Note: This is the last (and, mercifully, shortest) 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 early 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.

With the major structural changes proposed in Metro’s “Alternative 1” U-Link restructure for the bus networks in three separate parts of town, it’s easy to overlook a few interesting details outside of the areas most affected.  But Alternative 1 would have some beneficial effects on the network serving downtown and nearby employment centers, which shouldn’t be overlooked.  Fittingly given its astonishing growth, South Lake Union would see some of the biggest benefits, while both Uptown and Downtown would get a new connection or two.

SLU-Wallingford-Green Lake: Route 16.  Metro would change route 16 to use Dexter through SLU rather than Aurora (as well as other major changes described in our Northeast Seattle post).  This would provide a new frequent connection from SLU to the center of Wallingford and East Green Lake, replacing the infrequent connection to the periphery of these areas on current route 26.

routes 64 and 66
Alternative 1 routing for peak-only routes 64 and 66. Map by Metro.

First Hill-SLU-North Seattle (peak only): Routes 64 and 66.  Both routes 64 and 66 would be revised as pictured at left, to serve an entirely new common routing that would create a new connection between SLU and North Seattle.  The routes would meet (and alternate for 10-minute frequency) at Green Lake P&R, and head to SLU via I-5 and the Mercer St exit.  From SLU, they would continue to First Hill on a straight shot using Fairview and Boren Aves.  This routing would work wonderfully in the morning, but might present a few reliability problems in the afternoon as Boren can become congested approaching Olive and Howell Sts.  Nevertheless, the quick connection between SLU and Green Lake P&R is likely worth the occasional delay.  At Green Lake P&R, these routes would also connect with frequent routes 45 (now 48N) and 67, serving many North Seattle neighborhoods. It seems to me, though, that Metro is missing an opportunity to make this connection even more useful by not making the same change to First Hill route 303.

Uptown-SLU-UDistrict-Eastside (peak only): Route 311.  As fully described in our SR-520 post, Route 311 would create a new 10-minute peak-hour, peak-direction connection between Woodinville, Kingsgate, SR-520 transfer stations, UW Station, the U-District, SLU, and Uptown.  While we wonder about speed for Eastside riders,  this will be a wonderfully fast trip to either SLU or Uptown for U-District riders, and will make possible a wide variety of new SLU-Eastside connections with same-stop transfers.

Route 8 Improvements.  The Denny Mess is still there, but the 8 should get a bit better anyway.  First, frequency would improve to 10 minutes weekdays and 15 minutes nights and Sundays.  Second, the route would be revised to terminate in Madison Park, rather than continuing on the long trek through the Central District and Rainier Valley.  The shorter routing should strongly improve reliability westbound, even if eastbound reliability remains a subject best left unspoken.

Route 70 Improvements.  Route 70, now a very heavily used core service through SLU, would gain 10-minute frequency during most of peak hour and begin running nights and Sundays in place of the notoriously overloaded and unreliable route 71/72/73 locals.  This is a change that will likely happen no matter what, as Seattle intended to fund it with Prop 1 money before Metro proposed to fund it through Alternative 1.

61 Replies to “Alternative 1: Downtown, SLU, and Uptown”

  1. A couple of corrections:

    I think it was noted in Friday’s post that U-Link is projected to open Q1 2016, not necessarily in March.

    In the description of routes 64 & 65, there is a typo ‘pi;d’. This should probably read “these routes would also connect”.

  2. Clean and common sense adjustments overall. We can quibble about the 311 tail but that is minor issue that can be easily changed in the future.

    The 70 service increase is certainly deserved. Thanks to geography and I-5, Eastlake is a challenging area to rely on transit with only 1 bus corridor and no big grocery stores, but it is also super convenient to the 3 biggest employment centers in Seattle (downtown, SLU, and UW). Perhaps the 70 can be further augmented with some Prop 1 money to offset the shifting of the 66.

