52 Replies to “Visualizing Cuts to Seattle’s Frequent Transit Network”

    1. So this kind of kneejerk is the inevitable consequence of years of emphasizing once-a-day commuter scheduling over any kind of rational, frequent network:
      http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/03/31/seattles-frequent-transit-network-before-and-after-the-impending-metro-bus-cuts#comment-19175219 (with bonus “I don’t know shit about the streetcar but I’m told it will be double-plus-helpful” stupidity).

      Anyone with a stronger urge to protect Metro’s present network than I have want to take a crack at rebutting the myriad ignorance over at Slog?

  1. Great graphics Oran. At first glance it looks like a lot of core service is going away, but you have to remember the comparision is your definition of what routes make it on the map.
    “This is the update to my Seattle Frequent Transit Map that reflects the big Fall 2012 Metro service change. It presents a general overview of transit service in the city of Seattle that operates every 15 minutes or less during weekdays, from 6 am to 6 pm.”
    Yes, it will be painful for many, and transit should be growing in service and ridership – and not continue the saga of ‘The Perils of Pauline’ every year or so.
    I hope Metro gets their bailout in 3 weeks, but the larger discussion on growing transit in a sustainable way has yet to begin in earnest Olympia.

    1. He’s following Metro’s definition of frequent service. There are many arguments about what span is optimal (I’d say until 10pm seven days a week), but for the sake of a useful map and not confusing people, it’s better to be consistent with Metro’s definition.

  2. One quick observation: One streetcar (SLU) gets chopped, while another (FHSC) starts up frequently.

    1. FHSC is funded by Sound Transit, so it isn’t affected. (Or, at least, Sound Transit is requiring Seattle to run it frequently.) And, if you needed to pick one streetcar or another, I’d go with the FHSC – it’s longer than the SLUT and isn’t duplicated by any other route like the SLUT is by the 40 and 70.

      1. Yeah, it makes no sense, but that’s what you get when you keep your buckets of money separate. Such separation helps us too, protecting core investments such as Link from meddling or poaching to save bus service, but it also gets you nonsensical planning, such as a half-hourly SLUT alongside a frequent FHSC.

      2. The whole cuts are nonsensical. Half-hourly SLUT is ridiculous no matter how you slice it. Metro is trying to protect its recently-frequent corridors as much as it can, but it can only go so far.

      3. If push comes to shove, I would rather see a more frequent SLUT running fewer hours per day, or days per week, than trying to maintain the current span of service with half-hourly headways. At 30 minutes headways, the SLUT is next to useless.

  3. Thanks for making this.

    One thing that jumps out at me, which I hadn’t realized before, is how devastating these cuts are for Fremont. Today, Fremont has 15-minute service to downtown, the U-District, Phinney/Greenwood, and Ballard. In the new map, every single one of these routes is gone. If you squint, there’s still 6 buses an hour between Fremont and downtown, but I have a hard time believing that there’s any way to synchronize the new 16-Dexter with the 40-Westlake. SLU also loses frequent service on Dexter and Westlake.

    This is particularly astonishing when you consider the fact that Fremont is one of Seattle’s densest employment centers outside downtown. (Likewise SLU, though at this point, SLU basically is downtown.)

    My point is not to impugn Metro, but to highlight the ridiculousness that one of the country’s most prosperous and fastest-growing cities is facing such devastating cuts to its transit network, and to remind everyone of the vital importance of passing Prop 1.

    1. Given that today’s 26/28/40 (8 buses per hour) are at or above capacity at some times of day, I would very much hope that Metro would at least make an effort to space 16 and 40 departures evenly. That could be done on both ends without too much difficulty. The problem, of course, is that southbound neither the 16 nor the 40 is particularly reliable before reaching Fremont.

      1. Were neither of you here in 2007, when the Fremont Bridge was closed to all heavy vehicles and downtown Fremont had precisely zero transit service in any direction?

        It was not so good.

      2. Trying to schedule two routes to achieve combined 15-minute headways, when each one is just as likely to be 10 minutes late as on-time, is impossible. Now matter how you shuffle the schedule, it still won’t work.

    2. This is intentional and Seattle politics at its best, always apply cuts to your largest and most vocal base first, ( transit heavy neighborhoods, womens services children/schools ) in order to gin up support the fastest.

