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.
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.
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.
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.
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.