Note: This is the third in a series of four posts describing the details of Metro’s proposed “Alternative 1″ restructure, which would take effect at the same time as the planned March 2016 opening of Sound Transit’s University Link.  “Alternative 1″ is the more ambitious of Metro’s two U-Link proposals.  Our overview of both proposals, and our short description of the minimum-change “Alternative 2,” is here.  Although these posts are under my byline, they owe a huge amount to the hard work of the entire STB staff, and especially Zach Shaner.

Revised SR-520 routes (others not shown).  Map by Metro.  Note "255X" in legend should read "256."
Revised routes (others not shown) on the Eastside. Map by Metro. Note “255X” in legend should read “256.”

While Alternative 1 brings significant change everywhere it reaches, its effects are most dramatic in the greater SR-520 corridor.  Almost every Metro and Sound Transit route that currently crosses the Evergreen Point Bridge would see some change, and a significant portion of commuters and off-peak riders alike will end up with new routines.

The vision is compelling: to serve a large array of commuter destinations on each side, with enough peak-hour frequency that lots of cross-lake commutes that are painful today become easy.  Most connections will involve same-stop transfers or Link transfers with very short waits.  Given the extremely peak-centric (although bidirectional) nature of cross-lake ridership, focusing first on the peak network makes sense.  But, more than any other part of the restructure, making this vision actually work will require excellent execution by both Metro and Sound Transit.  And the Alternative 1 proposal offers mixed signals in that respect.  Some aspects of it are compelling right now; others may require refinement if the agencies are to maximize SR 520’s potential.  More below the jump.

Before going into the weeds of route-by-route details, a table of the destinations to be connected across SR-520 under Alternative 1, both at peak hours and all day:

SR 520 Destinations Table

You’ll notice several major Seattle destinations (South Lake Union! Uptown! Roosevelt!) that have never before been accessible from SR-520 before without an additional transfer, and a few others that get served far more frequently than today.  What’s more, every peak route in this list except for the 311 and 268 is bidirectional, so frequent service on a broad array of trips is available to forward and reverse commuters alike.  Beyond the SR-520 routes, the extremely frequent Link connection at UW Station also opens up easy trips to downtown, Capitol Hill, and large parts of southeast Seattle.

West side routing of SR-520 routes (others not shown).  Map by Metro.  Note "255X" in legend should read "256."
West side routing of Eastside routes (others not shown). Map by Metro. Note “255X” in legend should read “256.”

So what is needed to make this frequent, multi-destination utopia actually work?  Two things: easy transfers, given that many more riders will be transferring, and reasonably fast trips.  In most cases, the network delivers on both of these goals.  But there are a few issues that absolutely need the agencies’ attention.

UW Station Link Transfers—Make Them Better!

In our Northeast Seattle post, we mentioned how essential good Link transfers are if Alternative 1 is going to work well.  This applies even more to SR-520 bus service.

Currently, during peak hours, roughly 21 buses per hour (all articulated) convey commuters between SR-520 and downtown, on six routes.  Under Alternative 1, that number will fall to roughly 14 buses per hour on three routes (256, 268, and 545), with all of the other cross-lake capacity redirected to UW Station (and other Seattle destinations).  Today’s downtown buses run very full, so there is not nearly enough capacity under Alternative 1 for all downtown commuters to take the bus all the way.   Metro is counting on many downtown commuters transferring to and from Link at peak hour.  If they don’t, the new 256 and 545 will face massive overloads, and the peak-hour system will break down.

Off-peak the change is even starker.  The only two all-day routes currently serving downtown from SR-520, the 255 and the 545, would both be changed to serve UW Station during off-peak hours.  Link transfers would be unavoidable for off-peak riders between downtown and the north Eastside.

Purely from a travel time perspective, the transfer to Link should be a good change for riders.  Link will travel between Westlake and UW Station in just 6 to 8 minutes.  That’s much shorter than current bus travel times, especially at peak hours when northbound I-5 congestion snarls SR-520 buses.  But, of course, commuters have to take the mechanics of the transfer itself into account, not just travel time.

And Alternative 1’s Link transfer plan is not ideal.  All SR-520 routes serving UW Station (except for the 255) would stop along Pacific Street in both directions, requiring one street crossing for inbound passengers and two street crossings for outbound passengers, along with probably 2 to 3 minutes of walking.  Metro tells us it plans to move the Pacific St bus stops closer to UW Station, but that alone won’t change the necessity for so many street crossings.

The University of Washington in coordination with Metro and Sound Transit should work together to get transferring riders closer to the station in both directions.  STB’s Adam Bejan Parast proposed a great set of ideas toward this end a few months ago.  The three should identify a solution like Adam’s—even if it costs a few parking spots, and even if it’s not ready the day U-Link opens.

Montlake: Kirkland Riders’ Enemy

Alternative 1 Route 255.  Map by Metro.
Alternative 1 Route 255. Map by Metro.

Route 255 riders transferring to Link would have it a bit better, because the 255 would continue north on Montlake (to Children’s Hospital) rather than west on Pacific like all the other buses.  The inbound 255 stop would be right next to the station, and the outbound stop would require just one street crossing.  But being on Montlake has its own problem.  In the afternoons and on nice weekend days, southbound Montlake becomes extremely congested from 45th Street all the way through the UW Station area.  Metro has not addressed how it will keep route 255 reliability at acceptable levels despite the Montlake congestion.  One suggestion we have heard from multiple sources is to schedule a short layover (like other “W” time points in the Metro system) for route 255 at the southbound stop opposite UW Station.  This would make trips a bit longer for through riders between Children’s and the Eastside, but would help reliability.

Freeway Station Transfers: Let the 271 Share the Magic

One transfer essential to this network is as easy as transfers get: the same-stop transfer at WSDOT’s new, comfy Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point freeway stations.  Both stations are well-lit, safe, accessible for riders with disabilities, and sheltered from rain and wind. But one of the key routes in the Alternative 1 network isn’t planned to serve either station.  Route 271, and its new through-route to Seattle route 45 (the current 48N), would require transfers in the U-District from some SR-520 routes and be completely inaccessible from others.  Why? The 271 enters and exits SR-520 from the 84th Avenue NE ramps, which are too close to Evergreen Point Station for the bus to move safely across SR-520 traffic.  This has been a sore point since the new stations opened, and wouldn’t get any better under Alternative 1.

The solution is to take the 271 out of Medina/Clyde Hill, where ridership is relatively low.  Instead, it should use either Bellevue Way or 112th Ave NE between Bellevue Transit Center and SR-520.  112th Ave NE has the advantage of being the fastest route between the transit center and the SR-520 HOV ramps at 108th Ave NE.  But on balance I favor sending the 271 along Bellevue Way, for two reasons.  First, it would serve a multifamily housing area immediately north of downtown Bellevue, while 112th Ave NE has only very-low-density office parks.  Second, the Bellevue Way routing would preserve the rather useful direct connection today’s 271 offers between the U-District and Bellevue Square.

Service within Clyde Hill could be mostly replaced by a reroute and extension of route 246, which currently terminates in east Clyde Hill, to serve 92nd Ave NE and the Yarrow Point Freeway Station.

Can The 311 Possibly Be Fast Enough?

