There’s much we still don’t know about Metro’s finances and future service levels: Will county sales tax revenues continue to increase? Will the reduction in Metro’s reserves cover next year’s gap in funds? Will Metro go ahead with some of the much-needed network restructures, particularly in northeast Seattle, Kirkland, and south King County? But, whatever the answers to those questions, it does seem certain now that the effect of Prop 1 will overwhelmingly be to expand service in Seattle.
Because that’s a good thing, and I want, at last, to talk about some unambiguously good news, and because I can’t let Frank have all the fun with the Buzzfeed-inspired listicles, here are nine major service improvements (as distinct from capital investments) which, if Prop 1 passes, Seattle could make immediately after money started coming in. All of these ideas require no capital improvements, no new buses, no network changes, no public process, and no coordination with any cities or agencies other than King County Metro, but every single one of them would make Seattle a measurably easier place to live car-free, because all-day and evening frequency is your freedom to move around the city without a car.
- Improve Routes 5, 40, and 41 to 15-minute service on evenings and Sundays. North Seattle is a place where, outside the U-District and RapidRide corridors, usable transit service packs up and leaves at 7 PM every day, not to be seen again until 6 AM the next morning — except on Sunday, where it never puts in an appearance at all. Extending 15-minute headways to 10 PM on these core, high-performing routes in and between Lake City, Greenwood, Northgate and Ballard would revolutionize car-free mobility in the north end, and drive transit use up and car ownership down on future rail corridors.
- Improve Route 120 to 15-minute service on evenings and Sundays, as far as Westwood Village. After RapidRide C, hands-down the next-most-important service in West Seattle is Route 120. Upgrading this route is a little trickier, because Prop 1 money can only be spent on routes with 80% of their stops in Seattle, and about half of the 120 is in Burien. So, we can’t fix the whole thing, but we can fix the connection between the Delridge neighborhood and downtown, and its shopping district at Westwood Village, by adding short-turn trips in the evenings and Sundays that terminate at Westwood Village.
- Improve Routes 10, 12 and 49 to 15-minute service on evenings and Sundays. Pine St, served by Route 10, and future BRT corridor Madison St, served by Route 12, are some of Seattle’s most destination-rich streets outside the Central Business District — and Pine St in particular does not go to bed at 7 PM, so its transit service shouldn’t either. Route 49, which serves Pine St and Broadway, uniquely among all of Metro’s network, runs every 15 minutes at all times except Sunday evening. That’s a detrimental oddity in the network which we could fix in short order.
- Break the through-route of Routes 43 & 44, 7 & 49. In the evenings and on Sundays, buses on Route 43 continue as Route 44 after the U-District, and vice versa; similarly with Routes 7 and 49, which each terminate in downtown during the weekday. These through-routes save Metro money, at the expense of on-time performance. In particular, on Sundays in the summer, between events downtown, boat traffic at the Montlake Bridge, and events in the U-District, Route 44 can be almost unusable. It would tremendously benefit riders if these routes were operated on Sundays, and maybe in the evenings, the way they are during the weekday.
There are, of course, many other improvements that could be made, and I’m aware that this list neglects several important segments of the city. The list above is just a taste of the things that can be done immediately: improvements in other parts of the city will require more homework, and possibly capital work, network changes, or public outreach. But, I want to inject some simplicity into a convoluted debate: Seattle needs more service on core, frequent routes, and Prop 1 could buy us lots of that. Here’s what we can start with.