Two-and-a-half years ago, Zach concisely made the case for an idea that’s been kicking around the Seattle transit world for a decade or more:
Every now and then there is a simple fix to an existing inefficiency that improves transit access, decreases travel time, and costs very little. Such an opportunity exists at the Olive Way/Melrose Ave on-ramp to northbound I-5.
In a well-known story, in 2005 Anirudh Sahni successfully lobbied for a morning-only Capitol Hill stop for Sound Transit Route 545 at Bellevue/Olive, sparing mostly Microsoft commuters living on the Hill an unpleasant walk over I-5 to Olive/Terry. […] Made by 30 AM trips, the Bellevue/Olive deviation [adds] a minimum of 5 minutes to each AM trip. Simply adding a stop at Melrose/Olive/I-5, a mere shift of about 750 feet, would save 2-3 hours of cumulative delay every day on the 545.
In a recent turn of events, the kind with which all long-time STB authors are familiar, we heard via a recent offhand remark that an idea we’ve been shouting (seemingly into the void) for years is now under serious study by an alphabet soup of agencies. Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray:
The short answer about the Olive Way flyer stop is, yes, we’re looking at it. No decision has been made whether to go ahead with it and if we do, it won’t likely be before mid 2016. We’ve been looking into it as a way to shave about 5 min off the 545 trip, which would be the only route to use it. It would replace the stop at Bellevue and Olive. Right now the City, ST and WSDOT are talking about logistics and scale, but we’re a ways from having much more to say about it.
So, on the plus side, I’m thrilled that this excellent idea is under study: I hope the Olive Freeway Station gets built as soon as possible. My thanks to Sound Transit for taking the lead on this smart, cost-effective, rider-focused project. My only area of concern is the restricted scope of the study that Gray outlines: there is no good reason that only the 545 should serve this stop, rather every bus that goes past this stop should be considered as a candidate. Zach’s post contains a comprehensive list of 2012 routes that could have served this stop, and while it is now a little out of date, it does capture which points of the compass riders could head from this stop.
While I could see that there might be legibility or peak period capacity issues with having many routes serve this stop, at a minimum, the scope of this project should be extended to include service from ST 512. The 512 never uses the express lanes, so it always uses the Olive ramp, creating no legibility problems for riders. The 512 provides off-peak service for ST’s flagship Snohomish County corridor, I-5 north to Everett, and reliably carries full seated loads every day of the week, well into the evenings. The ST board has decided that BART-like rail is worth the cost on this corridor, and thus the comparatively negligible cost to figure out how to make this bus stop work for riders in the intervening seven years must surely also be justified.