Alternative 1 Route 311. Map by Metro.

Alternative 1’s new South Lake Union and Uptown connections are offered through revised peak-only route 311, described in more detail below.  It would run about every 10 minutes, only in the peak direction.  The route in Seattle (shown in blue at left) would be a bit circuitous.  It would exit SR 520 at Montlake, allow for UW Station transfers, and then cross the southern edge of the U-District to enter the I-5 Express Lanes at 42nd.  It would exit at Mercer Street, which it would use all the way to Uptown.  This routing would create an Eastside/SLU/Uptown connection that has never existed before, and also a new peak-hour U-District connection to SLU and Uptown.

But it would take a long time, because of the trip through the U-District.  Back-of-the-napkin math tells me the morning trip between Evergreen Point and SLU could take 20 minutes under normal traffic conditions, with the SLU-Evergreen Point afternoon trip taking even longer because of congestion near the Montlake Bridge.  It’s plausible that taking Link from UW Station to Westlake, and transferring to SLU service there, could be equally fast.

Metro is forced to use this routing because buses cannot safely move across I-5 in either direction between SR-520 and the Mercer St ramps.  I think Metro should also evaluate other routing choices  which would avoid the U-District and could help a with downtown capacity around the edges.  Inbound, buses could exit at Stewart like other downtown buses, but then turn right from Stewart onto Denny to serve SLU.  Outbound, the Denny routing is unappealing because of the extreme congestion there, but there are other options both north and south of Denny that could work, with the bus entering I-5 at Olive.  These options would reduce U-Link and U-District connectivity, but they have the potential to meaningfully speed Eastside-SLU trips.

Route-By-Route Details

As in our Northeast Seattle post, this section describes the changes in terms of the current routes serving SR-520, and how they will change for each group of riders.  (We also mention three Eastside-only routes which are changing to accommodate revised SR-520 or SR-522 service.) For further information and maps, check out Metro’s route details page.

Route 207 (new).  This hourly route would replace the deleted, low-ridership segment of route 271 between Eastgate and Issaquah, with an extension from downtown Issaquah to Issaquah Highlands.

Route 235.  This route will be extended north from Totem Lake to Brickyard P&R along 124th Ave NE, replacing deleted segments of routes 252, 255, and 257.

Route 238.  This route will be extended from Bothell to Woodinville via North Creek, replacing the deleted segment of route 372.  As a Sounding Board member reportedly said: “Go home, milk run, you’re drunk.”

Route 242.  Deleted.  Green Lake riders would use route 542 (which will continue serving Green Lake during peak periods).  Northgate riders would transfer at Evergreen Point between route 555 and route 542 or 545.

Route 252.  Deleted.  Replaced by more frequent service on route 311, which would add a stop at the Totem Lake Freeway Station.  Local riders in Kingsgate would need to transfer at Totem Lake from route 235.  Route 311 would serve SLU and Uptown, not downtown, so downtown passengers would need to transfer to Link at UW Station.

Route 255.  This route would be revised at all days and hours to serve UW Station, U-Village, and Children’s Hospital rather than downtown Seattle.  During peak hours, downtown riders boarding south of Kirkland Transit Center would still have a one-seat ride downtown on new route 256.  Off-peak downtown passengers and all passengers boarding north of Kirkland Transit Center would need to transfer to and from U-Link at UW Station.

Route 256 (new).  This route would be a bidirectional peak-only route between Kirkland Transit Center and downtown, running every 10-15 minutes.  Downtown, it would use surface streets rather than the tunnel.

Route 257.  Deleted.  Replaced by more frequent service at route 311, which would add stops at Brickyard P&R and Totem Lake Freeway Station.  Local riders in Kingsgate would need to transfer at Totem Lake from revised routes 235 or 238, or at Brickyard P&R from routes 235 or 236.  Route 311 would serve SLU and Uptown, not downtown, so downtown passengers would need to transfer to Link at UW Station.

Route 268.  Unchanged.

Route 271.  Truncated to Eastgate, where half of trips end today.  Riders between Issaquah and Eastgate would use new route 207.  In the U-District, through-routed with revised route 45 to Green Lake, Greenwood, and Crown Hill.  Would still not serve Evergreen Point Station.

Route 277.  Deleted.  Riders between Kingsgate and UW would use far more frequent, all-day route 255.  Riders in Rose Hill would transfer to route 311 at Totem Lake Freeway Station.  Riders between Houghton P&R and the U-District would use revised route 540.

Route 311.  This route would be heavily revised both on the Eastside and in Seattle.  It would become about twice as frequent, running about every 10 minutes throughout peak hours.  On the Eastside, the route would add a stop at Totem Lake Freeway Station, to accommodate passengers from deleted routes 252 and 257.

Route 540.  This infrequent peak-only route would be revised to serve Houghton P&R (and use I-405 south of Houghton), and skip South Kirkland P&R.  South Kirkland P&R riders would use revised route 255.

Route 542.  This route would become an all-day route with 15-minute frequency.  Most trips would be truncated in the U-District, but peak-hour trips would continue to serve Green Lake P&R.  In Redmond, all trips would be extended to Bear Creek P&R, and afternoon trips would exit the freeway to serve Overlake Transit Center the same way route 545 does today.

Route 545.  This route would become peak-only, although Sound Transit has told us that “peak hour” would be longer than normal for this route.  Off-peak riders would transfer between revised route 542 and Link at UW Station.

Routes 555/556.  Unchanged.

128 Replies to “Alternative 1: SR-520 Cross-Lake Service”

  1. Out of the three affected areas described so far, this is the most concerning to me. If UW doesn’t get off the dime and agree to some changes, I feel like this is going to sting no matter what Metro and Sound Transit do. Right now the inbound northbound stop that routes like the 44 and 48 and 542 use is congested. Drivers are very inconsistent about letting passengers off just before the driveway when one or two buses are stacked up at the official stops. This causes consternation for people who need to get to the 44 that is always visible just ahead at the red light if only the pax could get off of the bus to catch it. It also adds another minute or two of needless waiting for the people who are getting off at UWMC when there’s a long, virtually unused stretch of sidewalk right there, ready for the side-walking.

    Pushing more foot traffic into that without changes is going to be a beating. Even if Metro moves the stop back behind the right-turn “driveway,” that will still bunch up buses and move the same problem of passengers being let off (or not, as the driver decides) wherever possible.

    In short: come on UW, get it together and play nice. You’re an urban university with an urban campus; act like one. (I still don’t understand how a state-owned university gets to dictate street use policy to a code city but maybe that’s just my background in other states’ universities having the final say over what happens inside their own curbs but the public ROW is the domain of the city.)

    1. UW and the Port of Seattle are examples of public agencies thwarting good transit service by forcing compromises that limit connectivity with Link stations. The SeaTac Garage station is up to a half-mile away from the furthest baggage claim carousels, and the UW station is located in area with minimal walk shed. In order for this station to work it will have to provide easy transfers for buses, especially those crossing 520. I agree that UW is key here. It was UW that forced this lousy station location in the first place. It’s now their obligation to make the station work as well as possible for Eastside commuters, even if it means losing some prime parking near the stadium.

