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.
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.