    I know the 70 had some stop consolidation a few years back, but it seems like there are a few stops that are still rather close together and might be consolidated. Without the 66, it would be nice for Eastlake riders to get a slightly faster trip on the 70.

  3. Would the 16 provide enough capacity on Dexter? Some expressed concern the current 26/28 are having issues with that already.

      1. Well I know I voiced concerns having lived on the street for almost 14 years and my assessment is probably not (though this plan probably pre-dates FB’s announcement as it is) and to have sufficient capacity the 16 would have to run pretty light the rest of it’s route which isn’t a very efficient use of a articulated bus probably.

        It would have been nice if the SR-99 tunnel project had put a few more over/under passes and other structures in place to allow peds and bikers to pass under 99 to the west side more easily rather than just the one at Mercer. Especially since they are going to be digging the darn street up for 12 weeks soon anyways. That would have done a great job at mitigating this by giving them access to the Rapid Ride line and the 5.

      2. “to have sufficient capacity the 16 would have to run pretty light the rest of it’s route which isn’t a very efficient use of a articulated bus probably. ”

        Since any bus that takes Dexter to Fremont has to continue on somewhere (no room to turn around at Fremont/34th), the same argument is true, pretty much no matter what bus serves Dexter.

        Some things that will help, though:
        – Fremont is a destination in its own right – some of the #16 riders from further north will get off there.
        – The 16’s frequency gets boosted under alt 1 to 10-15 minutes peak, from 20 minutes.
        – The 26 will become the faster way to get downtown, so many Wallingford->downtown riders would switch over to that. Some riders from Stone Way will likely switch over to the E-line.

      3. “Since any bus that takes Dexter to Fremont has to continue on somewhere (no room to turn around at Fremont/34th), the same argument is true, pretty much no matter what bus serves Dexter.”

        You could do a short run route to Fremont via Fremont Bridge to N 34th, to Stone Way, to N 35th, back to Fremont Bridge. That could either be a live loop, or layover on 35th east of the Library.

  4. The 64, 66 and 311 are all peak hour trips, which makes sense, since they work best when running with the express lanes. But I wonder if the two parts of the run in the core of Seattle could be combined. I’m thinking of a bus that went along Boren from Yesler, then Fairview to Mercer, then went over to Uptown. I think this bus would be quite popular, and make a good all day run. It would connect nicely with the Madison BRT, and would actually make a good BRT of its own. From what I can tell, most rides along here are really bad (since they tend to go towards the center of downtown).

    That might be something for the long term, though (when we free up service hours with Northgate Link).

  5. You state that this is the last (mercifully) post on Alt 1, but could we also get a separate update on what is happening with the DSTT? I know some routes are getting kicked out, but some that remain are also increasing in frequency. It would be nice to have a complete update since DSTT is so key to Link operational reliability.

    1. Not sure that’s worth a whole post. Here are the September tunnel changes in a nutshell:

      – 76, 77, 216, 218, 219, 316 leaving tunnel. This adds up to 45 AM peak trips and 44 PM peak trips out. 76/316 to use Union/2nd inbound and 4th/Pike outbound. 77 to use “reverse” 3rd Ave routing using Cherry Express Lanes ramp in both directions. 216/18/19 to use 4th inbound and 2nd/Washington outbound.
      – 2 new AM peak trips through tunnel: 1 x 41, 1 x 74
      – 3 new PM peak trips through tunnel: 1 x 41, 1 x 71, 1 x 72
      – Improved night and Sunday frequencies on 41.
      – Improved late-night and Sunday frequencies on 72 and 73.

      1. OK, so that is this September, but in combo with Alt 1 we will have an additional burn down in tunnel ops, right? I think that will be the key even per Link reliability — basically the state of DSTT bus ops post U-Link start of ops.