      It’s bad enough that Sound Transit and Metro have to fight the likes of Kemper Freeman and Save Our Valley. They shouldn’t also have to fight other public entities which in theory are supposed to have the public good, not protecting institutional prerogatives, as their primary goal. The SeaTac Parking Garage Station and the Husky Stadium Station are examples of billion dollar decisions that did not serve the public well. It’s ultimately the obligation of both public agencies to make those stations work as well as possible in spite of their compromised locations.

    2. The westbound stop at Pacific St. and Pacific St. and Pacific Place is especially bad in this regard. Fortunately, Metro is very much interested in moving the stop slightly to the east, to be closer to the station. They are also interested in making the stop long enough for two articulated buses to load and unload passengers simultaneously, even if the means ripping out some of the just-put-in landscaping.

      That said, I have a strong hunch that for inbound passengers, simply getting off the bus at Montlake and Shelby will prove faster for Link access than any stop along Pacific St. It’s only slightly more walking, but avoids the light at Montlake and Pacific St. completely, both on the bus and on foot. (Although the Pacific St. stop is still quite a bit better for people getting off the train).

      1. Riders who get off at Shelby & Montlake still need to navigate the traffic signal at Pacific St. and Montlake against traffic going into the stadium parking lot. It’s probably a place that amenable to jaywalking, compared to crossing Montlake or Pacific St.

      2. True, but the volume of cars going into and out of the stadium parking lot is virtually nil, so you can usually walk right across, regardless of whether the signal is flashing a walk sign or a red hand. The way the light timing works, most of the time the red hand is on, cars coming out of the parking lot actually have a red light anyway.

        This is not the case for crossing Montlake or Pacific, where traffic is much busier. There, you pretty much have to wait for walk signal to get across safely.

    3. This is where the mayor of the biggest city in Washington needs to step up. This is what he ran on (being able to get cross-agency cooperation). The city, state and county need to get together and solve the problem. It really isn’t that hard. We are talking about a handful of parking spaces, maybe a traffic light or two, and that is it. Just because Sound Transit dropped the ball (by not providing a simple stop at the intersection of 520 and Link) does not mean every other *public* agency involved should do the same.

    4. As an employee of the UW that has recently gotten involved in some green team initiatives, if anyone has any suggestions about what I can do to help convince the UW to play ball, even in the smallest of ways, I’d love to hear them. I have some small ideas, but the wisdom of this particular crowd would far exceed my own.

  2. There are a couple of problems I noticed in the post. In the table of frequencies, it says Eastgate and Bellevue College are served with four peak hour trips per hour. But that leaves out 555 and 556 which add two trips per hour. The 555 serves the TC in the morning and the 556 serves the freeway station in the afternoon.

    In the route description of the 235, the sentance is incomplete. I am left hanging, wondering what comes after ‘and’.

    1. Fixed the 235 issue, thanks. The correction to the table will have to wait a bit longer.

    2. Another note missed in the route-by-route summary – under alternative 1, the 271 gains frequency, with Saturday daytime and early evening improving to every 15 minutes. Also, if you read closely, new 271 runs quite a bit later in evening than the current 271, with the last trip moved from 10 PM to midnight, 7 days a week.

      The improvement in span should definitely be called out, since you really have to dig through Metro’s fact sheet to see it.

  3. When I was looking at the changes on Friday, I didn’t look at the details closely and hadn’t realized that route 311 would use I-5 to get beteen the U District and Mercer St. I had assumed from the map segment you showed from Metro’s Eastside map that it would take the University Bridge and Eastlake. Using the express lanes should make it tolerably fast. It also suggest that when (if?) SR-520 is rebuilt and there exists a direct access ramp to the express lanes, it could take that path instead. Unless it would include a death-defying weave like the mainline does today.

    1. The obvious answer to the 311 problem westbound is Roanoke.

      Westbound/southbound exit 520 on Roanoke/I-5, stay in the right lane. Turn left onto Roanoke, turn left onto Boylston, stay right to enter the freeway in the Mercer exit lane.

      Eastbound/northbound Olive Way will have to do, but getting there from Mercer will be no fun.

      I’m wondering why they think that people from the East Side want to go the South Queen Anne anyway. There’s hardly any “there” there compared to the area developing around Westlake and Denny. The route should turn south on Westlake to serve the north part of the Denny Triangle. And perhaps that’s the way to get to Olive. Have eastbound/northbound buses start at Mercer and Fairview in the afternoon (right where the deadhead would end; how nice). It would then follow the morning routing west to Westlake and then south to Denny Way and a block into the triangle, then turn on Ninth to get to Olive Way.

      In fact, the morning loop could be identical, including a discharge stop on Ninth just southeast of Westlake then running down to Olive to get on the freeway to go back to Brickyard.

      This would “equalize” the amount of street running for all folks in the service area. If a person works near Fairview and Mercer she or he would have a morning commute entirely on freeways, but would have to go through the whole rest of the loop in the afternoon. A person getting off at Westlake and Republican would ride half the first half of the loop in the morning and the second half in the afternoon. And a person working at Amazon would ride the discharge loop in the morning and then have no stops in the afternoon. Of course they’d all share the afternoon delays south of Ninth and Westlake.

      Grant, doing this removes the utility of running across the south end of the UW campus on Pacific. Folks using this bus would have to change at Evergreen Point to a a bus headed into campus, but they have to do that today or change at Montlake.

      1. The 311 Mercer route is odd. Agree that Westlake would serve more workers. The biggest employer on Mercer west of Aurora is probably the Gates Foundation, but Gates people living on the Eastside would still be served. Walking along Mercer (with nice new sidewalks) to get to Westlake is probably better than connecting via downtown as it stands today.

      2. It occurs to me that the 271+311 would be Bill and Melinda’s bus, although the walk up the hill and over to 84th NE would be a bit of a hike.

      3. It’d be easier for them to walk right to Evergreen Point Station (since the golf course is in the way between their place and 84th), but I’ve never seen them waiting there for a bus ;).

    2. While I admire Anandakos’s clever “solution” to the 311 problem, I can’t help but think that everyone here is missing the point. You don’t have to ride the 311 from one end to the other. No one is suggesting that the 48 needs a shortcut, just because you can’t get from the C. D. to Loyal Heights very quickly (the obvious answer is to have it head over to the freeway, then exit at 85th ….). Maybe the 311 is too long, and too unreliable, and should be split. But from what I can tell, it provides one of the few direct trips to South Lake Union or Uptown. In other words, someone could ride it the whole way (if the seats are comfy) but generally speaking, I expect something like this:

      1) Woodinville — People get on.
      2) Kirkland — Some people get off, but more get on.
      3) Husky Stadium — Lots of people get off.
      4) Campus Parkway (or nearby) — Lots of people get on, some get off.
      5) South Lake Union — Lots of people get off, but some get on.
      6) Uptown — End of the line, everyone gets off.

