Metro Route 246
Quite an unusual sight on the 246. By SolDuc Photography.

This is the second of two posts diving deeper into the service cuts Metro proposed a couple of weeks ago.  The first post looked into the method underlying the Seattle madness, and concluded that Metro’s willingness to do substantive restructures rather than just slicing frequency was admirable, although the cuts would still hurt riders badly.  This post will focus on the Eastside, where the restructures are not as extensive, but are still interesting enough to warrant a closer look.  (South King County, Metro’s other major service area, has fairly straightforward service cuts that, while horrible for many riders, aren’t all that surprising or revealing.)

As with the Seattle proposals, Metro planning staff deserves an enormous amount of credit for preparing a carefully-thought-out package in a very short time.  It would be wonderful to see what they could do with increased resources and a political mandate to improve the network.  Details are below the jump.

While the Seattle proposal incorporated at least seven separate restructures, things are a bit simpler on the Eastside.  The proposal incorporates a major restructure of Kirkland-area service, including service to downtown Kirkland, Juanita, Totem Lake, and south Kirkland.  Service in Mercer Island and east of Issaquah is “simplified,” in the sense that all service is cut except for one all-day route operating at a skeletal frequency.  Commuter service between Seattle and the Eastside in both directions is drastically cut.  By contrast, most of the all-day network in most parts of the Eastside remains in place, albeit with sometimes reduced frequency.

Night Service

But before I get to the network changes, I have to address the unpleasant topic of night cuts.  The span-of-service reductions that would affect Seattle so dramatically are just as bad, if not worse, on the Eastside.  The network would change from one that largely ends service at 11:00 p.m. or midnight to one that largely stops running by 9:00 p.m, except on a very few busy routes. The following are the times when revised all-day routes would end under this proposal:

6:00 p.m.: 204, 246, 249
7:00 p.m.: 224, 234, 241
8:00 p.m.: 236
9:00 p.m.: 208, 221, 226, 240, 248
10:00 p.m.: 235, 271
11:00 p.m.: 245
Midnight: RR B, 255

Restructure of Kirkland Service

Kirkland receives a major, inventive restructure which reduces the number of all-day routes and simplifies the remaining routes.  The map is Metro’s.

Kirkland map
Metro’s map of the proposed Kirkland restructure.

Frequent routes 255 and 245 largely unaffected.  Today’s route 255 is by far the most popular and important bus route serving Kirkland, and one of three frequent service corridors in the area.  It would stay almost untouched in this proposal, losing only its low-ridership northernmost segment between Totem Lake and Brickyard P&R, which would be served instead by a revised version of route 236.  (The small neighborhood streets currently served by the 236 would only have peak service on the 252.)  Route 255 would be working harder, though; both the 234 and the 236 would be pulled out of Juanita, leaving the 255 to satisfy Juanita-Kirkland demand on its own.

One of Kirkland’s other two frequent service corridors, the 245, is untouched except for a night span reduction.

The 235 would be split.  Today’s other frequent service corridor, the 234/235 corridor between Kirkland and Bellevue via Overlake Hospital, is reduced to half-hourly except at peak, because the 234 is moved away from the corridor (see below for what happens to it).  The 235, in turn, is shortened to travel only between Bellevue and downtown Kirkland.  Route 235 service north of Kirkland is replaced by the revised 236, which ends up serving a nearly straight north/south corridor on 124th Ave NE from Kirkland all the way to Woodinville.  Losing frequent service on the corridor between Kirkland and Bellevue is painful, especially given that Bellevue would like to make that corridor into BRT, but is unfortunately justified by ridership when this heavy a cut is required.

The 234, now to Totem Lake and Redmond, not to Bellevue anymore.  The new 234 is the most dramatic change in the proposed restructure.  The route would no longer serve Juanita, downtown Kirkland, or Bellevue at all.  Instead, it would be changed to travel between Kenmore, Finn Hill, Totem Lake, Rose Hill, Redmond, and Education Hill, replacing part of deleted route 238 and the Education Hill part of route 221.  This would actually create a new one-seat connection between Totem Lake and Redmond (well, not entirely new to those of us who recall bizarre Route 291). Unfortunately, though, Finn Hill-Kirkland (currently a very heavily used trip) and Rose Hill-Kirkland would both become two-seat rides.

The theme underlying the restructure is to rely more heavily on simplified core service for north-south trips, freeing up resources to maintain east-west service.   The new 234 routing and the split of the 235 encourage riders from Totem Lake and surrounding areas to transfer to fast ST freeway service at Kingsgate Freeway Station in order to reach Bellevue.  The 255 takes over the busy and growing Juanita-Kirkland corridor exclusively.  The 236, burdened today by some of Metro’s weakest ridership, gets straighter and faster, consuming fewer hours.  The 238 is cut.  But this way, east-west service on the 245, the 248, and now the 234 is preserved and even expanded.  The changes will inconvenience some riders in lower-ridership neighborhoods, but mostly won’t hurt those traveling to and between ridership centers.  It’s very smart work.