      2. Alt 1 would definitely have an additional effect. The 255 would disappear, the peak 73/74 would have a slight reduction in frequency (from current unevenly spaced ~7.5 to about 10), and the off-peak 70s would disappear. That’s about 23-25 more peak trips out in each direction during each peak.

      3. Wouldn’t the 71 and 72 disappear too?

        This is why I ask about DSTT bus ops in September and post U-Link ops. With deletions, surfacing, and truncations it gets sort of hard to keep track of the top level number peak/off-peak.

      4. Yes – the wording of my last comment may have been unclear. In Alt 1, off-peak 70s all disappear. 73 (truncated) and 74 are the only ones remaining at peak, but those two each get a bit more frequent, so peak 70s frequency only drops from ~7.5 to ~10.

      5. I think this is why it would be nice to have a summary/wrap-up of tunnel ops.

        Even just a table that gives current peak/off-peak cycles per direction and compares it to after September and after Alt 1 implementation. I.e., it is very hard to understand the significance of these individual routes coming out when you don’t even know the baseline..

        Just saying….

      6. You may be right. I just feel a bit disillusioned with joint ops at the moment (after experiencing 10+ minutes’ delay every two or three days between USS and CPS during PM peak), so I’ve found it hard to get myself excited about any change short of kicking all the buses out of the tunnel.

      7. Wouldn’t the 550 pretty much have to move onto the surface soon anyways? When are they slated to start the work on the carpool ramps and center ROW on 90? They are already digging up the center roadway over by Bellevue Way I noticed. Rode that bus a few times recently and it was packed, bodes well for East Link I think.

      8. Joint Ops is a political compromise that really hasn’t been a very good technical compromise. Basically we have hamstrung our highest capacity highest reliability mode by tying it to our lowest reliability mode.

        It’s been very frustrating indeed, which is why I ask the question.

        These reductions in tunnel bus ops are good, but it is hard to judge their significance without understanding the baseline.

        But I agree, we won’t fully achieve the reliability we want until Joint Ops ends.

      9. Joint ops doesn’t just hamstring the train; it hamstrings the buses too. It would be perfectly possible to safely bring two incoming buses into the station behind each 2-car train, or even for buses just to follow the train as it leaves the station, but instead we make the train completely leave the station before buses can start entering. It’s worse than either mode would be by itself.

      10. Apparently, bus drivers cannot recognize a stopped train in front of them, only a stopped bus, while train drivers cannot recognize a stopped bus in front of them, only a stopped train.

        This is a classic case of forumulaically following rigid rules designed for different contexts to the point of absurdity.

      11. I get not allowing trains to follow buses. Buses can stop much faster than trains, and having a train partially in the station doesn’t help it load or unload. But I don’t get not allowing buses to follow trains. If a train can stop, a bus can stop behind it. And having even just the front door on the platform can help a bus load and unload.

      12. With buses having the whole platform available, six can fit at once, I believe. Cut that in half, and it is a tight fit for three. The volume of buses going through right now needs multiple bays on each platform. After U-Link opens, a single bay per platform might be more doable, but I am not sure. I’ve been told that having only two buses loading at each bay is the ADA limit. The inbound buses also have to have space to stop, of course.

        To answer Lazarus’ basic question, there will be eight (8) bus routes left in the tunnel after March 2016: 41, 73, 74, 101, 102, 106, 150, and 550. That is not to say the volume of trips would be cut in half. The trip volume will keep going up to try and keep up with insatiable ridership demand.

        However, some of Metro’s maps make it appear that the 106 and 150 will be sent upstairs, but I think I am just misreading the downtown maps.

    2. Now that we have four branches in the air (northeast Seattle, Capitol Hill, 520, SLU/downtown), it would be nice to have a conclusion article to tie it all together, and give a place to consolidate our comments and opinions. What do the staff think overall, and have your opinions changed during the discussions?

