When more buses are needed during peak hours, and no extra money is available to add more runs, it is usually off-peak frequency, and then off-peak span-of-service, that gets reduced first. Sunday and then Saturday service are at the front of that queue for taking away service.

Cleveland High School, where bus riders will no longer be stranded after 8:00 on weekends (photo by Joe Mabel)
Cleveland High School, where bus riders will no longer be stranded after 8:00 on weekends (photo by Joe Mabel)

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the route I ride most, if it is in service, got a serious investment, with nearly half of the investment being on weekends. Route 60 is a very dependable, but often-not-close-to-full cross-town route connecting Broadway on Capitol Hill, Madison St, Harborview, Yesler Terrace, Little Saigon, North Beacon Hill, Beacon Hill Station, 15th Ave S, southern Georgetown, South Park, Arrowhead Gardens, White Center, and Westwood Village. It splices together a lot of short trips, and yet shows up on time whenever I ride it (at least since the reliability-destroying loop through the congested Veterans’ Administration Hospital parking lot got removed).

Seattle Proposition 1 provided the funding to bring route 60 up to par with a lot of downtown routes, with half-hourly service all day from roughly 7:00-11:00 on weekends, and at least that frequent on weekdays. Service investments added four late-evening trips each way on weeknights and eight evening trips each way on weekends, plus an additional northbound trip on weekends earlier than the previous span of service.

Mid-day frequency got boosted to every 20 minutes a few years ago, with 15-minute scheduled headway during peak, which has since been fine-tuned to headway of no worse than 20 minutes, but as good as 10 minutes for the peak-of-peak period in the peak direction. There are portions of the route where the bus fills up during peak, including at Cleveland High School before and after school.

One of the major stops for boardings and alightings is at Beacon Hill Station, with lots of riders transferring to/from Link. Route 60 is slowly but surely becoming a success story as a Link-connecting route that doesn’t go downtown. Indeed, a major draw of the route is that its reliability isn’t wrecked by having to slog through downtown. More of this, please!

28 Replies to “Praise for Route 60 Investments”

  1. Indeed, a major draw of the route is that its reliability isn’t wrecked by having to slog through downtown. More of this, please!

    Thank you for recognizing this. Someday our route planners will see it, too. Yes, going downtown serves the commuting crowd and that’s awesome. Fewer cars during peak demand means less traffic. But the rest of the network needs connectivity from one part of the city to others, too. Especially for areas that are directly-adjacent.

    The ongoing debate over route 11 is a prime example of this: The Central Area (including Madison Park and what is now, by Realtors, being called “Eastern Capitol Hill” along 23rd) and Capitol Hill are directly adjacent. There is no reason to make connections between those areas to require going all the way downtown–and making the interminably slow crawl across IH-5 twice–just to come right back up the hill. I’ve been told that’s “distorting the network,” but it’s not. It’s providing comfortable, fast connectivity to areas that need it.

    Transfers are fine if they make sense. Sending everybody through the increasingly bottlenecked downtown transit corridor doesn’t.

    1. To which part of the hill? The only possible routes are Madison, Madison-Pine, and Madison-John. At 15th they’re all five blocks apart. At Broadway they’re eight blocks apart. At Bellevue they’re ten blocks apart but all shifted south. The largest destinations are 15th & John, Broadway & John, Broadway & Pine, and First Hill. Downtown the largest destinations are 3rd & Pine and 4th & Jackson. I like the Madison-Pine route because it goes through the middle of the first three and straight into midtown. Downtown is not everybody’s goal but it’s a lot of people’s goal, and it’s where transfers to everywhere are. If you’re taking Sounder, Amtrak, the ferries, the 512, the 594, etc, you have to go downtown.

      That’s why I’m concerned about turning the 8 into the only route to Madison Park and Madison Valley: I’m not sure Denny Way is ready to become everybody’s destination or forced transfer point; midtown still looks superior for the widest cross-section of riders.

      Also, the issue of grids and one-seat rides becomes more acute the longer the route is. It makes less difference whether the 11 goes on Madison or John, or whether the 2 goes on Queen Anne Avenue or Taylor Avenue, than it does whether the 48 from Greenwood goes downtown or to 23rd Avenue. Trips of less than three miles should ideally not require transfers, and they definitely shouldn’t require two transfers within a 2-mile space, as would happen if somebody has to take the 11+Link+120. Turning the 11 into the 8 would turn all trips from eastern Madison to the south end or multimodal terminals into three-seat rides or going through the Denny Way/Belltown slowness. That’s part of the reason why the 11 goes to downtown. But at longer distances a one-seat ride is less justified, such as the 1990s reorganization that turned Campus Parkway into a forced transfer hub between downtown and most parts of northeast Seattle.