Between Issaquah and North Bend

North Bend and nearby areas are nearly abandoned.  The only remaining service between Issaquah, Snoqualmie Ridge, and North Bend is route 208, operating all day weekdays and Saturday at a frequency of 120 minutes (less than half of today’s combined frequency).  All service on routes 209 and 215 is cut, eliminating one-seat service to Seattle and all remaining Metro service to Fall City and Preston.  This represents the lowest level of Metro service to the Snoqualmie/North Bend area since at least the 1980s.

Issaquah Map
Metro’s Issaquah-area map.
North Bend Map
Metro’s Snoqualmie and North Bend map.

Mercer Island

Similarly, all commuter service to Mercer Island (except for the P&R) is cut, as are the two all-day routes serving the north end of the island.  The sole remaining service to any island destination other than the P&R would be the 204, running half-hourly during peak hours and reduced to hourly during the midday.  Ridership on Mercer Island outside of the P&R has been very limited for years, and Metro has chosen to circle the wagons around higher-riderhsip areas.

Commuter Service to Seattle

The following peak-only routes to and from Seattle would be cut entirely:

202, 205, 210, 211, 215, 217, 242, 243, 250, 260, 265, 277

That would leave only the following such routes still operating:

212, 214, 216, 218, 219, 252, 257, 268, 311

There would be no remaining peak-only Metro service of any sort from Seattle to the Eastside.  (UPDATE: This is not quite correct.  Commenter “bellevue resident” correctly points out that Metro would add three reverse-peak 212 trips, partially replacing the 217.  These would be the only peak service to the Eastside.)

Taken together, these cuts represent a dramatic change to a form of service that, for many years, represented the bulk of Metro’s hours and coverage on the Eastside.  Metro is relying on Sound Transit, and its own all-day 255 and 271, to make up a meaningful part of the gap.  The change reflects both the continuing growth of Eastside employment centers and the popularity of most of Sound Transit’s cross-lake services, which have combined to make many (but not all) of the routes on the chopping block marginal performers.  (The 215 and 217 are the most surprising victims.)

Metro’s peak-only service from the Eastside to Seattle, after the restructure, would be almost completely limited to major park and rides, and would be at its lowest level in many years.  Almost every cross-lake trip from an Eastside neighborhood outside major urban centers would be a two-seat ride, and some would become three-seat rides.

Final Thoughts

Metro’s current process for service evaluation, based on objective service guidelines, exposes the Eastside to a substantial amount of vulnerability.  The Eastside has for some time been the region where Metro service has performed the most poorly on Metro’s metrics, and where the cost per rider has been highest.  The severity of these cuts reflects that reality, but also could have had the potential to make transit mobility on the Eastside all but impossible.  In this cut proposal, Metro is obviously trying to preserve mobility within the Eastside, at the cost of both commuter service to Seattle and basic transit coverage in areas with clearly marginal ridership.  This is laudable from the perspective of trying to maintain a coherent Eastside transit network serving the area’s growing urban centers, but could pose some risk to current ridership numbers and the political support they bring.

85 Replies to “A Closer Look at Metro’s Cuts: Eastside”

  1. Excellent analysis however I believe that while the 217 is being deleted, their service hours will be reinvested in reverse peak 212’s to Eastgate.

    1. Thank you! You’re right. I’ve updated the story to reflect the reverse peak 212s, which are only a partial replacement for the 217.

      1. That’s quite possible. It’s unclear from Metro’s materials, which fail to list the number of reverse-peak trips at all.

  2. Only the gullible would take Metro at their word as to why they are making certain cuts. Metro is making strategic cuts designed to get a wide range of groups to fight on their behalf. For example, when they say they are taking the 245 out of Bellevue College to make it more efficient, that’s completely untrue. By making students walk about a mile from the bus stop to the college, they are enlisting the help of influential disabled advocacy groups to help fight the cuts. This is some devious, next level stuff.

    1. Yeah, Metro is evil. Metro wants to make everyone’s lives so much worse. Metro hates its customers soooooo much. Troll on, loony.

      1. No, Metro isn’t evil. This is all a form of political theater. I’m reminding people not to be naive when getting sucked into this “the cuts are coming!” world. Take a deep breath. Take a step back, and look at the big picture. Look at what’s really going on, man.

      2. Yeah, I am taking a breath, but I’d rather just suffocate. The cuts will be devastating, it’s that simple. The only theatre is your comment.

      3. Taking the 245 out of Bellevue College is good for everybody that isn’t going to Bellevue College, but is simply trying to get to Factoria Mall or make connections to routes elsewhere at Eastgate P&R. Most Bellevue College students are young and can easily handle the walk. Those that can’t handle the walk can just drive.

