gridlock UWThe miscellaneous route restructures for King County Metro proposed for March 2016, transmitted from the King County Executive Dow Constantine to the County Council last week, included some good news for South King County Commuters:

Per Executive Constantine:

Metro is proposing service additions to peak period service on two routes in the I-5 South Corridor: routes 179 and 190. Metro was awarded State Regional Mobility Grant funding for these routes to relieve congestion on Interstate 5 between Federal Way and downtown Seattle, which accommodates over 150,000 vehicles every day, with very high volumes during peak periods. During peak periods, it can take commuters more than an hour to drive the 22 miles between these places due to congestion. Adding two AM and two PM peak trips to both routes 179 and 190 will enable Metro to serve more riders during these periods, relieve crowding on existing service, and reduce single occupancy vehicle traffic. Both Metro and Sound Transit partnered together in pursuing this grant funding. The Regional Mobility Grant will also fund additional service for Sound Transit Route 577.

Route 179 serves western Federal Way, Federal Way Transit Center, and downtown Seattle. Route 190 serves Redondo Heights Park & Ride, Star Lake P&R, and downtown Seattle.

Sound Transit will be adding two AM peak direction trips and one PM peak direction trip on ST Express 577 in the upcoming September service change.

34 Replies to “ST/Metro/State Cooperation Will Bring More Service for South King County”

  1. 2! Adding 2 is ridiculous. Real change in driving habits require a much, much greater commitment to these corridors.

  2. Seems like nothing more than a drop in a bucket and a great opportunity for a press release. The 179 and 190 only have 12 peak direction buses. How about we make that 30 to actually make a dent and make the service more appealing to SOVs?

    1. Because everyone driving down I-5 during rush hour isn’t going specifically to downtown Seattle. No matter how many buses to downtown Metro runs, everyone headed anywhere north of downtown is still going to drive. The time sink of traveling all the way through downtown on a bus and transferring to another is just too much for most people to want to do every day.

      1. That’s a good point, especially considering the comment a little while ago about how most of the SLU traffic jams are headed to I-5 south. While we’re adding trips, perhaps we can send some of them straight to Olive/Denny or Mercer?

      2. Or (call me crazy) build a good transit system in the city that works well with buses from the suburbs to form a fast and frequent network.

  3. This is good. I’ll start commuting to Seattle from Federal Way again later this month, and these buses really are packed.

    Has anyone heard of Sound Transit having an ORCA Lift fare on ST Express within King County? I heard someone say they will start doing that by the end of the calendar year, but I heard nothing about it.

    1. “I heard someone say they will start doing that by the end of the calendar year, but I heard nothing about it.”


      Nothing has appeared on the ST Operations Committee agenda yet, which is where such a proposal would be routed. Such a fare changed would likely have to happen in conjunction with the annual budget, so don’t expect it to just happen in the middle of a year unless it was approved the previous year.

  4. Sam left his hat lying around so I’ll put it on for a minute. Aren’t peak expresses to Federal Way a lot of deadheading and per-trip subsidy? Most of these people work in the downtown financial district and make six-figure salaries, so why should we subsidize their exurban lifestyle? Should we really be expanding peak expresses from Federal Way? Shouldn’t we put the money into more efficient all-day service instead? For instance, we could have more express buses to the Link terminus. Doesn’t Federal Way think Link is the greatest thing in the world? The buses would just prefigure the Federal Way Link extension, which they say they want.

    1. The deadhead comment got me thinking, and I did a bit of research. These buses are commute only (rush hour and towards Seattle in the morning and away from Seattle in the evening). The Sound Transit buses are not. This change will make commuting from Federal Way quite nice. Lots of Sound Transit and Metro buses into town. If you want to go the other direction, then you have Sound Transit. From Star Lake you pretty much have Metro, which means that going against the flow requires a time consuming transfer.

      Anyway, this is good news. Always good to add a couple runs to what I assume is a crowded bus. Once Link gets to Federal Way, I assume that Sound Transit will truncate the route. Metro might do the same, even though a lot of people will complain.

      1. Some peak service might survive. But I expect off peak service to get deleted and hope the a line gets converted back into a local 174 route

    2. If these commuters make 6 figures, you’d think they’d live somewhere else closer other than Federal Way????

    3. No, people living in Federal Way and commuting to downtown are NOT necessarily making six-figure salaries. There are plenty of people who are the secretaries, administrative assistants, couriers, accounting assistants, drafters, receptionists, restaurant employees, technicians, paralegals, and other people holding assistant-type careers who really can only afford to live as close as Federal Way. Then, yes, there are those making six-figure salaries, some of whom were transferred against their will to Seattle by either Weyerhaeuser or Russell, and now have one spouse commuting to Seattle and another to an employer somewhere in Pierce County. The logical midway point for this family is now somewhere near Federal Way, Kent, or Auburn.

