On Tuesday, Metro presented its new “Alternative 3” U-Link restructure proposal, and we reported on it. This post is different: it’s an opinion piece about the changes I, personally, would like to see in the final proposal. Some of these requests are easy, some are a bit harder, and the big one is a reach. But I hope Metro’s hard-working planners will consider all of them. (And, as everyone should, I will provide feedback to Metro through the normal channels as well as this post.)
- Keep the 271/45 through route.
- Move the 255 out of the tunnel.
- Move the 373 in the U-District to match the new 73.
- Send the 9 to Group Health.
- Increase evening frequency on the 8.
- Move the 271 so it can serve Evergreen Point.
The Big Reach: Restructure Capitol Hill (again), in a way that should be easier to implement and easier for riders to understand.
Details below the jump.
Keep the 271/45 through route. This through-route was one of the most exciting features of Alternative 1, and would have opened up a lot of new two-seat rides between North Seattle and the Eastside. As far as we know, the only reason it disappeared is that Metro decided to retain the time-consuming, unreliable, low-ridership Issaquah tail of route 271. Metro should push ahead with this through-route, and with replacing the 271’s Issaquah tail with an infrequent coverage route, even if it doesn’t make any other SR 520 changes.
255 out of the tunnel. Route 255 does not gain anything from being underground, especially at peak hours. Southbound, surface buses such as routes 252 or 257 can be at Westlake by the time the 255 winds its way to Convention Place. Northbound, the tunnel is oversubscribed at peak hour, and extreme delays and bunching are frequent. Alternative 1’s peak-only “256,” part of the 255 replacement, would have run on the surface downtown. This should still happen. Removing the 255 from the tunnel would improve the rider experience for both 255 riders and everyone else.
Move the 373 to match new 73. Metro decided to retain route 73, and give it a new routing along Roosevelt Way in the U-District. But it didn’t change route 373, which uses The Ave in the U-District. Northbound, this creates a situation where two routes going to the same stops pick up passengers in entirely different places. Metro should move the 373 to use the same routing as the 73 in the U-District, just with fewer stops.
Send the 9 to Group Health, not Aloha. This proposal from Alternative 1 would have created a new connection between the top of Capitol Hill and south Seattle, while adding more daytime frequency to the critical trip between Capitol Hill Station and the top of the hill. It’s a good change even without the other Alternative 1 changes that necessitated it.
Slightly Harder but Worth It
Increase evening frequency on the 8. Bad evening frequency along the 8 is a glaring hole in the Metro system. The hole just gets worse as all the neighborhoods along the north half of the 8 grow rapidly. The basket of evening frequency improvements in Prop 1 narrowly missed the 8. Metro should use any hours it can scrounge up to bring urban night service to this very urban route—by bringing back through-routes, re-euthanizing route 47 now that Summit is slated for more frequent downtown service, or a re-restructure as I describe below.
Allow the 271 to serve Evergreen Point. I’ve been banging the drum for this change ever since WSDOT’s new SR 520 freeway stops opened. It’s still a good idea. Same-stop transfers here are very convenient, and without them it is difficult for many riders to access the 271. The 271 should use either Bellevue Way or 112th Ave NE, rather than the Clyde Hill routing, between Bellevue Transit Center and SR 520. The time savings could at least partly pay for a short extension of coverage route 246 to Yarrow Point Station, covering the sparse demand from the Clyde Hill area.
The Big Reach
Restructure Capitol Hill… again. If there’s one thing the Link Connections process has made clear, it’s that Capitol Hill is a really hard problem. The all-Madison 11 and Metro’s proposed 12 (“43 Jr.”) solve some issues with Alternative 1, but create others. With Metro’s latest proposal, trips from anywhere east of Group Health to Link, Pike/Pine, and the retail core become more difficult, First Hill loses trolley service, connectivity from CHS to First Hill becomes worse, and east-west frequency near CHS will be irregular.
But although the problem is hard, I think Metro can do better. And I think there’s a way to do better without creating insurmountable opposition. So, even though Metro (showing admirable responsiveness to comment) has already started over once, I have another proposal.
This proposal (interactive Google map linked) uses the same resources as Metro’s, to my best estimation. It creates a simpler network than Metro’s, with high daytime and evening frequency on all major routes. It uses established routing and transit streets, and requires no capital investments at all except for a new 40′ layover bay somewhere in the Denny Triangle. It should also be very easy for current users to understand, and strongly favors the feedback Metro received on Alternative 1 over my own personal preferences.
- Routes with new routing:
- 10-John. Use Olive and John, rather than Pine, between Bellevue Ave and 15th Ave. Use the same frequency as route 8 at all hours: 12 minutes daytime, 15 minutes evenings/Sundays.
- 49-Madison. The route 49 proposal from Alternative 1 (and with Alternative 1’s 10-minute frequency), using Madison instead of Pine.
- 60-Boren. In place of the current Capitol Hill routing, which is duplicative with either the 49-Madison or the First Hill Streetcar depending on the trip, send this route north on Boren Ave to the newly dense Denny Triangle. With a few more hours, it could be extended a few blocks further, into South Lake Union.
- Routes with routing from Metro’s latest proposal:
- 8. Add 15-minute evening and Sunday frequency.
- 9. (The minor change from Alternative 1 would be even better.)
- Routes with today’s routing:
- 11. Include the 15-minute daytime frequency funded by Prop 1. Add new 10-minute frequency during peak hours and 15-minute frequency evenings.
- 12 (peak only). 15-minute frequency only during peak hours, to match very peak-heavy ridership on both 19th Ave E and First Hill. No service off-peak.
This restructure would reallocate hours from these parts of Metro’s proposal…
- Off-peak service on Metro’s proposed route 12 (the “43 Jr.”)
- The slow Broadway tail of route 60
…to the following additions:
- Small increases in daytime frequency on routes 10 and 49
- Increased peak frequency on route 11
- Doubling evening/Sunday frequency on routes 8 and 11
Even if I have overestimated available hours, I think this proposal with slightly lower frequencies remains preferable to Metro’s latest proposal. This proposal would have all the following benefits:
- Preserve access from eastern Capitol Hill to the downtown retail core and CHS
- Provide frequent and well-spaced service between CHS and almost all of Capitol Hill
- Create new connections from First Hill to CHS and the Denny Triangle (with a short walk to South Lake Union)
- Retain high frequency on Broadway
- Retain trolley service on Madison in First Hill
- Maintain frequent downtown service to Summit
- Allow for more peak frequency on Pine than Alt 1
The major losses from today’s service would be no off-peak service on 19th Ave E, which has relatively poor off-peak ridership today, and slightly longer walks for travelers between 15th Ave E and Pike/Pine. I think both of these tradeoffs are far outweighed by the benefits above.
If you support this proposal (or if you don’t), please let Metro know before May 31st.