    2. Sam,

      I expect to see the UPS receipt for your check to Kevin Desmond for all of the service hours required to send the buses up to the college.

      Thanks.

      1. When someone says bus routes shouldn’t slightly deviate to very popular destinations because it slows the route down, I realize this person has a fundamental lack of understanding what the purpose of public transportation is. To say the route shouldn’t go to where the majority of bus passengers want to go to make the route more efficient for bus passengers is the type of logic one might find in Alice in Wonderland.

        I remind you, in the case of the 245, midday routes will still be at 15 minute headway even after these supposed cuts. Many of these midday 245’s are more than half empty. If cuts had to be made, the obvious solution would be to keep the 245 going through the college (the second most popular destination on the route, next to Microsoft), and reduce midday headway from 15 to 30 minutes. Schuyler, if you want to talk about wasted service hours, they are going into unnecessarily frequent headway, not a two minute deviation into the largest college in Bellevue.

      2. Sam, I don’t know why you’re so hung up on this college deviation, but what you are overlooking is that the 245 and 271 without the deviation would still serve the college. They just wouldn’t go into the parking lot. To avoid a six-minute (not two) deviation for the majority of the riders (which gets quite a bit longer when the parking lot is crowded), the college riders would have to walk about 1/4 mile from either 148th at the driveway or the 145th Pl NE/NE 24th St stop. They are disproportionately young and able-bodied, so a 1/4 mile walk should not be a problem.

        Compare this with the 71/72/73, which together form the highest-ridership corridor in the Metro system. A large majority of their riders are walking well over 1/4 of a mile to their final UW destinations, and guess what — it works fine!

      3. David, do the 71, 72, and 73 riders (especially the disabled), have the option of transferring to a bus that will take them through the heart of the campus on Stevens Way? I think they do.

        Also, the routes serving Bellevue College are not “going through the parking lot.” The streets running through the college are City of Bellevue streets. Also, the two options you list as viable alternative stops, one is 1500 feet away, and neither NB or SB stops have a shelter, and the other option is 2000 feet way, and only one direction has a shelter. Finally, to say that those two off campus locations are serving the college is like saying Kevin Wallace’s Vision Line Station on 405 would have served the Bellevue Transit Center.

      4. Sam, the 271 and 245 riders will also have the same option, given that the 226 and 221 will continue to go into the college lanes.

      5. Regardless of the motivation, the cut Sam identifies must be among the least effective in meeting the suggested purpose – budget savings. King County Metro is proposing cutting the most well used bus stop on the 245 and 271, second to the downtown transit center in the Bellevue section of these routes. There are more than 1,500 weekend boardings and alightings of these routes at these stops; there are zero or less than one on the weekend routing which runs on 148th as proposed. These two routes serve 55% of BC’s student riders, which are 30% of our total population. The proposed route includes two additional signals, including a left turn, and is shorter by only a 1/3 of a mile. There are no savings in this proposal and significant downsides to equity and ridership.

        http://depts.bellevuecollege.edu/sustainability/2013/11/18/king-county-metro-proposes-eliminating-bellevue-college-bus-stops/

      6. Metro’s scheduling indicates that the college deviation is scheduled to take six extra minutes in each direction as compared with the weekend routing. That’s 12 minutes per roundtrip, most likely enough to save one bus on 15-minute routes like the 245 and 271. That’s one bus that doesn’t have to be cut from other routes.

        While the routing is not much longer in terms of distance, it is far, far slower — even when the parking lot is not blocked up by traffic, which it often is.

        The two stops that would serve students are each less than 1/4 mile walk from the current bus stop. For those students who have trouble walking that distance, two routes with fewer non-college riders (the 221 and 226) would still go into the parking lot.

        In the long term, of course, the solution that will be best for both through riders and college riders is a rebuild of Snoqualmie River Road to handle bus traffic. That project is on the radar of the City of Bellevue and I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

      7. David, come on out to BC we’ll go ahead and test drive the 6 minute guesstimate together. If those routes are slower on campus its because 1,500 riders are boarding or existing buses. Its important to distinguish real savings from imagined paper savings of the sort this reroute would accomplish. Can anyone provide an example of when a transit agency has cut a stop serving 1,500+ boardings/alightings? Forcing them all to walk more than 1/3 of a mile, especially students with disabilities or vunerabilities, to an un-sheltered, un-supervised stop, ignores both the ROI and social justice elements supposed included in Metro’s strategic plan. As tough as these cuts will be on everyone, consider how it will impact a low-income student living in the suburbs trying to commute to campus for worker retraining or occpational life skils.

    3. I think if Metro was trying to make cuts for political purposes, they would simply cut commuter service. This is not necessarily a bad technique, either. It is very simple, cheap, and no one has to figure out new bus routes. You just have a lot fewer buses. The slower neighborhood buses that go around town stay the same. Mobility is preserved, so the poor and disabled midday riders (who you claim have so much clout) come out relatively unscathed.