      As far as the effect of two additional trips on a suburban commute route, it can mean the difference between a bus that is so full that the driver turns riders away (this had happened to me in the past on the 565/566 on afternoons in Bellevue) and one that is near capacity but still has room to accept all of the riders. Getting turned away and having to wait 20 ADDITIONAL minutes for the next bus was a major detractor from taking transit. If we can encourage transit use on this corridor, reduce demand for lane-miles of highway, and avoid more expansion of I-5 and other freeways, shouldn’t we? Is this not a better use of our infrastructure?

      Calling Federal Way an exurb is really a little bit of a misnomer. When you look at its proximity to Seattle, well, sure. But it is adjacent to and shares a boundary with Tacoma, which is the second largest city in western Washington. Many homes along the south edge of Federal Way (whoops, I meant “Northeast Tacoma” which is really just a part of Federal Way that happened to be annexed by Tacoma decades ago) overlook the Port of Tacoma and Commencement Bay. Unfortunately, because of the proximity of the Seattle and Tacoma economies, we won’t escape people commuting from suburbs located between these two cities anytime soon.

    4. So is everybody happy with a 55-minute train ride replacing a 40-minute bus ride?

      “Calling Federal Way an exurb is really a little bit of a misnomer. When you look at its proximity to Seattle, well, sure. But it is adjacent to and shares a boundary with Tacoma”

      That’s separate from Federal Way-Seattle buses. How many people are taking the 574 from Federal Way to Tacoma, and how full is it? And PT 500, the hourly skeleton that it is.

      1. If Sound Transit’s numbers (recently published here) are to be believed, Federal Way to Seattle (University St) will be around 45 minutes, instead of 55 minutes. Still rather bad considering how much will be spent on Federal Way Link, but not quite as horrific as was originally thought.

        By contrast, the 577/578 is scheduled at around 40-45 minutes northbound at peak hours between Federal Way and 4th/University, 31-32 minutes midday, and ~25 minutes on weekends. Southbound, 2nd/Pike to Federal Way TC is scheduled around 37-39 minutes all day. I’m a bit skeptical of the schedule since the 179’s scheduled travel times are rather different however, so it’s hard to make comparisons without actual real-time data. Are there any plans for OneBusAway (or Metro/ST) to store detailed historical reliability data?

      2. University St. to SeaTac airport is already about 35 minutes. If the schedule estimates just 10 more minutes to go all the way to Federal Way TC, that seems very optimistic.

        Even if it works, this is major step backward if the 577 does not run alongside it.

  5. It’s probably a hard judgment call right now, but ST 574 could save up to ten minutes- more in morning traffic, pulling off I-5 at Star Lake and Kent Des Moines Park and Rides. With the first one requiring a right-hand crossing of every single northbound lane.

    At its south terminal, I found out the hard way that Lakewood Transit Center, where the route terminates, is a serious cab-ride from Lakewood Station. Where I’d left my car.

    Maybe worth the ten-minute loop to the Sounder Station. Again- arguable. But most valuable possibility for the 574 would be a permanent, hard-wired connection with Intercity Transit’s 600 series our of Olympia.

    This would offer direct express service from Olympia to Sea-Tac Airport. Right now, serious credit to Dave Turissini, who heads up ST Express for arranging this with IT right now from SR512 park and ride. But if this connection could be advertised, my feeling is we could have a cost-free jump in ridership.

    I’m not exactly “Disinterested”, which was our Founding Fathers’ term for impartial. But as transit regionalizes, might be good to get people from south of Lakewood into the habit of riding ST. Possibly hastening Thurston County’s, or at least Olympia’s eventual inclusion.

    Mark Dublin

    1. They tried moving the 574 terminal to lakewood station. But alas the rider revolt and they kept it at the Towne center.

      1. When I was still living with my father, I was one of the (few) riders who offered a compromise suggestion: every other trip to Lakewood Transit Center OR Lakewood Sounder Station (not unlike today’s 577/578, with the last 574 A/B shared stop being the 512 P&R).

        At the time, the majority of (the admittedly very few) riders using the 574 at Transit Center were transferring busses.

      2. That would be a good idea, except the route only runs every half-hour as it is. I’d rather have Pierce Transit run a local bus between the two with a longer span of service.