      1. Even if the cuts are done proportionally, the areas that today have more service will have more service cut than areas that today have less service. Those places have high service levels because they have high demand for the service.

      2. Metro didn’t just pull these cuts out of a hat or draw up a map for maximum political impact. They came from an established set of service guidelines. The adoption of those guidelines by the King County Council was the biggest win for good transit planning in Seattle in at least 20 years.

  4. I notice that the 2 reroute from Seneca to Madison happens. At this point, will that happen with or without the cuts?

    1. Not clear. I doubt Metro has any interest in making it clear for the time being, because the usual suspects on First Hill have stated that they won’t vote for Prop 1 if they think the 2 will be moved regardless.

      1. Dumb question: Who are the usual suspects and why do they care so much? Does this go back to the “Why We Restructure” post on route 2?

      2. Yes, that post sums it up pretty well. There is a group of neighborhood activists who are dead set against any change, of any nature, to the current Route 2 alignment and schedule. They see change as “taking our service away,” even if the effect of the change is to create a faster and more frequent corridor just two blocks away. They have said in community meetings things to the effect of “We can see that Metro is determined to take our service away no matter what, so why should we vote for a tax?” So far Metro has thankfully avoided any explicit promise that Route 2 will stay the same if Prop 1 passes, but I worry they may be forced to make such a promise before the election.

    2. We don’t know. Right now, Metro is (correctly) focused on the 17% scenario. If that doesn’t happen, I think Metro will still want to do many of these restructures, but they may take longer.

    3. They had better not make any such promises.

      Metro’s gravest Prop 1 threat does not come from a few dozen loudmouth cranks who can’t fathom not being planted in a single traffic-choked seat to the Seattle Center. Metro’s threat comes from the on-the-fence voters who look at the agency’s history of every-2-year sales-tax begging, ongoing structural unsoundness, and easily-falsifiable claims to have eradicated redundancy, slow operational habits, and waste.

      I say this as someone who has seriously considered voting against Prop 1, not out of malice, but because there are healthy consolidations and smart routing revisions to be found even amidst the inarguable bad news on the cuts map. (Just look at Queen Anne, the all-hour 73, and the 106. And, of course, the 2.) As part of a long-term vision of a Chicago-style network of core 5-to-7-minute routes with low-dwell mandates, the map on the right has better bones than the one that claims to be “frequent” today.

      Frankly, my vote for Prop 1 was only guaranteed when the anti-transit crazies unleashed their torrent of lies, and their impositions of regressive suburban ideals upon anyone who might be critical of Metro for other reasons. I don’t want those bedfellows.

      But if Metro starts explicitly pledging to keep their brokenness intact… who knows?

      1. The proposed 73 restructure is not a change for better. While it might be slightly better for the specific trip pair of the Ave to downtown, for any 71/72/73 user headed downtown from north of the U-district, it is downright awful. Roosevelt residents will have to endure the 15-minute-mininum slog down the Ave both directions of every trip. Today’s riders of the 71 and 72 in Wedgewood or Lake City will now have forced transfer. In the southbound direction, the frequency of the new 73 will make the transfer not too big of a deal. But, in the northbound direction, the unreliability of the 73, combined with the connecting route being half-hourly at best, make the transfer extremely painful – one would essentially have to plan around a random wait of 0-30 minutes in the U-district every single day.

        If we can hobble along with our current network for 2 more years, these problem could be greatly mitigated, as a Link->bus transfer would be a lot less slow and unreliable than a bus->bus transfer.

      2. Trying (and failing) to resist mentioning the irony of Mr. Everyone Can Walk A Mile To Transit getting bent out of shape because his closest one-seat route is on the chopping clock.

        Yes, of course it would be better if we were looking at one or more ultra-frequent east-west buses to meet up with an ultra-frequent north-south consolidated bus. And I would personally prefer a Roosevelt straight-shot over the University Way zig-zag.

        But this would give the U-District and those further north (including transferers) a frequent and infinitely more reliable express route, avoiding the Fairview muddle at all times, years earlier than they’ll get it waiting for Link. That’s quite the luminescent silver lining.

  5. This is an amazing visualization and really makes it impact of the upcoming vote quite clear.

    I hope you don’t mind, I ran this through Bitly to get a “custom” short URL since the Dropbox link is a bit unwieldy: http://bit.ly/metrocuts

    Hopefully someone will find this useful for sticking on signs or what have you.