      From what I can tell, the big, exciting thing about the route is not that it provides service from the Eastside to South Lake Union, but that it provides UW service to South Lake Union, or frankly, that it provides service through South Lake Union. Again, correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the only run that goes from the north end to South Lake Union via the freeway and Mercer. It is the only bus route that goes along that part of Mercer. Maybe that is crazy, but I find it exciting. This means I could take a bus to the U-District, and have a reasonably quick trip to South Lake Union or Uptown. It means that if I’m at on South Lake Union, I can get to Uptown (or somewhere in between) fairly quickly. This is one of the few buses that follows the predominant driving pattern, but has the advantage of being much faster, because the express lanes are HOV only. Maybe this is too slow, and too unreliable, but it is faster than driving, which is a big win to me.

      1. A few thoughts:

        – In Alternative 1, routes 64 and 66 will also serve SLU via the Mercer exit (although they will turn left onto Fairview).
        – Metro has said the U-District routing is there because the 520/Mercer transition is impossible, and the U-District/SLU connection is a side benefit. The 311 really doesn’t go through (non-dorm) residential parts of the U-District.
        – There is a lot of Eastside-SLU commuter demand these days. It’s easy to see if you ride Eastside-downtown routes at peak hour.
        – No one will get off the bus at Kingsgate… the stops there are strictly P&R stops. On the Eastside, the new 311 is strictly for P&R riders. There are a few residences within walking distance of each P&R, but not many.

      2. Fair enough, except “The 311 really doesn’t go through (non-dorm) residential parts of the U-District.” First off, so what? Maybe a student has an internship at South Lake Union. Besides, if you consider where the bus goes (42nd) you connect to a lot of other buses as well as plenty of people within walking distance. That might not have been the purpose of the original route, but that is why I like it. Mainly though, I could see running that route more during the day, even if it runs only when the express lanes are with it. The Mercer piece could be useful all day. We just spent a boat load of money (supposedly) making Mercer less of a mess, so let’s take advantage of it. I still don’t see anything that exists now (or in any of the proposals) that gets someone quickly from South Lake Union to Uptown. Folks are supposed to head downtown (or at least to Denny) which to me is a waste. According to Google, it takes about 30 minutes to get from Fairview and Mercer to Queen Anne Avenue and Mercer at at 8:00 AM, if traveling by transit. It takes about 25 if walking (and three if you hail a cab). That just doesn’t seem right.

        Again, it probably makes sense to chop this up, but UW to South Lake Union sounds great, and east/west on Mercer sounds great too.

      3. Oh, and I just realized that neither the 64 or 66 serves the U-District. Since the UW is way bigger than the other areas (Northgate, Roosevelt, etc.) I can’t but think that Metro decided to kill two birds with one stone here (and give both east side riders and U-District riders a quick ride to and through South Lake Union).

        By the way, won’t this also be the fastest way from the U-District to Uptown? The alternative is to go downtown first, then backtrack. If you take one of the other express buses (e. g. 73X) then you will be no faster (since you hit the same, if not more traffic). You might be faster with link, but for the next five years, you have to get from the residential area (around 42nd) to Husky Stadium (which, even if these changes happen, won’t be trivial).

        In general, I like this, the only thing that scares me is that it will be another “8” — a bus that is extremely popular, because it is where people want to go, but it is stuck in traffic, and there is no great alternative.

      4. Agreed on all counts. The current trip from U-District to Uptown is the not-totally-direct 32, which replaced the more direct but much more traffic-prone 30S.

        It remains to be seen how the final Mercer will do during rush hours. Fortunately, the Alt 1 311 would be going the opposite direction from the very heaviest traffic on all but the easternmost couple of blocks (where the Amazon commute mess is).

  4. Just some things I noticed:

    You say that there will be 12 buses/hour serving downtown in the peak, split between 255 and 545, but I also see 268 in the route table as serving downtown.

    “This routing would not create an Eastside/SLU/Uptown connection that has never existed before, and also a new peak-hour U-District connection to SLU and Uptown.” Would *not*?

    And finally, “Route 235. This route will be extended north from Totem Lake to Brickyard P&R along 124th Ave NE, replacing the deleted segment of routes 255 and .”

    1. Fixed all three, thanks. It’s easy to forget the 268 is there. I’m always a bit surprised today when it’s the first bus that shows up at Evergreen Point.

  5. Route 545 Off-peak riders would transfer between revised route 542 and Link at UW Station.

    This is a terrible idea. Off peak, 545’s scheduled time from Montlake to 5th & Pine is 11 min. I don’t have any historical data to back it up, but since at least one insurance company believes mid-day is the safest time to drive I imagine that’s a pretty reliable time. Further, Google Maps says 7 min without traffic.

    Link will take 6 minutes from Husky Stadium to Westlake. From 520 at Montlake to Husky Stadium is .4 miles. Should be able to drive that in 1-2 min. Which means there’s only 4 minutes left to account for the time to walk from the bus to the platform and wait for the train. This is a lose lose for riders by forcing a transfer and making the trip longer.

    1. The 545 would run an extended but undetermined peak period, something like 5-10:30am and 2-7pm, leaving only about ~4 hours of midday service requiring the Link transfer. I’m not sure if that softens your point (inconveniencing few) or makes it more salient (unnecessary illegibility for a short mid-day period), though. Inbound PM 545 riders who live on Capitol Hill will probably want to ride the 542 and make a transfer to Link anyway, the walk down from CHS being far better than the walk up from Stewart/Denny.

    2. The biggest downside to transfers is that the theoretical time savings from extra frequency is eaten up by transfer time or a longer walk. Frequency is not a magical solution. For anyone with luggage, shopping bags, small children, or who can’t walk fast, the transfer is going to be even worse.

      On a related note, how are fare inspectors going to work this segment of Link, which I expect will be rather crowded? Maybe set up checkpoints periodically at CHS and UW station exits? Otherwise, with the crowds and short travel times it would be fairly easy to ride free between UW Station and CHS or downtown with only 2-4 inspectors only hitting certain trains. Or maybe just don’t even try, accept that there will be a certain percentage of dodgers but most people will be honest, and avoid the extra wages.

    3. The 545 requires ~2.5 service hours per round trip, while the proposed 542 would require roughly 1.5 service hours per round trip. One hour per trip adds up really quickly, so while Alternative 1 results in slower midday trips for many riders this loss is theoretically balanced by the increased peak frequency and improved reliability made possible by the truncation.

      If you keep midday and evening service on the 545, the hours have to come from somewhere. What’s your proposal?

    4. You would have a point if most 545 riders were actually going Downtown, but they’re not. The forced Link transfer is arguably an improvement for most riders. The 545 gets stuck on Stewart at all hours, so its Downtown reliability is awful. Plus, while it may force some to make two transfers, they’ll be getting to/from 3rd Avenue faster in actuality to make their transfers to other destinations.

      1. searebel and Sam, I think both of you may be correct. In the AM peak most inbound 545 riders are going Downtown to their places of work but in the PM peak most inbound riders are Microsoft workers who are likely returning to their residences throughout Seattle.

      2. Fair point, EB. But then that makes LRT even a better option. I-5 southbound is a cesspool in the morning.

  6. I think the final sentence of the first paragraph has an extra “not”. As it stands it’s saying that it isn’t creating an Eastside SLU connection.

  7. The SR-520 plan is the most disappointing part of the plan (in my opinion) — it is both simultaneously too aggressive and too anemic.

