Last week at the Mountaineers, public testimony was decidedly split, with angry and opposing testimony at the beginning of the meeting slowly giving way to riders more supportive of the proposed ULink restructure. But it has become clear in public comment that Route 43 riders feel particularly aggrieved, as with each iteration of restructure alternatives their options have gotten worse. In other parts of the city, such as on Route 71, those who oppose the restructure are upset about their route changing to connect to Link, whereas a Route 43 elimination would uniquely disconnect riders on 23rd/24th from Link. Even though defensible from a gridded network perspective, for a project named Link Connections, residents not tuned into every iteration of policy can be forgiven for their apoplexy.
It is exceedingly likely that a compromise is in order, and numerous sources have hinted that a restored 43 is in the cards. So what should such a route look like? A few principles I would bring to discussion:
- Keep the rest of the restructure as intact as possible
- Don’t waste thousands of service hours sending the 43 on its current routing Downtown when Link would be faster.
- Use a trolley-friendly route if possible.
This leads to an interesting idea to run an all-day, weekday only local service overlay between UW Station and Capitol Hill, with a terminus at Broadway/Aloha. But, you say, Route 9 currently terminates there, and there is no room for another bus? Happily, there is an unused bus layover space at Group Health (16th/Denny) leftover from the days before Route 8 was extended to Rainier Valley, and it’s perfect for Route 9. (see inset map).
Such a service would connect Route 43 to Capitol Hill Station (CHS), provide even more frequency between 15th and CHS, and not waste a single service hour serving Downtown Seattle unnecessarily. The shortened 43 could be a 40′ diesel coach for zero capital cost, or for the cost of two switches at Broadway/John, it could remain a trolley.
It wouldn’t be cheap, but neither would it be exorbitant. The current Route 43 costs Metro approximately $7.3m per year to operate over 47,000 service hours. Imagine a two-bus operation with a 15-minute travel time between UW Station and Broadway/Aloha, plus a 10-minute layover at Aloha. That’s a 40-minute cycle time, meaning that a two-bus service could offer 20-minute frequency. If you ran the service weekday only from 6am-8pm, that’s approximately 7,400 annual service hours, or $1.1m per year. Add in unavoidable inefficiencies due to deadheading, occasionally longer driver breaks, and the occasional extra tripper, and the service could cost $1.5m per year, or about 20% the cost of the current 43.
While the entirety of the 43’s service hours were reprogrammed into the proposed network, my guess is that $1.5m could be found, given the political imperatives.
Thoughts on this idea?