  6. Oran — great visualization. Really nice work.

    One comment: You may want to change up your starting point a bit. This map includes things that are not cuts dependent so starting with now vs. after cuts requires a bit of user translation – first hill streetcar being an excellent example of that. If you start with “1/1/2015 with or without cuts” the context will be a bit smoother.

    1. The FHSC is there because it will be frequent if there are no cuts but will be reduced to not-frequent with the cuts.

  7. This seems to overstate the cuts for my commute in particular (Fremont to Downtown Seattle). Currently I can either walk up to the north-end of the Aurora Bridge and take the 5, 26X, or 16, or I can walk to 34th and Fremont Ave and take the 26, 28, or 40. After the cuts, my options with be the 5, 26X, or 28X on the Aurora Bridge, or the 16 or 40 from 34th and Fremont Ave. It seems like these routes combined would count as frequent service between Downtown Seattle and Fremont, but according to Orin’s map this service is non-existent.

    This makes me think there are a lot of holes like this missing from Orin’s map.

    1. None of those are frequent service in the cut scenario, and they all use different routes and (except for the 16 and 40) pick up from different stops. Cobbling together a set of options that collectively run often but require choosing from several stops up to a steep half-mile apart isn’t frequent service.

      1. The 5, 26X, and 28X all pick up from the same stops south of the Aurora Bridge currently. Is that changing after these cuts?

      2. I don’t know. Converting the 26X and 28X into full-time routes might trigger a reshuffling of stops on 3rd. But they drop off in very different places north of the bridge. It’s hard to imagine that someone wanting to go to central Fremont would take the 26X in particular, which would drop them off well to the east side of Aurora.

      3. The issue is whether they’re coordinated to have evenly-spaced headways throughout the day. The 26/28, 30/31, 65/75, and 66/67 are paired to give frequent combined service. The 10+11, 43+48, and 30+75 are not coordinated, so one bus may come three minutes after the other and then a 10 or 25 minute gap until the next bus, and that may change at different times of day. Coordinating is difficult, and coordinating one stop may preclude coordinating another; e.g., should the 43 be paired with the 47, 10, or 48? — it’s probably not possible to do all three. And the routes being paired need to have similar punctuality. The 5 runs on a more congested street than the 26X or 28X, so it would likely throw the frequency out of whack.

      4. It’s only a 6-min walk from the 26X drop-off to 35th and Fremont, it’s not bad if you know where you’re going. I’m sure Fremont will retain frequent service to downtown, it’s just hard to show because I don’t think it will all be along one corridor- some on Westlake, some on Dexter, and some on Aurora.

      5. @y’all: Yeah, if you know your way around and have OneBusAway on your phone you can usually find a bus between some part of Fremont and downtown Seattle leaving within the next 5 minutes (until it gets close to midnight and all the buses have to get back to the base before they turn back into pumpkins). The fact that it’s impossible to represent on a simple, legible map indicates that it’s not the sort of simple, legible transit service that’s worth printing on a map or trying to explain to anyone that isn’t going to make the trip pretty much every day.

  8. Where did this map come from? Is there any way to double check this? It shows the 73 having a radically new route. I thought I’d been following this closely and hadn’t hadn’t heard it would be moving more than 10 blocks west, but rather there would be a huge reduction in frequency . . . are you sure about this?

    1. I assume it’s taken from Metro’s page listing route-by-route changes, where the 73’s reroute west is mapped and described. The frequency reduction comes from the 72 and 66 being cut and the 71 being turned into a shuttle – even though the 73 is individually getting a frequency boost, the combined frequency south of the U-District is still dropping.

      Oran did get the 73’s routing around Northgate wrong – he marks it as following the 66’s existing routing, which it probably should, but it actually takes Roosevelt north to Northgate Way before turning south to the TC. The rest of the route, though, is correct.

      1. Roosevelt vs. 5th is a vexing question. The area is not dense enough to support frequent service on both corridors. But each one has a strength and a weakness. Roosevelt goes through the heart of the neighborhood, and has the neighborhood’s largest concentration of multi-family housing and businesses. But it’s impossible to reach Northgate TC from Roosevelt in any sort of sensible way. 5th is at the edge of the neighborhood, and has mostly single-family housing along its length, but has a straight shot to Northgate.