      3. Currently: PT 51 directly connects the Transit Center to the train station, but it’s only hourly and not at night (and the long way). You’re better off taking the 4 to 512 P&R and catching your choice of PT 300, ST 574, or IT 600-series given the current setup

    2. Personally I don’t see high ridership coming from Lakewood Transit Center, but I could be wrong. I had an idea, that NB 574s could use the HOV exit for FWTC, than loop back down to FW P&R at 320th st (the old FWTC), than get on the freeway at 320th going northbound and be able to stay in the right side of the freeway for the next two stops, much like the old 194. Southbound would be a similar process, but in reverse as the bus is already in the right hand side of the freeway, would get off at 320th, loop through FW P&R, go back north to the TC, and get on at the HOV ramps heading south and be able to stay in the HOV lane until it ends in fife. This would probably add a minimal amount of time to the schedule, and would make a more effective use of the FW P&R which is less than half full, while FWTC is at or near 100%. The same would go for the 577/578 as well, which the 578 since it uses the next exit for highway 18, NB could serve FW P&R first, the TC, than go directly into the HOV lanes going north, and Southbound serve the TC first, the P&R second, and by the time it gets back on the freeway its already in line for the next exit at highway 18. Metro has a large inventory of P&R space in the Federal Way area that is going largely unused.

    3. The connection between the 574/594 and the IT 600 series in Lakewood is only as reliable as traffic on I-5 and the streets of downtown Tacoma. Which effectively means not reliable at all. You’d have to allow at least 20 minutes cushion to be assured of making such a connection.

      Combining the two routes into one big route going all the way from Olympia to SeaTac is good for Olympia. Not so good for Federal Way and Tacoma (because the bus would frequently show up extremely late).

      There’s also the fact that, assuming Link does eventually extend to Federal Way, there’s no good reason not to truncate the 574, even though every reason still remains to keep the 594 intact.

  6. I assume the demand for these routes is sufficient to warrant extra service, so this is all for the good, and worthy of praise. Also nice to see Metro get some love from the regional mobility grant program. But the notion that this will relieve congestion is an absurd fantasy. In the highly unlikely event these buses took enough cars off the road to actually reduce congestion, the space they previously took up on the road will almost certainly be replaced by others as South King continues to grow in sprawly fashion.

    1. Truth to tell, dwj, never in history has public transit “relieved traffic congestion.”

      As soon as New York City’s first subway opened its station doors, officials immediately noticed that the trains were as packed to capacity as the streets above them, where you couldn’t even walk uptown during rush hour. However, without that exact sidewalk congestion, the subway system would never have been started at all.

      The main reason our own transit system has had such a slow start was that for the last several decades there has been enough motor traffic here to annoy everybody, but not enough people to pay the taxes for the digging and bridging our terrain demands.

      Now that I-5 between Everett and Olympia is paved with car roofs, we’ve also got enough people to be both willing to pay for transit and desperate to get it.

      But mainly, take a LINK ride to the airport any rush hour in terrible weather, especially when it’s paralyzed by a blizzard and you’ll see an inevitable truth:

      Transit does one certain thing for traffic congestion: It makes sure that nobody is forced to be stuck in it.

      Mark Dublin

  7. Although I don’t think it’s a sufficient number of trips, it does help. These buses are crush loaded, and even the miniscule number of extra buses does alleviate the crowdedness of the buses. I live in FW and what I see at the transit center every morning is a mile long line of people waiting to board the 577. When I go that route, I have two options, either wait for a seat (meaning wait for the next bus after the one boarding when I get in line), or, after all seats in the current bus are filled, I can choose to stand (all the way to Seattle) and cut past all the people waiting for a seat.

    I particularly like that they are adding trips to the 179, since it incentivizes people to avoid the busy transit center and park at other park and ride lots (Twin Lakes) that have lower utilization. I wish they did more of this. What they really should do is add more trips to route 178 (or convert some route 177 trips to 178) because that lot is very under-utilized.

    1. Right on, Alex. But something that every rush hour passenger knows firsthand, but that usual fight over buses versus trains generally misses:

      Even on a crowded train, a standing passenger is magnitudes more comfortable that a standee on a bus. Like with streetcars and pedestrians, control of side-to-side motion is critical for comfort, aboard or walking beside the vehicle.

      However, one more thing that rush hour bus riders are too PTSD’d to describe. A standing ride on a fast-moving express bus is at least bearable. But in local service or (Please stop screaming, you’re having a flashback!) stuck in traffic…literary combination of “Oh God, the Humanity!” and “The horror! The horror!”

      Or a Department of Agriculture inspector: “Shoot the whole damn trailer full of cows right after the driver! I’m gonna puke!” In other words, some lane reservation and traffic light adjustment aren’t going to make car congestion any worse than it is now, but at least many automobile loads of people will be in rapid motion past the stuck ones.

      Mark Dublin

  8. “it can take commuters more than an hour to drive the 22 miles between these places”
    Is this the justification for Link being slow?

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