      1. In this case, I think the overall network is better with the 8 to Madison Park, simply because Link is so much faster than a bus that, even with the transfer, it wouldn’t really increase travel times to downtown.

        The problem with this proposal (and, what I believe ultimately sunk it) is that the reliability of the train->bus connection during the evening commute would be determined by the reliability (or lack thereof) of Denny, and any time Denny Way is clogged, downtown->Madison Park riders would have seen extreme wait times and bus bunching at Capital Hill Station. Until Denny gets fixed, the train->bus connection is much more reliable when the bus is coming from downtown, and it also avoids bus->bus transfers for parts of Capital Hill between the station and downtown, which are much bigger destinations than, say, Fairview and Denny.

      2. I mean the middle part of the Hill, Pike/Pine and I like the 11’s current routing for the same reasons you do, it covers most of the off-peak, all-day destinations without going across the freeway twice.

        Also, the issue of grids and one-seat rides becomes more acute the longer the route is. … Trips of less than three miles should ideally not require transfers, and they definitely shouldn’t require two transfers within a 2-mile space…

        This, a thousand times this. I still have concerns about chopping the 48 but I can live with it given the distance penalty. Getting from directly-adjacent neighborhoods shouldn’t be a three bus trip from one side, or a two-bus slog via the most congested transit corridor in the entire city. Some corridor will always be “most congested” because that’s how lists work, but cramming the entire central Seattle network through the eye of the needle that is 3rd Ave is not fun. Going downtown to leave the immediate area is fine. Going downtown to go ten blocks west sucks.

      1. Wes seems to be favoring a Madison-John routes, to which (if I correctly recall) you are staunchly opposed.

    2. Does anyone see this sort of downtown transfer nexus mentality playing into the tendency to dismiss UW/Ballard light rail?

  2. I used to take this bus frequently when I lived in Beacon Hill. Does anyone know how ridership is holding up on this route? The reopening of the South Park bridge should have reduced operating costs slightly, and may have improved ridership a little bit. I’m glad they removed the VA loop – I wish the 50 would drop it too.

    1. I wonder if the opening of the next round of Link will cut into some of the 60’s ridership, as simply taking Link from Capitol Hill Station to Beacon Hill Station will likely be considerably faster than the 60 and it’s slow detour to the First Hill hospitals – along with much better service frequency. Especially for those that are riding the 60 only to transfer to Link or the 7, during the hours where the 9 isn’t running.

      I also wonder how much of Capital Hill->First Hill traffic will shift from Link to the streetcar. Both routes seem equally sluggish, so the choice may come down to which vehicle is coming first. I think the streetcar is supposed to run more frequently than the 60 (every 15 minutes while the 60 is running every 30). Of course, the people that simply walk from Capital Hill to First Hill will likely just continue walking, streetcar or no streetcar.

      1. “I also wonder how much of Capital Hill->First Hill traffic will shift from Link to the streetcar.”

        ???

      2. I’ll post ridership stats if I can dig them up quickly.

        Route 60 and the streetcar compete for riders going down Broadway as far as Madison, and then south of Yesler to Little Saigon. But the streetcar misses the center of the Pill Hill medical complex, and Harborview in particular. Riders from the north who have been going downtown to transfer to routes 2-4 to get to Harborview or Virginia Mason might shift to taking route 60 from Capitol Hill Station starting next year. This would be less likely to happen, of course, if route 49 were to shift to serving Broadway further south, and Madison, as was proposed in Alternative 1.

        Since I just spent a few days in Vancouver, I’ve been spoiled with true frequency. That the streetcar won’t be timed for a slick all-day transfer at Capitol Hill Station due to being slightly less frequent, is disappointing, and I think will impact ridership. When route 60 is running 20-minute or 30-minute headways, it can be timed for transfers to Link at one station or the other, maybe both, albeit not for the reverse transfer.

        Riders going between the walkshed of Beacon Hill Station and Capitol Hill Station will almost certainly switch to Link, but I think trips just between the two are a distinct minority of route 60’s ridership. I’m guessing the opening of Capitol Hill Station will be a net positive for route 60’s ridership.

      3. “When route 60 is running 20-minute or 30-minute headways, it can be timed for transfers to Link at one station or the other, maybe both, albeit not for the reverse transfer.”