    It’s too anemic because highly duplicative routes (540 and 255, and the 271, 555, 556 set) are maintained, the 271 still takes the slow slog through Medina. It also results in a confusing explosion of peak only routes that make a legible network far more difficult. Whereas throughout the rest of the system peak only routes are being eliminated in order to enhance an all-day network, this proposal is 2 steps back.

    Yet at the same time, forcing transfers for all riders going downtown during the day or on weekends (except for some lucky/unlucky riders at peak on incredibly overcrowded busses) doesn’t actually improve the network substantially. Off-peak there is actually a time penalty to use Link as opposed to just driving a bus. It takes 10-12 minutes for the 545 to go from Westlake to Montlake. Whereas a transfer to link will take ~2 minutes for the bus to drive from SR520, ~3 minutes to walk to the platform, ~4 minutes to wait for a train, and ~6 minutes for the train, being a more like 15 minute trip. And if you consider that riders would likely be transferring to the 545 from some other route on the Eastside, and likewise, to some other route in Seattle, you’re turning what is already a 3 seat ride into a 4 seat ride.

    I would have been far happier with the following, reorganize the 255/256/271/540/542/545/555/556 into 3 all-day routes, one of which goes from Greenlake -> Eastside, another from U Dist -> Eastside and the 3rd from Downtown -> Eastside. All three routes need to have easy transfers at Evergreen point.

    Much simpler, creates a legible all day network that scales at peak.

    1. The issue we have to contend with along SR-520 is that demand is overwhelmingly peak-oriented and P&R-oriented, and most of that demand is for downtown. So there is always going to be extra peak service, and peak-only P&R routes that just wouldn’t work all day. This plan actually slightly reduces the number of peak-only routes from today; it gets rid of the 252, 257, and 277, while creating only the 256. Previous Metro restructures got rid of a whole bunch more peak-only routes.

      The reason to truncate the all-day routes to UW Station is to use those hours to add more peak capacity to keep up with demand.

      The duplicative 540 in Alt 1 is basically an attempt to use a bit more P&R capacity. When the 260 and 265 were cancelled, Houghton P&R became even more underused, with just the 277, 342, and 952 offering commuter service there. Without any action, the 277 cancellation would make that even worse. (Although maybe I shouldn’t comment on this — the revised 540 plus Link would be a major improvement for me, personally, over my current commute.)

      1. It doesn’t seem to me like an underused P&R is bad in and of itself. Is the hope that riders at other crowded P&R will redistribute to Houghton?

      2. I think that’s the idea. South Kirkland P&R still has a bit of capacity, but most other north Eastside P&Rs (Kingsgate, Brickyard, Woodinville, Bothell) are full.

      3. Pretty much every Eastside P&R is at or above capacity. Those that aren’t don’t have useful transit, e.g., Overlake Village, Preston.

  8. The torturous route of the proposed 311 shows again how poorly SR 520 was designed, and how badly it impacts traffic on I-5. Going from 520 to Mercer requires moving left to right across 5 lanes in 9/10 of a mile, and it’s completely sensible for buses to be prohibited from trying it (cars shouldn’t be allowed to either). Coming from NE 45th St to easbound 520 requires the same insane merge but in the opposite direction, 5 lanes from right to left in 1 mile. Think about that next time you’re in a bus or car on the Ship Canal Bridge on a Saturday and wondering why traffic is bad there and nowhere else.

    I strongly applaud Alt 1 for trying to bring new connectivity to SLU/Uptown…it’s definitely needed and this unconventional routing choice may work well. But if this route would take too long, be too unreliable, and not attract choice SLU/Uptown riders, it’ll need to be rethought. One idea would be to extend the peak 64X/66X combo down Roosevelt to 42nd, getting on the express lanes there instead of at Green Lake P&R. In exchange, the 311 could skip UW Station and run Stewart/Denny/Westlake/Mercer inbound, and some suboptimal-but-better-than-Montlake-routing-outbound, maybe Mercer/Westlake/9th/Olive, just anything to keep it off eastbound Denny in the PM peak.

    1. An easy couple minute delay solution to the dangerous 5 lane 520 to Mercer move is getting off at E. Roanoke St., then turning left on Boylston Ave E., then back onto I-5 in the right lane.

      1. Sam, that is indeed a good solution in the inbound direction. Outbound, you’d still need to use Olive.

    2. Whenever the Portage Bay Bridge finally gets funded and built, I thought there were supposed to be direct ramps from 520 HOV I-5 express lanes, plus a complete redesign of the I-5/520 interchange, which would make the 311 a more palatable design, although I scratch my head about why Metro feels that an EastsideSLU/Uptown direct connection is top priority right now.

      1. I ride the 255 into town most mornings. Depending on the trip, I’d say 20% to 30% of the passengers deboard at Stewart and Yale. That alone convinces me that an Eastside/SLU route is at least plausible.

      2. I think part if the idea of the 311 is that Eastside->SLU trips, while something, would not be enough to sustain the route in and of itself, at least to the tune of 22 trips each morning and afternoon. I think Metro is assuming that the route will get additional ridership from U-district commuters, downtown commuters (transferring to/from Link), plus some additional people traveling just between the U-district and South Lake Union (possibly transferring from other Seattle neighborhoods north of the ship canal).

        One option is to split the 311 into two routes – have half the buses go to SLU via the U-district, the other half take the Roanoke exit, followed by Eastlake. But in the afternoon, all the options stink, and if backtracking to Olive Way doesn’t provide any real time advantage over going through the U-district, you may as well just go through the U-district.

    3. I think a possible solution for serving SLU would be to create a transit corridor that starts at Dexter/Harrison, follows Harrison to Fairview and then continues to the Convention Place Station via Boren. At CPS riders can transfer to Eastside buses (during peak hours) and Link at anytime. It’s likely faster than detouring thru the U District.

      1. … except Link won’t serve Convention Place, nor will anything else.

        Another disaster courtesy of Sound Transit’s anti-urban stop spacing.

  9. I know it’s only like 6 or 7 days a year, but I was wondering, what would the 255/271/542 do on Husky game days? The backup to Montlake from WB 520 can get extremely long.

    1. Won’t this be fixed somewhat when the 520 bridge opens? The buses should get a queue jump coming off the freeway. Will the number of cars decrease with the opening of Link?

      I assume Metro will still be running P&R shuttles, although the regular service buses may ease the pressure a bit.

      1. The interim (funded) approach widens the Montlake exit ramp to two lanes, but they’re both general-purpose with zero transit priority. While the higher capacity of the new ramp will help somewhat (at least until induced demand fills it up with more SOV’s), it will be completely inadequate for football games.

        Even with the unfunded Montlake lid, with an HOV 3+ exit ramp, I’m not sure that will be sufficient because the percentage of cars carrying 3 or more people is far higher with people going to a football game than with people going to work.

      2. What about making one of those two lanes “smart”? Leave it General Purpose most of the time, but make it 3+ HOV on game days (and possibly during peak hours) via electronic signage.

    2. I don’t know what Metro is going to do, but I think the only reasonable option for Husky Game days is to send the 542 and 255 downtown via Montlake Freeway Station, similar to the service pattern of today. The buses can turn around at Westlake, rather than travel all the way through downtown. Not ideal, but for 8 days a year, it seems like a reasonable option.

