A standing-room only crowd of 300 people turned up last night at the Mountaineers to testify before the County Council on the proposed University Link bus restructure. We and Transportation Choices Coalition live-tweeted the event, and you can read our threads here and here. (You can also follow the #Bus2Link hashtag). Councilmembers Dembowski, Gossett, and McDermott deserve praise for staying throughout the full 3 hours, and the meeting was also partially attended by Councilmembers Phillips, Hague, and Lambert.)
There were impassioned, detailed pleas to Councilmembers both in support and opposition. Opponents largely praised the concepts behind the restructure while strongly opposing changes to their particular route. While some of the opposing testimony was predictably absurd and entitled – like the two Tangletown residents upset about higher bus frequency shaking their Craftsmans or the Jackson Park resident saying buses are unsafe to operate near his condo – most of the opposing testimony was detailed, on point, and grounded in legitimate complaints.
Route 43 riders in Montlake expressed particular skepticism that their proposed access to Link (via the 48) will not be a practical option until the SR 520 bridge project is finished and/or there is transit priority in Montlake. And you know what? They have a point. While the first proposal (Alternative 1) had a solid 10-minute to 10-minute transfer via the 8/48 and the second proposal had direct access to Link via Route 12 on 19th/Thomas/John, the final proposal had neither, with the 12 retaining its current routing, the 8 cut back to 12 minutes, and the transfer lengthened to Madison St. The result is that none of the three north-south routes in NE Capitol Hill (10, 12, 48) will have access to Capitol Hill Station under the proposal, and though 43 riders will have 2-seat ride to Downtown via a frequent transfer from the 48 to the 2, 3, 4, 8, or 11, riders on 23rd Ave E will require two transfers to connect to Capitol Hill Station. Even frequent network purists should have a hard time swallowing a 3-seat ride to travel the 3 miles to the stadiums, Pioneer Square, etc. If the best access upper Montlake has to Link is the day before it opens, that’s not a good network.
The 16/62 proposal proved to be fairly polarizing, with strong opposition from Route 16 riders who ride between Northgate and Wallingford who do not want to ride the extended 26X instead. Several of them asked for the tails to be flipped, with the full-time 26X going to Sand Point via NE 65th, and the 16 retaining its current routing. Several also voiced support for the new connections it would enable, particularly between Fremont/Wallingford/Green Lake and Roosevelt/Ravenna/Wedgwood, areas with no direct connection today.
There were moments of levity early in the meeting – when comments were still running strongly negative –with two Laurelhurst residents praising the 78 and supporting the cancellation of the 25, saying “I’m one of like 3 people who ride that bus, and we’d like to thank Metro for our own private limo service all these years.”
Supportive institutional comment came from Futurewise, UW, Transportation Choices, and Solid Ground. As the meeting wore on and more transit riders arrived at the far-flung Mountaineers, public testimony started breaking more in favor of the restructure:
- A Route 75 rider complained that her route wasn’t changing, wishing it to directly connect to the station via Montlake Blvd instead of Stevens Way, and other speakers similarly blasted WSDOT and SDOT for failing to have any plans for transit priority on Montlake.
- A KOMO engineer said that “even more pitchforks would be here” if the situation were reversed and Council were proposing our current network, cutting service in half throughout NE Seattle.
- Another speaker said, “Sure I have a one-seat ride now, but it’s terrible. It’s unreliable, crowded, and only runs every half hour.”
- A man who commutes from Wedgwood to Sodo praised the restructure, saying he “can’t wait” to trade the 64+131 for the 65+Link.
- A Methodist reverend “affirmed” the restructure as part of a needed transition to climate-friendly electric transit.
- A Maple Leaf resident praised Metro for proposing 15-minute service and a Link connection for Route 67 (while also rightly criticizing Sound Transit for the underprovision of bike parking at UW Station).
- Seattle Subway showed up in force as usual, with Political Director Jonathan Hopkins asking Metro not to “lock us in a 1970s transit system that serves fewer people and does so relatively poorly. Please give us frequent reliable transit that serves more people.”
- Rounding out the public comment, Andrew Austin from Transportation Choices noted the generational gap in testimony, with younger voices strongly in support and older voices in opposition, and asked us all to look for ways to bridge that gap.
So where do we go from here? The Council and Metro will use the feedback as ammo to negotiate behind the scenes, informing the content of revisions and amendments likely to be offered by Councilmembers as it goes to full council possibly as soon as October 20. There will be a special TrEE committee meeting October 14, and we’ll have a better idea of the proposal’s fate at that time. But it seems clear that the 43 (and likely also the 71) are headed for some sort of partial restoration, with possible other network changes as well. Stay tuned.