      So, for example, you have 12 buses that go from Northgate to downtown from 7:00 to 8:00. That gets cut in half. I would imagine the savings are pretty substantial overall. Do the same with similar routes during rush hour. This will really anger commuters, who, believe it or not, are a lot more powerful than the folks inconvenienced by changes in a route to BCC. Not just the bus commuters, either, of course. A change like this will seriously screw up traffic, as people adjust and start driving (if I have to wait a half hour to get on a 41 I might as well drive and pay for parking downtown). So, if Metro really was trying to rile up the powerful, they would make very different cuts aimed at them.

      But they aren’t. They are trying to spread the pain. Commuting during rush hour will be just a little bit worse. Getting to BCC or similar destinations will be just a little bit worse. Getting to your job at night will be a little bit worse. Considering that night time commuting via a bus was never that good to begin with, and that most night time commuters make low wages, the folks that are likely to be hurt the most are the poor. But don’t expect that to change everyone’s mind. The people who care are probably trying to get Metro some money so we can avoid these changes. The people who don’t, or are unaware, will continue to be unaware.

      1. but do you honestly believe Metro is completely guileless?

        Do you honestly believe Metro needs to do any sneaky tricks to get support from their own riders?

        The ridership already supports Metro and is against the cuts. Metro has no motivation to further anger them.

      2. With regards to cuts in commuter I-90 service, I think there’s an implicit hope that Sound Transit will come to the rescue and get more peak trips added to the 554, probably by cutting off-peak trips either on the 554 or some other route.

      3. The 554 has the dubious honor of being one of the only routes that has less frequency at peak, in both directions, than the rest of the day. I would wager that increasing peak frequency to 20 minutes — in line with the frequency the rest of the day — would be pretty cheap, compared to the alternatives. This is doubly true if ST and Metro could figure out some way to allow the 554 to use the tunnel.

      4. The solution to getting the 554 into the tunnel is simply and obvious – move the 255 out of the tunnel. The way the ramps are configured, the 554 saves a lot more time by taking the tunnel than the 255 does.

      5. While I agree (and have said so, loudly and often) that the 554 belongs in the tunnel more than the 255 does, it’s not as simple as just swapping the two. Even if you leave aside the political issues, you need to think about platform space. You’re removing people from the northbound platform, and adding them to the southbound platform, which is already more crowded (especially in the afternoon).

        I think the best replacement for the 255 would be the 522. It would benefit from the tunnel infrastructure (being able to use the express lanes 50% of the time), and it wouldn’t cause any platform-load changes. And it would create a common corridor for service between downtown and Lake City (the tunnel).

        The 554 should replace the 101/102/106. And any other remaining I-90 buses should (re)join the 554 in the tunnel. That would create a common corridor for service between downtown and the Eastside via I-90 (the tunnel), and for service between downtown and Renton (2nd/4th).

    4. Stephan, do you remember a few years back when Metro was operating at 17% less service hours, and people often had to wait at bus stops for 3 to 4 hours just to get on a bus? And how there were so few buses that you had to walk miles to the nearest bus stop? Neither do I. The service was perfectly fine back then. The sky didn’t fall. And if the cuts happen, the service will service will still be perfectly fine. This is all a scare tactic to get more money. Notice how they didn’t announce a 17% cut to white collar staff? That’s a sign that this is all a bluff. Now my emotional support dog, Buckles, is signaling me that it’s time to get off the computer.

    5. I applaud your newfound willingness to do investigative journalism. But there’s one thing… Investigative journalists normally cite sources to substantiate their assertions. In this case, the assertion that Metro has a completely different motive than it’s saying. You should find some leaks at Metro or interview a well-respected transit analyst to give credibility to your story, so that we know you aren’t just making it up.

  3. I take it that no one in Mercer Is. Seems to ride the bus? I feel like a place like that should at least get a good hourly route that covers the entire island, and runs 7 days a week up to 9 or 10 PM. It is, in fact, one of the few cities that can be completely covered by a single hourly route.

    No weekend service at all? What is this, Pierce Transit? Metro is effectively eliminating car-free living on Mercer. How hard would it be to run ONE hourly route on weekends, using ONE (that is, single, solitary, or 2-1 or half of TWO) bus? Otherwise, the people in south Mercer have to walk over 5 miles to get to a bus.

    Riding the bus from Mercer will become a popular activity once the tolls begin on 90.

    1. Ridership on Mercer Island is fairly low. Outside of peak hour, a good number of riders are school kids, who will probably be served adequately by the remaining 204. The cut that hurts the most is the 203/213 cut, because those two routes (while having fair to poor overall ridership) serve a meaningful number of seniors who will have trouble reaching other service.