        I’ll believe it when I see it.

        “Riders going between the walkshed of Beacon Hill Station and Capitol Hill Station will almost certainly switch to Link, but I think trips just between the two are a distinct minority of route 60’s ridership.”

        Probably true, but it’s probably not so much an issue of nobody in Beacon Hill wanting to go to Capital Hill, as a matter of those who do make the trip overwhelmingly choosing to drive because today’s bus ride is so slow. Since the bus route is optimized better for getting to the hospitals, not surprisingly, it gets better modeshare for people going to the hospitals.

        Good point about people currently transferring downtown to get to the hospitals possibly choosing to transfer at Capitol Hill Station instead. Presumably, those who are able would either walk all the way or take either the streetcar or the #60 bus, whichever comes first, while those who can’t walk will wait for the #60 bus no matter what for its front-door service.

  3. Agreed. I wish that when we talk about upper North Seattle, we talk about east-west cross city routes that both avoid downtown and Northgate.

    How did route 60 develop? I’d like to think of it as a model for a 130th bus route. Why not develop that before the LR stop (which still might not be built).

    1. For that matter, I really like TriMet’s method of showing snow routes, too. Drawing them in the same color as the main route line is much less distracting than Metro’s method.

      (Metro knows how to make better maps – their RapidRide maps are great. Is it just time preventing them from redoing the other routes too?)

      1. As far as I know, that’s a legacy thing from when printing stuff in color was too expensive.

    2. Wow, Metro is way behind in keeping their maps up to date in regards to landmarks and points of interest. The Route 60 map shows the Beacon Hill Library at the corner of Beacon and 15th. It moved from this location into it’s current structure, 3 blocks south on Beacon, on the other side of Beacon Hill Station, 12 years ago!

    3. I’ve found that KCM’s route 60 map, moreso than just about any other route map for an in city route, is absolutely incomprehensible. Without any sort of geographic features and with the multiple boxes showing different parts of the route, it is *really* difficult to understand where it’s going if you don’t know the areas very well.

  4. I think I mentioned this before, but I feel that the 60 would be an interesting candidate for electrification. Think about it–the speed limits of the streets it operates on never exceed 35, most of the overhead between Broadway and Beacon Hill is already in place, and electrifying the route would give West Seattle its first ETB route since the heyday of the Seattle Transit System. With other West Seattle routes this wouldn’t be possible–the upper-level Spokane Street bridge has too high a speed limit, and the low-level bridge is subject to openings that last no less than 30 minutes!

    1. I was wondering what would happen if you combined the 60 and the 49 – it would be similar conceptually to the 48, eg a route that doesn’t go downtown but still serves many key destinations. One problem with this is that the 60 isn’t electrified – but if we did that we could combine both routes.

      1. A number of people on this blog have suggested combining the 36 and 49, both of which are already trolley routes. The problem would be taking away the 36’s access to downtown; your proposal would give a crosstown route without that problem.

        The new difficulty is that the 49 is soon going to run twice as frequently as the 60. Half the trips could turn back in First Hill or the International District, though. With that change, I like your proposal.

    2. It’s unclear how much Metro wants to keep the 60 long term. The cut proposal turned it into an east-west route from Westwood Village to Othello Station. Seattle’s TMP has a Beacon-Broadway-UDistrict corridor. There’s also a transit hole on 12th Avenue between Jackson and Denny, which would be a straight shot for the 60. There are two ultimate issues. One, is it OK to split the north-south and east-west part of the 60? Two, 15th Ave S below Spokane Street is a long walk from any other route, so it should have something going to Broadway.

  5. Why does the headline say “Investments”?

    An investment is a one time expenditure that brings continuing returns. Building a dedicated road that improve service forever is an investment.

    Service improvements, while welcome, aren’t an investment.

    1. It could be argued either way. If a one-year service enhancement allows somebody to go to school and work part-time more easily, and that education helps them to get a better job and contribute more to society, then it’s a continuing return.

      1. I’m all for ongoing service improvements – but even if the benefit society and our community, they have ongoing costs, so let’s label them properly. It helps create forthright dialog

    2. The duration of Seattle Proposition 1’s sales tax increase and car tab increase is limited, and goes away in 2021. Some of the investments will continue on because they will have succeeded, and Metro will-have back-filled the annual operational costs as Metro’s capacity to fund them grows and its Service Guidelines direct them to pay for the same services that Seattle had been funding.

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