      Sending everyone trying to go downtown through Husky game traffic is definitely bad.

  10. Let’s say UW doesn’t do anything to change the situation on Montlake. And, further, let’s say for grins that the new exit ramps from 520 to Montlake aren’t open when this plan goes into place. What would be your guess as the time to get between Evergreen Point and U-Link at rush hour in the morning and the evening? Will it be tolerable?

    That seems to me to be the key question… I know there are many things that can and should be done to improve this transfer, but Metro isn’t making its plans dependent on those changes, is it? Will this plan even wait for the new ramps or is it going into place solely based on U-Link’s opening. (I know the ramps are scheduled for about the same time, but the bridge was also supposed to be done around now, so I’m not counting on that. U-Link seems like a sure bet.)

    1. No it won’t be tolerable because even assuming no traffic it’s still slower. Any transfer to Link is gonna be a 10 minute cost, 4 – 5 to climb over everyone and get off the bus and then 6 minutes (average) to wait for the train.

      The 252/257 and 311 are very reliable to downtown and rarely spend more than 5 to 10 minutes in traffic. So this will cost me time on all but the worst traffic days (maybe once per week). Net over the entire week I swag the cost at me between 20 and 30 minutes added to my commute, not much but enough that I may elect to drive one or two days. With the new HOT lane that is going to very much be an option.

      I also noticed that this eliminates timely access from the Kingsgate PR for ADA commuters, of which there are about 10 to 15 judging by the parking. Many simply won’t be able to make the walk out to the freeway station. It also takes a whole set of commuters who must not make a local transfer after getting off their downtown busses and forces them to make another to the 235/238. These people won’t do that, they’ll drive to the Kingsgate PR which has a little capacity to accommodate that but probably not much.

      1. 4 to 5 minutes to empty a full bus? If that were the case, Westlake Station would be gridlock every AM peak. Emptying the bus will take about 60 to 90 seconds.

        Average wait for the train will be 3 minutes, not 6, at peak.

        I expect that P&R commuters who don’t want to make the walk, or who are just looking for more capacity, will migrate to S Kirkland P&R.

      2. 4 to 5 minutes to empty a bus heck no, but to do that and walk down to the station very much so. 3 minutes is an average but from an experience and PR perspective you should assume 6 minutes.

        Sorry to say, people won’t drive down to South Kirkland from all the way up @ Kingsgate because that would require driving on 405 as a SOV or paying to use the future HOT lane. In general I would think that would be something we’d want to discourage not encourage regardless of the # of people involved. I do know a few people who do the drive down to there very early in the commute before 405 goes fubar around 7:30.

      3. My question still stands, and Metro must know this answer I’d think: what happens with Alternative 1 in rush hour given the current configuration of 520, Montlake, and stops as proposed?

        It seems to me this is the key to the whole 520 plan. We can all say “UW should do this” or “SDOT should do that”, but Metro is not basing this plan on unicorns, is it? So I assume Metro expects the 255 to run fine on Montake and for all the other buses to make those stops on Pacific quickly and easily. Is that the experience of the current buses going to the U from 520 at rush hour? I honestly don’t know.

      4. Southbound: right now, Pacific’s not too bad, but Montlake is a problem. That’s why Metro isn’t currently running any buses there. Cars can experience 10-15 minute delays on bad days.
        Northbound: it’s a big open question, because the new Montlake ramp will be opening about the same time this all goes down. Today, it’s fine most of the time but can get backed up if the bridge opens, there is a game, or there is particularly heavy PM peak traffic.

      5. No, although “rush hour” is pretty narrowly defined.

        During the summer (May-August) there are no openings 7-9 a.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m.

        During the rest of the year (September-April) there are no openings 7-10 a.m. and 3:30-7 p.m.

        Moral of the story: don’t show up at the Montlake Bridge right at 6:30 or 7. I find this a bit depressing because I think once U-Link opens I’ll often be making the Link -> 255 transfer right around 6:30.

      6. Yes, vessels exceeding 1,000 tons are allowed at all times, pretty much the only traffic meeting that requirement are barges going to Kenmore and then it will depend on what tug if they have to open. Though per coastguard regs (I haven’t read them in a few years though since I last took an exam) you should also be able to schedule and get an exception if you have a legitimate reason (e.g. lock channel draft/current/weather issues or what not)

        Several taller boats that were kept on Lake Wa in various places have also moved with the changes to the 520 bridge, though they rarely transited.

      7. Not just me — thanks to Zach for serving on the Sounding Board and the entire staff for sharing questions, comments, and views. This really was a team effort.

      8. Again, this is why the people in charge need to solve this problem ( Implement that, and this problem pretty much goes away. OK, maybe getting that half mile from the station to the freeway is a pain, but my guess is that traffic is really bad through there, it is really bad getting to (or from) downtown as well.

        Also, there is no reason why they can’t wait until the 520 work to at least gets to Montlake.

    2. The floating section of SR 520 is scheduled to open to drivers in Spring 2016. But the offramps from westbound 520 at Montlake are part of the West Approach Bridge North. That is scheduled to open Summer 2017.

      1. Perhaps the new WB and EB ramps will open before the full opening of the West Approach Bridge North project. They’re already working on them from what I’ve read.

      2. @aw, I can’t find a definitive answer to your question, but my reading of the WSDOT documents is that it seems unlikely the ramps could open early.

        See particularly page 23 27 of this document. The permanent WB ramp goes in at the end of construction. The temporary WB ramp that crosses 520 stays in place until the final stage. I think the staging area precludes their putting in any permanent ramp on the right until construction is almost done.

      3. From

        “The northbound bus stop and bike lockers near the SR 520 westbound off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard have been temporarily removed. They will be relocated at East Hamlin Street when improvements to the Montlake interchange are complete (planned for summer 2015).”

        This activity is scheduled to be done 07/26/2015. There are two other construction notices connected with the westbound off ramps that are scheduled for completion 07/31/2015. We can hope that the ramp will be done then, but they may just be prepatory for the actual construction and opening of the ramps.

    1. Nope. It is still there. I was told the reason for the 541 is because Overlake TC will have to close someday for the construction of the LINK Station there. There is parking available at the Overlake Village Park and Ride.

    2. The 541 is alternative 2 only (replacing the 542). In alternative 1, it’s the 542 and 545.

      1. Also notable in Alternative 2 is that the 545 would have some trips that terminate and originate at Overlake TC.

  11. How will U Link extension bus bridges work? A few times a year Central Link goes down and bus bridges are used in its place. A train/car wreck on MLK will stop most service on U Link, correct? So will bus bridge buses try to shadow the line from downtown, then up to Cap Hill, then north to the UW Station? There is no quick and easy way from CHS to UWS by road, is there?

    1. Putting everybody on a John/23rd route is not very feasable because it would take a lot of buses, and the Capitol Hill streets are small and slow, there’s congestion at Montlake, and there’s congestion and no layover space at UW Station. So you could run a John/23rd bus for those using Capitol Hill Station, but the larger crowd going directly from downtown to UW would need something else. Probably easiest for ST is to expand the 255, 545, and 555/556, with more peak service and temporary all-day service. They go right by Montlake freeway station which is close to UW Station. Another approach would be a 73X-like route between downtown and Campus Parkway. That wouldn’t directly serve UW Station or Eastside-downtown transferers, but it would avoid the congestion around UW Station and at least get people to the vicinity of the university.