      1. Screw the seniors. At some point they are nothing but a big drain on society, and have fulfilled their usefulness.
        Plus walking is good for them. Just ask their cardiologists.

      2. David. The 203 is a 15 minute loop, and the 204 is aboput 15 minutes one-way too. If the’re cuutting the frequency to hourly they ought to be able to fit a run of the 203 in between trips down the Island. Are they trying to interline the bus with something else? Otherwise, the most difficult issue is deciding whether to serve Shorewood or Covenant Shores — it’s difficult to serve both, still serve the community centre, and keep the route under 20 minutes.

        I’m more concerned about the 6pm cutoff to service, which makes the bus almost useless for commuting downtown for people who have to work past 5 o’clock.

        Currently, I have to drive to a park and ride [typically Eastgate because the MI P&R fillsp about 10 minutes too early to be useful to me] because of day care drop-off obligations, but my preference would be to leave my car at home entirely. In the summer, the walk down the Island is fairly pleasant, but there are a few spots on the first mile or so out of downtown that I wouldn’t be entirley happy having to do in the dark.

        I’ll miss the 202, which I was able to ride more or less daily before my wife went back to work — there’s something very special about having only a two minute walk at each end of a one seat ride — but I don’t think I could keep a straight face suggesting that the bus be kept. Last week’s MI reporter even managed to sneak in a snide comment about the 202’s ridership.

      3. @mic, you’re joking, right? Just wait until you’re a senior, after you have contributed to society, and maybe helped build Seattle into something greater, and someone says “Screw the seniors…”

        Seniors are the people that got us here, and they deserve respect. The idea that we shouldn’t provide for seniors because “we don’t need them anymore” is one of a traitor arguably worse than Rodney Tom himself…

      4. @AlexKven: I thought you’d been around here long enough to know that all posts by people with 3-letter names on this blog are trolls.

        (I realize calling mic a troll is painting with a pretty broad brush, but sufficiently advanced sarcasm is often indistinguishable from trolling, and in cases like this, has the same effect)

      5. More seriously, is farebox recovery part of the metric that Metro uses? I honestly can’t remember. If so, to what extent would a bus with an abnormally high percentage of senior riders look bad [because of the (AIUI Federally mandated) reduced faire for seniors]?

      6. Geeze, loosen your belts a notch fellas. Yes, it’s sarcasm (albeit well disguised). Ive had a double bypass and collect Social Security, so I guess it was an inside joke.
        Really though, our seniors are all to often kicked to the curb in the golden years in many other ways too.
        There, you happy!

      7. I live on Mercer Island and honestly I wish Metro would go ahead with the restructure on the Island even without the cuts; all of the routes on Mercer Island other than the 204 are basically never used by anyone, and not frequent enough to be useful anyway. I would be more than happy to see those bus hours spent in places that make more sense.
        However, I do wish that they’d keep the 204 running hourly until later into the nights and into the weekends. That would boost ridership in the morning. (more people would take the bus in the morning knowing they can get home on the bus too)
        also Moving the 204 into Island crest way north of 40th might be a good idea too. It might cut off a minute or two off the trip time.

      8. William Aitken, I don’t think you could quite fit a 204+203 round trip inside a 55-minute window (a 5-minute recovery time would be required between through-routed trips). There is also the issue of providing the driver with a longer break somewhere in the middle of the day.

      9. It’s close — the 204 is scheduled at 14 minutes from the P&R to Mercer Village, and 14 minutes back, and the 213 loop is scheduled for 11 minutes, so that’s only 39 minutes in service. The 203 loop is scheduled for 14 minutes, which would be 43 minutes in service.

      10. There is only one place on Mercer Island where car-free living is remotely feasible and that is the neighborhood within walking distance of the P&R and the business district. If you live there, even if you live there car-free, you really don’t need any local bus service on the island – the 550, 554, and feet will take you everywhere you would need to go.

  4. Metro’s website states:

    Why delete Route 215?

    It’s one of the lowest performing peak-period-only routes in Metro’s system.

    What is/are the performance metric(s) they’re using to determine this? I ride the second-to-last morning trip from Snoqualmie to my job in Seattle. This run switched from a DE60LF to an Orion coach after the last shakeup; the bus is now standing-room-only on a daily basis upon leaving Snoqualmie Ridge. East of the Ridge neighborhood the bus typically doesn’t have more than 10 riders. Would it make sense from the performance perspective to eliminate service east of the Ridge, or is the overall length of the run what’s driving the “poor performance” classification? I would be OK driving to the Ridge each day to catch a truncated 215, but if the alternative is 208-to-554 that’s just too much time to spend commuting. I’d end up driving an additional 125 miles/week to Issaquah Highlands to ride the 218, which would save time over riding the 215 from Snoq but cost substantially more.