        If I were king, I’d remodel NE 100 St between Roosevelt and 5th to allow buses to use it between Roosevelt and NTC, while maintaining the existing restriction on eastbound car traffic. That would be a not-cheap capital project but it’s the best way to allow a logical path for a frequent route in Maple Leaf.

      2. The proposed new 71 looks a whole like like the existing #61, and if it happens, I am predicting similar ridership.

    2. The 73 would move to Roosevelt (not 5th). The 77 and 373, both peak-only buses, would remain on 15th. 15th would no longer have all-day service — riders would need to walk 1/4 mile west to Roosevelt.

  9. One very powerful counter-argument to those who complain about ever-escalating costs and wondering if all Prop 1 does is kick the can down the road a few more years, is to think about the Link extensions opening up in 2016, (especially) 2021, and 2023. Today’s network spends a great deal of service hours on bus routes that parallel future Link routes. Once these routes are not needed anymore, a great deal of service hours would be saved. In other words, if a 17% cut is going to happen, it will be a lot less painful in 2016 than now, and a lot less painful in 2021 than 2016.

    Which is why for the interim, we need to do everything possible to maintain our existing level of bus service, until Link can come along and take a lot of the pressure off.

    1. This is backward thinking. Once East Link light rail comes on line the East sub-area will be rail poor. Subsidizing operating costs and debt will eat up all the funds currently available for ST Express. And East Link covers only a miniscule fraction of what ST Express does. The major commute corridor to jobs on the Eastside is 405. I’d bet 520 is second or very close to I-90 to Seattle. This is also going to hit Seattle hard too because they currently don’t pay for any of that service. It all comes from the East sub-area since it’s the only one not up to it’s ears in OPEX and or CAPEX paying for trains.

      1. Could you supply the figures, please? Every source I’ve talked to, from Sound Transit reps to Bellevue’s TMP, says that substantial amounts of ST Express will keep running. I would assume they know the numbers better than either of us does.

        Also, even if I take everything you say at face value, it only applies to ST funding – not to King County Metro at all.

      2. Only the 550 and 512 will definitely be cut or truncated, and I assume those hours are part of Link’s budget. It looks like the 554 and all other I-90 routes are headed for truncation, but it’s still up in the air whether the 525 and 522 will be changed at all. But even if they are, the gap is in Metro’s routes, and there’s not much if anything ST Express can do about it. More trips to Redmond won’t help people in northeast Seattle. About the only thing ST could do that would help Seattle would be to increase the 552’s frequency.

      3. The only thing ST is doing for Seattle is the 1st Hill Streetcar. Well, there is that little thing called U-Link ;-) U-Link will definitely take a load off of Metro. It’s about the only rail link that actually makes sense thanks in no small part to the UW and the refusal to let them tunnel under the lab monitoring seismic activity. On the Eastside it’s pretty bleak. East Link is an uber expensive replacement for the 550; except it’s not. It doesn’t serve B’view Way. So who’s going to have to pick up the slack? Metro of course. Then there’s the stations in the middle of muffler town. Who’s going to have to add bus service so that these are good for anything? Metro. ST sucks up half the resources and except for ST Express provides very little of value to the whole of the area it serves.

      4. The 550 runs 15 minutes daytime and 30 minutes evening and Sundays. Link runs every 10 minutes full time. That’s a lot of waiting and scheduling you don’t have to do. It continues express to Redmond which the 550 never did. It not only goes downtown but to a wide swath of Seattle which currently requires a transfer in a congested area. A large part of the metropolitan area will be a one-seat ride or a train-to-train connection away, every 10 minutes, whenever you’re ready to go.

        Having to add a local bus on Bellevue Way is a footnote compared to this vast improvement in mobility. It will cost little compared to a full-length bus route, and it may cost nothing if Metro merely reroutes an existing south Bellevue route. Bellevue Way has gotten an extraordinary privilege having front-door stops on a trunk express, which no other residential neighborhood in Bellevue has. And even if Link ran on Bellevue Way as ST originally wanted, the local bus would still be necessary because Link wouldn’t make all the 550’s stops.

      5. Saying that East Link goes to Redmond is about as disingenuous as the No on Prop 1 propaganda. I terminates at Microsoft in a sliver of Redmond that Bellevue failed to annex. There is zero funding to go the extra mile (OK maybe it’s three miles) to actually get to DT Redmond.

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