      I also think we’re going to need an article on Prop 1 recommendations to the city and Metro. That’s the big unknown, and several ideas have come up that are worth making sure the city includes or considers. We can just hope they do the right thing, or we can tell them what the right thing is. :)

      1. We will be back with more Link restructure material, but after five straight days of wonky detailed posts and over 900 comments, I think there is a sense that it’s time for a bit of a breather.

        Metro is taking comments on this set of proposals until March 31. Between now and then, we’ll talk a bit more about what we’ve heard and discuss some ideas about how Metro might solve the most common complaints.

      2. I’m hoping to write up a “Page 2” set of proposals for Pinehurst. I will then reference it when I write Metro. If STB does something similar, then I will update my comment to Metro, as well as my post.

  6. Disappointing for those of us who live in Belltown. How about improvements to the 99?

      1. And the CCC doesn’t go to Belltown. Fortunately(?), it doesn’t look like it’ll even be built anytime soon.

      2. Once the 1st Ave Connector is built, you can bet dollars to donuts that extensions will be proposed north into Belltown and south into the Stadium District.

  7. I’m sure this has been covered before, and I know there’s probably not enough ROW space to do it without causing mass anarchy, but has there been any thought about giving the 8 through the Denny Corridor the Rapid Ride sort of treatment (bus-only lanes, signal priority, etc.)? The lack of reliable east-west transit connections in this city is stifling to the point where I change plans to avoid it. I know there is hope, with the opening of the Cap Hill/U-Link light rail stations and some (theoretical) talk about a Madison RR route, but those are really more downtown-centric. With all this growth in SLU and Cap Hill (not to mention LQA), a reliable way up and down Denny would be a godsend.

      1. That would help a lot, but I also think a gondola would be fairly cheap and very effective. There are only a handful of places in the world (and only one in Seattle) where a gondola makes sense, and Capitol Hill to South Lake Union is one of them.

        Once the 99 work gets done, you will have different ways to connect South Lake Union with Queen Anne, so the gondola doesn’t need to go any further than South Lake Union (even just getting to Cascade might be sufficient). From there, a fast frequent bus could travel the streets between Denny and Mercer (on streets that don’t go through right now). Since there are no existing uses of those streets, they could be made local access/transit/bike only. So, from Capitol Hill to Uptown would mean taking a gondola, then transferring to a reliable, fairly fast bus. This would be significantly faster than driving, let alone the 8. Meanwhile, the rest of the 8 would simply connect to the station from the Central area, as well as the gondola (assuming they are in two different spots, which is actually preferable, to avoid crush loading a gondola*).

        *Gondolas are sort of like escalators, except you aren’t allowed to walk (similar to escalators at an airport, where everyone just stands). They move at a steady pace (headways measured in seconds). If you put them close to the station, they work fine, but people have to wait. By putting it a couple blocks away, you actually spread the people out. In this case, the neighborhood is so dense, you would get plenty of people using the gondola who never rode the train. Unlike a lot of infrastructure, this means that we don’t have to have things line up just right (a bus to train transfer involving a couple block walk is really bad in comparison).

    1. The second clause of your first sentence answers your entire question.

      Unfortunately, that’s the case with all east-west routes (45th, 50th, 65th, 80th, 85th, 105th up north for sure). The streets and buses are all over crowded, because if you live to the west, you have to go east before you can reliably go north or south (99/I-5). The only thing that’s going to solve it is grade separated rail.

      1. I agree, which is why I think Ballard to the UW rail is so important. Ballard to the UW light rail would provide a transit corridor that is faster than driving in the middle of the day, let alone during rush hour. You really can’t say that about most of our light rail line (as essential as it is). When you consider the number of people it passes through, and the way it would interact with bus and rail transit, Ballard to the UW would transform the transit situation for everyone north of the ship canal.