    As for the “why the heck do you live so far from work” argument (irony alert: I design transit infrastructure for a living), it’s tough to find a chunk of land large enough to keep two horses (for now) happy that’s both close to the city and affordable. Having the 215 close by was one of the reasons my wife and I chose to buy a home in Snoqualmie…

    1. Probably because Snoqualmie is 10 trillion miles away. From NB to Seattle is over an hour, let alone all of the deadheading.

      You live far enough out that you have space to keep horses, and expect to keep your bus. Yet, people living in Madison Valley and the CD will lose the 8 in their areas. I hope you can see the objection.

      1. As someone who “designs transit infrastructure for a living” I understand that deadheading a bus the quadrillion miles out to the hinterlands is costly, but I’m not certain on exactly what Metro’s performance criteria are which led to the 215 being described as I quoted above, hence my inquiry in an attempt to gain better understanding of why the route is on the chopping block.

        It’s pretty clear from my post that if the cuts occur as currently planned I’ve already decided to drive to Issaquah; of the two lousy commuting options I’d be left with, it’s the least worst. (Vanpools aren’t a viable option for me because of unpredictable overtime demands.) I certainly don’t “expect to keep [my] bus” — I simply asked if a truncation which didn’t serve all of the current route but still provided peak service east of Issaquah was reasonable.

      2. It’s not just deadheading, it’s low turnover. If your performance metric is something like passenger-miles / revenue-hour, that comes out to speed times capacity times load factor. A fast, long, SRO route should look really good on that. Turn revenue-hour to platform-hour and it’s hurt by the deadhead (especially if the base isn’t close to the terminal)…

        But if your numerator is something like revenue or boardings instead of passenger-miles, then the route’s low turnover really kills its performance. Revenue is essentially boardings, when it costs only 20% more to ride the 215 during peak than the 8. When cash is tight, performance metrics with revenue in the numerator start looking good… and if you want a long, already-fast, low-turnover route to score well on those, you’ll probably have to add another “beyond the core part of the eastside” zone with significantly higher peak fares, so that revenue starts to look more like passenger-miles and less like boardings.

      3. Metro’s performance measures use two primary metrics: rides per platform hour and passenger-miles per platform mile. The first is a rough proxy for how efficient service is. The second is a rough proxy for how full buses run. Long commuter routes like the 215 perform horribly on the rides-per-hour metric, because many hours are used to generate only a few rides. This reflects the fact that such routes are very expensive to run. The routes do better, but still not all that well, on the passenger-miles per platform mile metric. The 215 is one of the better-performing routes to be cut under the Metro proposal, but it’s still a worse performer than any commuter route that was left intact.

        Metro has on several occasions cut service that runs standing-room-only because of mediocre to poor effectiveness for the money. A cut to the 215 would be in that mold.

      4. Peak routes also have a travel time factor which is taken into about. I’m not sure about the details of it though.

      5. I don’t want to sound like a selfish person here, but I think that you should still be glad that the 208 will still be around. Yes, it will have low frequencies but at least there is some service provided. Unlike metro deleting 210 leaving Lakemont and Cougar Mountain unserved, whatever the time of the day is. Personally I’d rather have infrequent service than no service at all. I’ll let you pick.

      6. Suppose the 215 were kept around, but with a special premium fare to ride it. Given the length of the route, all the deadheading to run it, and the cost of gas to drive to Issaquah Highlands every day, I think a premium fare of $5-6 one way would be easily justified.

        Not sure if it would raise enough extra revenue to make much of a difference, but it’s better than having the bus disappear altogether.

    2. @DWHonan. It’s understandable that you want to live in Snoqualmie for your horses. But is it reasonable to expect King County taxpayers to finacially support your lifestyle choices?

      1. @DWHonan: All the people in Snoqualmie Ridge that made a lifestyle choice to live in a mountainside greenfield development whose primary land uses are residential and golf course, with a local street network that will never support anything different? I hate to be glib and quote Devo, but… oh, who am I kidding? I love to be glib and quote Devo. “Freedom of choice… is what you got”.

    3. If a one-seat ride to Seattle means enough to Snoqualmie residents, why not get the City of Snoqualmie to subsidize the route?

      I suppose putting up a board and finding co-riders for vanpools might be a faster ride and cheaper.

      1. Interesting idea; does Metro have a mechanism in place where communities can subsidize its routes?

        Unfortunately, vanpools aren’t a viable option for me because of unpredictable overtime demands.

      2. Given that Seattle has subsidized dozens of routes through Transit Now, yes. I don’t know if any other community has done so, though.

      3. Yes, communities have occasionally subsidized Metro service. I’m highly skeptical that a subsidy to the 215 would get through the political process in the communities it serves, but if it did, why not?

      4. AFAIK, the business matches supporting the various First Hill Expresses and the Tukwila Group Health route (601) didn’t need matching funds from Transit Now. They just needed to match funds.