      1. Montlake freeway station won’t be there in the future, but in this case the downtown buses could get off at Montlake, serve the stop on the ramp and get back on the freeway.

      2. The western approach is not funded yet, so who knows when or if it will change. And I’ve been hearing contradictory information on whether there will be a bus stop somewhere.

      3. In the westbound getting off at Montlake to stop on the lid is ok, but in the eastbound direction, it would be a huge mistake, as it would force the bus to wait in a long line of cars getting off the freeway just to serve one stop. Sometimes, the right lane of 520 is backed up all-way to I-5 from cars taking the Montlake exit. Currently, buses use the left lane to get through that mess.

        When and if the Montlake freeway station does close, I think the only reasonable options are to either skip Montlake altogether or truncate truncate the route and ask people headed downtown to use Link. Alternative 1 already does this off-peak. Once EastLink opens, the need for peak-hour 545 trips to go downtown should significantly decrease – not only will a one-seat ride exist from Redmond to downtown, but U-link will be running twice as frequently as it does today, making the connection even easier.

  12. I wish ST would do something with the illegibility of 555 and 556 service. There’s one routing and set of stops if I show up in the morning and another if I show up in the afternoon.

    Would it make sense to halve the frequency of each, but to run them in both directions in both morning and afternoon peak? They would still serve the same terminals and some key intermediate stops, but it would enable one to focus on one or the other if you’re interested in a stop that is served by one, but not the other. As it is I don’t even bother with trying to figure out if it would worthwhile to consider it.

    1. I expect to see the 555 and 556 change significantly in 2021, when both routes presumably get truncated to the U-district.

      1. I suppose today’s service pattern is due to the fact of unbalanced demand and/or the efficiency of using a freeway alignment at particular times of day. The service pattern I suggested probably costs more in service hours or productivity.

    2. If I remember history, Route 555 was there first. There was no 556. The 555 did well eastbound in the AM from Northgate to Bellevue, and Westbound Bellevue to Northgate in the PM. The reverse direction was weak. So, ST staff proposed 556 to improve ridership by having the reverse direction operate via the University District/UW area instead of I-5. That helped ridership. That is why you have 555 AM eastbound and 556 AM westbound and 555 PM westbound and 556 PM eastbound. Very distinct markets.

      1. The real simplification of the 555/556 will most likely come after North Link and East Link are open. With the availability of North Link, there is no reason to have either route fight traffic on I-5 between Northgate and the U-district when Link would be so much faster. With EastLink open, the tail of the 556 becomes almost identical to the part of the 554 that wouldn’t duplicate Link. So I can easily imagine a world where the 554 and 555 go away, while the 556 (Issaquah->U-district only) operates all-day frequent service. As part of the restructuring, the 271 could be reduced to Eastgate->Bellevue TC only, with Medina covered by a separate route that would run much less frequently and in a smaller vehicle.

  13. Two nitpicks. 1. Roosevelt is already accessible to SR-520 without transferring. ST 542 already provides this service. Also, further discussion on the 545/542 is probably the single biggest point worth mentioning since combined, they drive nearly half of all SR 520 trips.

    1. The 542’s service to Roosevelt is:
      1) Limited to Green Lake P&R only, and doesn’t cover the Roosevelt area nearly as well as the 67
      2) operating peak-hours only.

      The new 271/67 connection would operate all-day and really cover the Roosvelt area.

  14. I’m not fond of the idea of a Link station at 520 because other than the bus routes there really isn’t anything there to serve. Maybe if the old MOHAI site gets redeveloped the resulting development would be something.

    However, in a land of really bad alternatives I really think that developing a station there is going to have to be a goal of the additional ST2 funding that appeared a couple of months back.

    I rode Link from Beacon Hill to Rainier beach on Monday. It was an interesting contrast going from MAX to Amtrak to Link. Some of the MAX station stops were only 20 seconds. There were 5 of us getting on at Beacon Hill and the station stop was about as long as the Amtrak station stop at Olympia (Amtrak was in a hurry due to track construction issues).

    If Link could be made to stop at 520 in only 20 seconds, then the impact to total transit time on Link shouldn’t be too bad.

    This would really open up a lot of other possibilities for alternative bus routing.

    1. Glenn,

      I agree in principle, but Link is REALLY DEEP at Montlake and 520. You’d need another four stories deep station and they don’t come cheap. You’re right that having a second station close to Husky would effect running time much less than one in the middle of the long run to CHS. Trains wouldn’t have to slow down and speed back up; they wouldn’t have gotten moving a lot between Husky and a new Montlake Station.

      But it would be a third of a billion dollars and there are cheaper ways to get the buses to the station. Maybe the legislature needs to say to the University “You will accommodate the buses in the South Stadium parking lot!”

      1. Especially if the lawmakers are convinced it’s less expensive. They’re supposed to be minimizing our taxes, right?

      2. My concern goes beyond the UW. I’ve both walked and taken the bus through there, and the traffic tangle seems pretty awful. It seems like that last quarter mile is going to be awfully slow.

      3. And to make matters worse there are essentially no level stretches between Capitol Hill and the UW statio

      4. Four floors isn’t really that unusual, compared to First Hill or the 28 floors at the Washington Park MAX station. It might be a bit cheaper if they shifted it south, so the Link platforms were not directly under the freeway or the ship canal.

        If it isn’t worthwhile I guess it isn’t worthwhile.

    2. Glenn, the MOHAI site will be redeveloped as part of the West Approach Bridge North project. It will become a stormwater retention site.

  15. The success of this will be on how reliable the routes on the 520 bridge and on Montlake will be. With the 520 bridge project underway, we don’t yet know what will happen. I’d suggest that Metro, the City of Seattle and WSDOT be closely attuned to where problems develop along this corridor if Alternative 1 is implemented..

    I also have to wonder if there should be only one or two higher-frequency, headway-based routes connecting the Eastside with the UW station. I’m not sure how that route structure would work, but it may be needed is congestion proves to be so unpredictable that the schedules can’t be followed.

    1. Headway-based scheduling maybe, when the target frequency is 10 minutes or better. The goal of this scheduling should be to minimize 20-minute waits. So if the first bus just left and the second bus is ready, it should go if the third bus will come within 10 minutes or maybe out to 12 or 15. They shouldn’t just hold buses because, “By god there can’t be a second bus until 10 minutes have passed. Otherwise people will wait a shorter time than they should have, and that’s bad for some reason.” That was part of the public’s non-acceptance of RapidRide’s headway-based scheduling. People were afraid Metro was holding back buses to ensure minimum wait times and no extra runs during the day. That’s the opposite of what they should be doing.

      1. And to make it worse, a minimum wait time of 15 minutes is a big deal if it’s artificially lengthened. A 10-minute wait time is not as bad.

    2. I’d agree that headway-based service only makes sense at 7.5 to 10 minute frequencies or less. What I’m concerned about here is that these routes must negotiate a congested corridor AND two drawbridges. Even at times when the roadways may not be overly congested (middays and weekends especially), the drawbridge openings are going to mess up schedules almost instantly. The best practical solution to this problem is a headway-based schedule.