        It is also why I think a station at 125th (along with the other stations are so important). Good east/west bus lines could provide the integration we so desperately need. A bus like that would compliment the north/south lines bus lines (on Aurora, Greenwood, 15th NE, 15th NW, 35th NE, Sand Point and Lake City Way) as well as Link. Link moves fast, but a lot of the other buses are pretty fast, too (nothing like heading east/west in the middle of the city). 125th/130th is fairly fast, too. It is no substitute for rail, but not bad through there. You could add the bus route now, of course, but it makes way more sense to add it, and connect it to a rail station at 125th. Buses on Northgate Way and 80th and similar streets will of course detour a bit (or a lot) to serve the nearest stations, but along 145th and 185th it won’t have to. The same should be said for 130th/125th. Add a stop, build a bus route to connect east and west and you have yourself a pretty good grid.

        A version of the “Metro 8”, but with rail also makes sense. Getting east to west south of the canal is terrible. Even walking is a pain, as the freeway forces ridiculous detours. In the long run, you need grade separated light rail. In the short term, I would build a gondola and the bus improvements (to the west, once the highway 99 work is done) mentioned above.

      2. Unfortunately, that’s the case with all east-west routes (45th, 50th, 65th, 80th, 85th, 105th up north for sure). The streets and buses are all over crowded, because if you live to the west, you have to go east before you can reliably go north or south (99/I-5). The only thing that’s going to solve it is grade separated rail.

        You’re on the right track. In fact, the problem is a little more complicated than that:

        – Crossing I-5 (and to a lesser extent, SR-99) is hard, because many east-west streets do not cross those two highways. Therefore, all organic east-west traffic is concentrated on a relatively small number of streets.

        – The vast majority of the streets that cross I-5, and all of the streets that cross SR-99, are also entrances/exits to those highways.

        – If you want to travel north-south, the fastest route is generally either SR-99 or I-5. Therefore, a lot of organic N-S traffic is forced to travel E-W twice: once to get from their origin to the highway, and once more to get from the highway to their destination. (Basically what you said, except that it really affects anyone whose origin or destination isn’t precisely on SR-99 or I-5, not just people who live to the west.)

        When you put these three together, you end up with a disproportionately small number of streets handling over 100% of E-W traffic. I say “over 100%” because there are many people who don’t actually want to travel E-W. For example, I live on Greenwood Ave N. If I want to get to Fremont, I can either drive straight south, or I can take 85th to Aurora and then 35th to Fremont. Effectively, SR-99 is inducing me to travel E-W, even though I would not otherwise want or need to do so.

        Grade-separated rail would definitely be awesome. But ultimately, this is a self-inflicted problem. Without limited-access freeways, fewer people would need travel E-W, and there would be 5x as many streets that everyone else could use for that travel.

  8. I assume they are revising the 70 to run articulated trolleys, otherwise they’ll need to weld some hand rails on the outside for people to hang on to.

    1. I think there’s a high probability that if Alt 1 were implemented you’d see some of the artic trolleys currently on the 43 migrate to the 70. There’s no operational problem with artics on the 70 and there is at least one AM tripper that uses one.

  9. Thanks, David, for your work on this. All of this is very interesting and exciting, and I very much appreciate the way you presented it.

    1. Thanks for reading and for your always thoughtful comments. And I can’t claim all the credit; these posts were really a STB team effort.

  10. According to the posted skeds, the 71/72/73 combine for 15 minute headways up until 1am along Fairview. Yet the proposed changes show only “15-30 minutes” at night for the 70 replacement. That is a huge mistake. Service should not get worse.

    And if the 71/72/73 are overloaded and unreliable now, how would the 70 replacment at night be any different if it serves the same route?

    1. “Yet the proposed changes show only “15-30 minutes” at night for the 70 replacement. That is a huge mistake. Service should not get worse.”

      Chances are there would be 30 minute service only after 11 pm or later. This is consistent with other routes of the 70’s ridership. The only reason there is 15-minute service today is because of U-District-Downtown through traffic that would use other service (such as Link under Alt 1 or the 73X under Alt 2) if it were available.