  5. I like that picture of the 60′ bus accompanying this post. I see that it’s a route 246. I also notice that there are no service changes or cuts to the route. Does anyone here have information about which routes have what level of ridership? If the route 7, let’s say, has the most ridership, where does the route 246, in that brand new half million dollar 60′ bus land on that list? Anyone care to bet me it’s in the bottom 10 routes?

    1. Read my caption to the photo and you’ll see that the 60′ is “unusual,” which is why the photographer was motivated to take the picture. The 246 is generally operated with 30′ coaches, and has middling ridership, which is why it only runs hourly and doesn’t run nights or weekends. It’s not being cut because it’s already at a bare minimum level.

      Read the appendices to the 2013 Service Guidelines Report and you will find all the ridership information you can eat. Protip: Appendix C for productivity measures, Appendix K for absolute ridership numbers.

      1. Look! Sam found a nut! But I don’t think he knows what it means.

        The 215 is evaluated against other routes serving the Seattle core. The 246 is evaluated against other routes not serving the Seattle core.

        This kludge is unfortunate, but is probably necessary in order to preserve some amount of suburban coverage and suburban political support for Metro.

      2. Also, how much money is spent chasing those 600 riders all the way out to North Bend? A lot more than is spent on the 246, I’m guessing. Take a look just above at the comment thread discussing that bus.

      3. This kludge is unfortunate, but is probably necessary in order to preserve some amount of suburban coverage and suburban political support for Metro.

        I would still prefer to adopt the same “kludge” used by Sound Transit, namely subarea equity. I think that would do just as good a job at preserving suburban political support, and it would also set a strong precedent for allowing individual subareas to raise money for extra service.

        I realize that this would result in short-term pain to Seattle, since we currently get more service than we pay for. (Though it might not be as bad as it seems, if we count all cross-lake routes 100% against the suburbs, as ST Express does.) But I still think it would be better than the ad-hoc rules that we’ve got now.

      4. This particular 60 footer is on one of the only trips that actually make sense on the 246: the run from NHS up the hill. And believe me it fills up to at least 50 people. Also important to note that the inbound trip from the hill to NHS in the morning is operated by a 30 footer, and has to carry those same 50 people, and sometimes more. Sometimes Metro gets able to deploy a 40 footer, but I haven’t seen one in a while. Also one of Metro’s flaws, not being able to adjust properly with capacity, especially when extra amount of capacity needed is easily predictable.

      5. Thanks for both the photo and your explanation, SolDuc.

        There is no special 246 tripper in the morning, so a 60-footer would have to wind its way all the way to Clyde Hill before starting a more useful trip, and then another 30-footer would have to go relieve it. I suppose it’s easier just to have the kids cram in tight for a few minutes.

        All the 30-footers will at least be replaced by 35-footers in the next year or two, so that will be a bit of an improvement.

      6. Well, yes, I guess that would be another deciding factor as to choose which bus to put on the run. Perhaps a 60 footer would struggle with the speed bumps on Woodridge. However I still don’t get why they don’t go back to putting 40 footers on there. Those can handle the bumps all right and don’t cost much more to run than a 30 footer. They also have the back door so that the bus doesn’t spend a whole two minutes on Newport Way unloading everyone.
        Also regarding bumps on bus routes, those are present on quite a few routes in Bellevue and most likely waste a lot of money over time, given how much time they take to go through. Also not a very good rider experience, even on a good old Gillig.

        BTW here’s the link to the original pic on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brasegaliwa/10229766016

    2. Bellevue school district students who make up the majority of route 246 riders, receive free, state-funded Metro bus passes. Most commuters on the 215 pay for their own peak, 2 zone passes at full price. I’d be interested to see what kind of deal the state gets from Metro on those passes. School districts did away with yellow school buses for middle and senior high schools to save money on the purchase and maintenance of buses, and all the associated wages and fuel costs. Metro is now eating those costs, and all they get in return is (probably) discounted bulk rate taxpayer-funded student passes.

      1. That is true, but do you really think that totally cutting an area’s service is better than to cut a peak-only commuter route from an area that still sees regularly scheduled buses?
        Also since you have to live at least a mile away from school to receive a free ORCA card, but for the sake of convenience some people choose to buy an actual ORCA card and load it with a pass on there. And there are also non-student riders on 246, they’re not just as many.
        And BTW the 246 not only serves Somerset – it also serves Clyde Hill and Woodridge, which don’t see any student riders at all (well, except for me on the first bus of the morning heading to BTC to catch 550 to Seattle and spend the day riding ferries, but that’s another story).

      2. I suspect the district, not the state, is funding the student bus passes. Otherwise, *every* district would be doing it, if they have a public transit system.