      1. Which is why I think that Metro would be wise to not have multiple routes going across the bridge at 15 minute headways or longer during middays and weekends — and instead decide to have only a few all-day core routes crossing the 520 bridge..

      2. But they already do have only a few all-day routes across the bridge: the 545 (to become 542), 271, and 255. At least without a South Kirkland Freeway Station, that can’t really be decreased.

  16. Predictably, this blog is not talking much about the loss of service on the eastside past Eastgate. The 271 serves a bunch of neighborhoods from Issaquah to Eastgate. For many, it is the only route they have access to. Frequency goes from as frequent as 8 minutes in rush (15 minutes off-peak weekdays) to 1x per hour. That’s a pretty steep dropoff.

    It is probably warranted, I can’t imagine Lakemont, Newport Way, Southcove are attracting full buses, but it is probably worth at least mentioning. It is a pretty windy and slow route. Also, ideally the 555/556 would be a peak express version of the 271. Breaking the 271 at Eastgate would break that idea.

    1. Ridership on the 271 east of Eastgate is marginal, but downtown Issaquah affects 271 reliability—the worst of both worlds. The 45/271 through-route in Alt 1 would serve an order of magnitude more people than the current Issaquah tail. The 207 will be worse service than the 271 for the riders who ride it, but those riders are relatively few in number.

      From a network perspective, it would be nice to somehow unify the part of the 271 and the 556 between Bellevue and the U-District. (The parts between Bellevue and Eastgate serve totally different purposes and should stay separate.) That’s not a conceptually easy task, though.

    2. That section of the 271 is the worst and serves very few people in my experience of riding it. Most of the 271 riders are much better served by going on the 554. Frankly Issaquah should buy more service to replace the 200 for in city transit and get things to at least 3 buses an hour.

      I’m all for the 271 changes and will be excited to use it.

      1. The 271 from Eastgate to Issaquah is the single worst performing “neighborhood segment” (tail) in the ULink restructure area. It consumes a whopping 33% of the 271’s run time but generates only 6% of its boardings, a huge 5.3 ratio (Metro’s guideline is 1.2). Compare this to the tails of Routes 2 (2.76), 10 (1.99), 12 (2.11), 26 (1.69), 28 (1.57), 31 (2.16), 32 (1.62), 71 (2.56), 72 (2.30), 73 (2.87), 252 (1.33), 255 (5.08), and 257 (1.78). Nothing comes close except the 255 between Totem Lake and Brickyard.

      2. I hadn’t looked at that tail. 33% of run time meandering between Eastgate and Issaquah for a route that ends up in the U-District? That’s absolutely unreal.

      3. Zach, that’s a little unfair, since it’s an overlay of the weekend and weekday routings [the weekend routings don’t trundle through Bellevue College or serve the office buildings East of 150th on Eastgate Way]. I agree that the weekday routing is roundabout, but that map makes it look like the bus drives around in circles. Even more than usual, this route would benefit from a routing down Snoqualmie River Road.

      4. To clarify I meant Issaquah should buy 20 minute frequency on the 207 to serve internal Issaquah trips. I just looked at the data though and that would still be insane.

        At the cost of that line Issaquah could afford a Highlands Gondola.

      5. The cheap solution for internal Issaquah trips is to just have the 554 serve regular stops, like a local bus, between Issaquah TC and Issaquah Highlands P&R. It’s already going that way anyway, and with the bus almost empty through this stretch, the number of people would be delayed by the extra stops (most of which, the bus would probably sail by without actually stopping) is negligible. Adding local stops to the 554 along a street it’s already traveling on is much cheaper than buying trips on a whole additional bus.

        Granted, it wouldn’t do anything for the 207 riders along Newport Way, but it at least covers the most important (and walkable) part of the area.

  17. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I like the boldness over all. Currently I commute on the 255 from South Kirkland P&R to Stewart & Yale and then walk to Fred Hutch in the mornings, walking to the Convention Place stop in the evenings (I mostly okay with the walk). I find the 311 intriguing, but is there any sense of where it would stop on Mercer?

    At this point I think I would most likely take the 256 under alternative 1 rather than the 311, though the 255 to the new 70 might be an option.

    1. Metro would have to establish new stops along Mercer. I’m sure the first one would be one within no more than two blocks of Fairview. You seem to me like the commuter the new 311 was made for — hop off the 255/256 at Evergreen Point and make a same-stop transfer.

  18. Is there no longer any service between downtown Kirkland and Redmond? When I lived on the Eastside in the ’90s there was the 251 with a long long detour via Houghton P&R, later came the 248 with super fast service over the hill on Central Way. Map here shows no connection between these two cities.

    1. This map only shows the routes being revised as a result of the restructure. Route 248 is still there and wouldn’t change (although I hesitate to call it “super fast” given how long it takes to get through the mile-long stretch of superblock strip mall hell in Rose Hill).

      1. Glad to hear that. Although the Rose Hill detour is a bit annoying, the one on the 251 via Houghton P&R was much much worse.

    2. Do you see the white line on the map on NE 85th and Redmond Way? That indicates a route that is not affected by the changes. It happens to be the 248 serving Kirkland TC, Redmond TC, Bear Creek P&R and Avondale.

  19. Is there any demand for a route that crosses the bridge, and then goes down Lake Washington Blvd to Madison?

    Lake Washington Blvd. has an awful lot of traffic on it. Much of that seems to be aimed at 520.

    It wouldn’t come cheap because you would have to undercut the Arboretum Sewer Bridge so a bus would fit under it. However, digging a pit to get under a low spot certainly isn’t unknown.

    1. I think the plan is to close the Lake Washington ramps permanently soon. I can’t swear to that though.

      You are right that the whole Madison BRT strategy would be quite a much more exciting project if somehow it connected with the 520 bridge.

      1. I guess that leaves the 23rd/24th Avenue thing, but that already has two bus routes on it, and doesn’t allow the queue jump that all the autos are doing over on Lake Washington Blvd.

    2. The road is also too narrow for buses. (Yes, there are buses grandfathered into equally narrow roads — but Metro Safety won’t put new routes there.)

    3. The Microsoft Connector already operates such route, but they do it using a smaller vehicle than what Metro seems capable of operating.

  20. Does anyone know, based on past experience here or in other cities, whether Google Maps is likely to have all the new routing available on Day 1 of the service changes? I suspect commuters/regular travelers and STB readers will figure out their routes beforehand. But for all the spontaneous trips this new setup will enable, there will be an awful lot of confusion and frustration if Google isn’t there to help us out.

    1. Google will be updated when new GTFS data is released. Happens all the time for service changes everywhere. A big restructuring like this would have a data release well in advance as a priority.

    2. It is entirely up to Sound Transit and Metro to provide Google and other services with the GTFS data that defines the routes, stops, and schedules. I don’t know how early ST/Metro post them but usually their own trip planners have the new schedules at least a week in advance.

  21. Since SR-520 service would be basically nonexistent in the DSTT with the Link restructure, Bay B is useless and should be removed. Just my opinion.

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