      “if the 71/72/73 are overloaded and unreliable now, how would the 70 replacment at night be any different if it serves the same route?”

      Because most of the overloads and unreliability are a result of U-District and Roosevelt through traffic which will use either Link or the 73X.

      1. >>The only reason there is 15-minute service today is because of U-District-Downtown through traffic that would use other service (such as Link under Alt 1 or the 73X under Alt 2) if it were available.<<

        OK, but if I'm standing at Denny Way and Fairview or Mercer and Fairview, LINK is of no use to me for getting up to the UDistrict. I would have to go way south just to go north. You could take the bus from Denny Way east to LINK, but I'm guessing at midnight route 8 won't run very frequently either.

      2. “OK, but if I’m standing at Denny Way and Fairview or Mercer and Fairview, LINK is of no use to me for getting up to the UDistrict.”

        Sure, but that doesn’t mean there are enough people standing there with you at midnight to justify 15-minute service.

    2. It seems likely that a lot of the riders from the U-District would prefer to go toward UWS if they’re headed downtown rather than going down Eastlake. It might be that some riders in Eastgate near University bridge might go that way also. It that’s the case, the bus would be less crowded when it got to Eastlake. It might be that the bus will only carry people going to Eastlake from downtown or the UD and people coming from Eastlake going someplace else.

  11. Thanks to David, Zach, and everyone else who worked on the Metro restructure marathon!

    The one route in SLU that I find a little bit bizarre is route 70, going all the way to UW Station. The portion of the 70 through Eastlake and the portion through campus strike me as two almost completely separate sets of riders. Having the 70 serve Pacific crowds out other routes that ought to have 10-minute headway on Pacific (like the 44 and 48/45), and uses up service hours in a non-optimal way.

    I tend to prefer having the 70 serve more of the length of the U-District, or maybe Stevens Way.

    1. I think the 70 should continue up until 45th Street rather than ending at UW Station. At least until Brooklyn Station opens in 2021.

      If you want to go from Denny Way and Fairview to 45th St. in the UDistrict, the service is way better now than under Alt 1 – more frequent service late at night, and a one-seat ride to 45th St.

      1. The service on Fairview would be roughly what it is today.

        There is also the option of taking the 8 to CHS.

        Service between UW station and 45th will be very frequent even at night (44, 45/271, 48/67). You can also transfer to one of those routes at Campus Parkway.

      2. I see demand for continuing the ride on the 70 up to 45th. Down to UW Station, not so much.

        If it is being put there just to increase frequency on Pacific, then there is a line-up of other routes whose riders will be begging for more frequency, want to be on Pacific, and want to get to UW Station . The 70 is in their way.

      3. The 70 today actually goes beyond 45th St. – it terminates at 52nd. That’s half a mile away from Campus Parkway already (a half-mile with a lot of sidewalk congestion down the Ave., making for a relatively slow walk), but with the 71/72/73 locals gone, people headed to Eastlake would likely walk to the 70 from as far as Ravenna (another half-mile or so).

        Also, the South Lake Union->UW Med Enter market is already supplemented by both private shuttles and the new 311, so having the 70 do that route to is somewhat redundant and isn’t work taking service area from the northwestern U-district area.

  12. >>The service on Fairview would be roughly what it is today.

    There is also the option of taking the 8 to CHS.

    Service between UW station and 45th will be very frequent even at night (44, 45/271, 48/67). You can also transfer to one of those routes at Campus Parkway.< LINK -> another bus route).

    And if service is only every 30 minutes from 11pm to 1am, that is not even close to “roughly what it is today”. Today it is every 15 minutes until 1am.

  13. >>The 70 will get you to Campus Parkway, which is 1/4 mile from 45th.”

    0.4m according to Google Maps. Thats far enough that it is not an insignificant distance. What I said stands. Service now from SLU to 45th is far better than under alt 1.

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