  6. Thanks for your great analysis. I beg to differ on your assessment that Metro’s changes are “smart”, particularly the cuts to Route 234. Hacking the route in half and forcing a transfer at 124th Street essentially re-separates the newly annexed north Kirkland area from the downtown core. But a huge impact is to school children who ride the bus to and from choice schools at Finn Hill and Kamiakin Middle Schools (Kamiakin is route 236), and Juanita High School. I find it puzzling why they would cut something that you characterize as “currently very heavily used.” There’s no point in “encouraging” riders to do anything. People will ride the bus if it goes where they want to go. And the 234 bus route change will force many children back into their parents’ cars or restrict their access to public schools to which they have a right to attend.

    And yes, of course Mic is joking with his walking seniors comment. If not, I’m sure he thinks the kids can walk too.

    1. Juanita High School would still be served by both the 255 and 234 (actually, it’s not served by the 234 now, but would be after the cuts). Kamiakin and Finn Hill would both be served by the post-restructure 234, and either would be a two-seat ride for any kid in Kirkland.

      Middle- and high-school-age kids routinely use two-seat rides to get to school in both Seattle and Bellevue, and I’m sure there are some who are doing it now in Kirkland.

      The reason I think these changes are “smart” is because they preserve service on core corridors even though the number of service hours is going way down. The alternative, if the network were to stay unchanged, would probably be hourly service on the existing 234, 235, 236, 238, and 248, and half-hourly service on the 255 north of KTC.

      1. Kirkland is a lot smaller than Bellevue and Seattle. Having to make a transfer for a 3-mile ride from Juanita HS or a 5-mile ride off Finn Hill seems excessive. The 234 doesn’t go to downtown Kirkland at all anymore, it goes to Redmond. Again, our city is split in half because no buses go from the north end to downtown other than the 255, and it only serves part of the city. I see your point about more efficient routes and preserving more frequent service, but I think lopping in half a very heavily used route is not a good idea and may well have been designed to rally protestations such as mine. Again, thanks for your analysis, it’s a very helpful interpretation.

      2. After the restructure, there would also be pretty straight north-south service on the east side of the city, on the revised 236. (Today the 236 and 238 are a vaguely X-shaped spaghetti mess that does little for north-south mobility.) The north-south grid lines would basically be the 255, ST Express 532/535, and 236, all converging on Totem Lake at the north end.

        I completely agree that it’s unfortunate to cut Finn Hill off from downtown Kirkland, but given the kid-heavy nature of Finn Hill ridership it may well be that the new connection from Finn Hill to Juanita HS and Totem Lake would actually serve more Finn Hill riders more effectively than the current 234 routing.

      3. Any chance that the 234’s schedule could be adjusted to coordinate better with buses in Seattle. Currently, the connections from the 255 in Kirkland are horribly timed so that once the 255 goes down to every half hour, you have to wait the entire half-hour to make a 234 connection. At a minimum, the new 234 in Redmond has to have a reasonable schedule alignment with the 545.

      4. I expect Metro thinks that travelers between Finn Hill and Seattle will transfer to the 522 at Kenmore, not to the 545 at Redmond.

  7. They should cut service even more. The cuts proposed are just minimal. There so many buses that are running half full less than half the time. That I think Metro should consider even more cuts to the system. Let’s face it, Seattle is a car based City, and there is nothing wrong with that. I think most buses should end by 9 p.m. in the City of Seattle. In outlying areas, bus service should end by 6 p.m. People that cannot afford a car should ride their bikes, or live near work.

    enough for paying people to move around. It’s time for people to be responsible for themselves, get a car, ride a bike or walk. Time to end King County Metro.

    1. Let’s also shut down all the roads at 9 pm. People should take responsibility for themselves and build their own darn roads. Enough with all this socialism!

      1. I think this is great idea, so much money wasted on roads. Like transit, roads should have a span of servicd to extend their lives. Private roads built by local companies and individuals may not be a bad idea.

    2. I encourage you to try riding one of the more popular Seattle routes out of downtown around 10 or 11 o’clock at night (71/72/73,40,49, 358). They are a lot more crowded than you might think. On evenings with big events, you often have to stand to get on them.

      And if everyone attending a weeknight Mariner’s game had no choice to drive to avoid leaving the game early, I guarantee you, you would see the impact in traffic during the evening rush hour before the game if you go anywhere near downtown or a highway leading towards downtown. Drivers attending the game would also find it noticeably more difficult, and expensive, to park.

  8. As I mentioned on another thread, I still think this would be an opportune time for Sound Transit to take over the 255 (between downtown and Kirkland/Totem Lake) and the 271 (in the form of all-day service on the 556). This would give Metro a lot of “free” service hours, without actually representing a real service cut.

    1. Then, ST can have the 255 and 540 cease pulling into the S. Kirkland P&R lot, and then cancel the 255 when U-Link opens. Perfect. :)

      There is a small matter of where ST will find the money to run the 255 without further delaying East Link.

      1. Then delay East Link for a month or two. That’s not a terrible outcome, if it means we can stave off bus cuts for the next 10 years.

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