus Parkway onto the UW campus. Link will partly help with this, by dropping some downtown and north-end riders off near the south end of campus who currently transfer at Campus Parkway. Other riders, even with Link in place, will still want to ride directly onto campus from U-District Station or from the dense concentration of student housing and other residences in the southwestern U-District. For them, the Frequent Network Plan takes a new approach to serving the campus.
Rather than being a slow bottleneck along a crosstown route, the U-shaped campus corridor becomes a destination and turnaround point for north-south service coming from both sides. On the west side, north-south routes 67 and 73 would both travel through the U-District on Brooklyn, picking up riders at U-District Station and along Campus Parkway, before going through campus.
On the east side of campus, those routes would be through-routed with north-south routes 65 and 75, both of which would primarily serve large numbers of campus-bound riders. Most other riders from the service areas of routes 65 and 75, particularly those headed downtown or to the north U-District, will be served better by crosstown service connecting to Link, on routes 31, 71, 78, 40, or the north end of the 75. Service through the campus along these routes would run every 7-8 minutes all day with articulated coaches.
Cleaning Up the Horrible Turn. Right now, the area around 15th and 45th is constantly clogged with coaches — many of them simply headed to nearby terminals. Current routes 43, 44, 48, 49, 70, and 271 alone send a total of 24 buses per hour — or as many as 32 during peak hours — through that intersection, while other service that is not terminating nearby sends quite a few more. Making matters worse, 12 to 16 of those coaches each hour in both directions are making the time-consuming “Horrible Turn” between 15th and 45th. An ordinary signalized intersection simply can’t handle that sort of demand, and the FNP would significantly improve matters. Route 43 would be deleted. Route 49 would be replaced by route 35, which would use an existing trolley turnback and layover zone along Campus Parkway, avoiding both 15th and 45th entirely. Route 44 would avoid using 15th, instead proceeding straight along 45th in both directions. Route 48, partly replacing 43 and 44 service along 15th, would proceed straight along 15th. Only route 70, with 4 buses per hour (6 peak), would make the Horrible Turn.
Brooklyn Is the New Ave. Of course, the U-District Link station will be on Brooklyn. And the FNP revises a number of routes to serve it directly, while taking all buses off University Way (“the Ave”). This is a decision with pluses and minuses. The Ave is the area’s restaurant and shopping corridor, and the more natural destination. But it’s also a very slow street that causes substantial schedule headaches to the buses that use it today — the 30, 71, 72, 73, and 373. Brooklyn is a faster, less congested travel corridor, just one block away, and should speed up bus service.
Routes 31, 67, and 73 would use Brooklyn, while routes 44 and 70 would pass directly by the U-District Station on 45th. Route 48 would remain on 15th in order to use the current route 70 terminal, which permits it to avoid the Horrible Turn despite terminating in the U-District. In the long run, the Ave is one of the very few streets in Seattle that is a plausible candidate to become a pedestrian-only street, although some further economic development will need to take place before that will be a reasonable option. Moving buses to uncrowded and reliable Brooklyn could further that goal, and in any case will be a good step in several respects.
Montlake. After a hiatus of many years, the FNP would once again add a bus route to Montlake Boulevard north of UW Hospital: route 69. The 69, running every 15 minutes, would provide a direct north-south connection to Link to numerous riders along 25th Ave NE and Ravenna Ave NE. It would also be the primary service between UW and Lake City. Although many riders from those areas will miss the one-seat ride onto the UW campus currently provided by routes 68 and 372, they will have either a frequent (7-8 minute) connection or a walk upstairs from Montlake which will not likely challenge most college students. Routing the 69 along Montlake, and terminating it at UW Station, will restore a somewhat sensible connection between northeast Seattle, the Eastside, and Seattle neighborhoods east of downtown. (Of course it could be even better if UW Station were better-designed, but that problem is unfortunately beyond the scope of this plan.)
University Park. The first version of the FNP I presented last week eliminated service to University Park and NE 55 St, deleting route 30, sending route 31 down the 45th Street Viaduct, and retaining current routing on route 44. Commenters Aleks and d.p. pointed out that my initial choices were a wasted opportunity, and I complained about the extra cost of sending the 44 east to Children’s. To my surprise, after doing the math, I discovered there was no extra cost. So, by sending the 44 east on 45th, I was able to revise the 31 to serve University Park, NE 55th, Bryant, and a small piece of Laurelhurst. Ridership on this segment, mostly served by current route 30, is less than ideal — which is a bit of a mystery given the density along the western half of the segment. I can only hope the Link connection, the restored one-seat ride to Fremont, and 15-minute frequency would turn a few more residents into riders.