In the wake of Prop 1’s passage, the City of Seattle finds itself in a position to purchase more bus service. For some bus routes, however, that may be easier said than done.
Consider the 120. Serving White Center and West Seattle along Delridge Way, it claims 7,000 riders in a largely transit-dependent part of town and serves one of 15 designated bus priority corridors in Seattle’s Transit Master Plan. As one of the city’s 10 busiest routes, it would be a good candidate for RapidRide treatment someday.
Despite its popularity, the 120 drops to half-hourly service in the evenings and on Sundays, and would probably benefit from the supplemental funding enabled by the recently-passed Prop. 1. However, since more than 20% of the route’s stops are outside the city limits, the 120 is technically ineligible for Prop. 1 money. This has caused some legitimate concern from West Seattle residents:
After city/cnty guests leave @wstcoalition -co-chair Helmick says Route 120's ineligibility for Prop 1 $ is "obscene"; brainstorming ensues
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) November 12, 2014
If the City of Seattle would like to improve service on the 120, they have a few options:
- Create a “short turn” version of the route that doesn’t stray too far from the city line. Some trips would end at the Burien Transit Center and others end closer to Seattle (possibly at the layover space at 15th Ave SW and SW Roxbury in White Center)
- Find a way to use some of the $3M in Prop. 1 “regional partnership” funds to partner with Burien or the County, though it’s not clear that additional service on the 120 is the highest priority for those funds
- Convince Burien to provide matching funds for the rest of the route
- Annex White Center (!)
Of all of these, the first is probably the most straightforward. Burien City Manager Kamuron Gurol told me via email that his constituents had not expressed significant desire for more service on the 120, but were instead focused on the potential loss of service on the commuter express routes 121 and 122, both of which were spared the axe in the recently-improved budget.
A shortened 120 is not optimal. Even setting aside potential rider confusion, a 120 that terminated at, say, Westwood Village would be roughly 1/3 shorter than the normal 120. Nonetheless, it may be the path of least resistance for providing more frequent service between the Delridge area and Downtown.
And thus we get our first lesson in the interesting budget and planning games that will start to happen in the wake of Prop. 1. The chess board just got a little more complicated.