UPDATE: Metro’s Jeff Switzer provided some corrected information about the routing of Routes 65 and 67. See below the jump for details.
Yesterday, the King County Council approved an ordinance directing Metro to restructure service in much of North Seattle and on Capitol Hill in conjunction with the opening of University Link. The restructure is now final and official. What you see in the ordinance is what you will get in March 2016. Metro has not yet put final detailed information online; when they do, we’ll update this post with a link.
Final approval seems almost anticlimactic after the process, which is the longest and most public process I’ve seen in over two decades of following Metro closely. From Metro, we saw initial maximum- and minimum-change ideas, a second proposal responding to feedback on the initial proposals, and then a substantially different final proposal to the Council when further feedback was lukewarm on the second proposal. Metro assembled a Sounding Board (on which our Zach Shaner served) to help advise it on the changes, and held numerous public hearings following each proposal.
After Metro submitted its final proposal, the Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee held a long, dramatic hearing focused on the Northeast Seattle part of the restructure. Committee Chair Rod Dembowski, rumored through much of the process to favor scuttling the restructure altogether over concerns about the UW Station transfer environment, strongly denied that intent and introduced an amendment to fix what he saw as significant problems with Metro’s proposal. Councilmember Dembowski’s amendment, which (among several other changes) restored partial service on routes 43 and 71 and mostly eliminated Metro’s proposed route 78, passed the committee and remained in the final ordinance passed yesterday by the council.
In addition to the U-Link restructure, another ordinance passed yesterday makes official the split of the RapidRide C and D Lines. RapidRide C will now terminate in South Lake Union—dramatically improving bus connections between SLU and downtown, and connecting SLU with West Seattle for the first time in several years—while RapidRide D will now terminate in Pioneer Square.
We’ve always been enthusiastic about the restructure, particularly in Northeast Seattle, and we’re very happy to see it become final. Details of the Dembowski amendment, which represents the only changes from Metro’s final proposal, are below the jump.
Councilmember Dembowski’s amendment made several significant changes. STB staffers have expressed varying opinions on the merits of these changes, and not everyone on staff agrees with my assessments below. In general, though, I’m pessimistic about the amendment’s changes to service; I think they generally served to make the restructure worse, and had the worst effects on the residents of the neighborhoods they were trying hardest to help. Still, the amendment did not change many of the best things about the restructure, notably increased frequency on many core routes, major reliability improvements, and (for the most part) a more legible gridded service pattern. Its recommendation for a transfer point work plan is also a great idea.
Replace Route 78 in View Ridge with restored Route 71. Metro’s proposal introduced a new Route 78, which would have provided a weekday, daytime 30-minute north-south connection between Wedgwood, View Ridge, Laurelhurst, and UW Station, intended to provide Link and UW connectivity for passengers in areas where frequent routes 65 and 75 are too far away. The Dembowski amendment truncates Metro’s proposed route 78 to a short stub ending in Laurelhurst, which (judging by current route 25) dooms it to near-zero ridership. In View Ridge, the 78 is replaced by a revised route 71 (at left), which is the same as today’s 71 between Wedgwood and the U-District, but will replace service to downtown with a “tail” serving UW Station.
I think this change is a substantial downgrade from Metro’s proposal for View Ridge residents. The retained 71 will be significantly slower than Metro’s proposed 78 between View Ridge and Link, and only marginally faster between View Ridge and the northern U-District than the 78/73 through route. The retained 71 is duplicative; frequent transfers are available between new route 62 and several north/south routes between Roosevelt and the U-District. It eliminates the new connections Metro’s route 78 would have provided between View Ridge, Children’s Hospital and U-Village. I hope that Metro revisits the route 78 proposal later, once riders have become comfortable with frequent east-west service on new route 62.
Swap Routes 67 and 73 in the U-District. This change is the silver lining from the restored route 71. In Metro’s final proposal, 15-minute route 67 ran on University Way through the U-District, and 30-minute route 73 on Roosevelt Way, with the routes “swapping” near the site of future Roosevelt Station. The added route 71 trips allow Metro to put route 67 back on Roosevelt, while retaining the same frequency on University Way as Metro’s proposal by alternating routes 71 and 73/373.
The change has some knock-on effects. Route 67 will now be through-routed with route 65,
and will go through campus rather than ending at UW Station. Route 65, for its part, will no longer do the counterclockwise UW Station “loop,” which will be relegated to half-hourly service on the route 78 stub. (UPDATE: Metro’s Jeff Switzer commented and emailed to clarify. Routes 65/67 will go through campus westbound, but will serve UW Station eastbound.) Route 73 will not continue through campus, but will serve UW Station directly.
Together, these changes have the effect of retaining 15-minute north/south service on Roosevelt through the U-District, a frequent request in feedback to Metro from riders and the City of Seattle, while not changing frequency between UW Station and University Way from that in Metro’s proposal. Both routes also get straighter and faster, and the revised 67 anticipates one of the “RapidRide+” corridors in the city’s Move Seattle proposal.
There has been some confusion about what happens to route 373 in the latest proposal. The answer is that it becomes local and partly replaces service on route 73. In effect, all peak-hour, peak-direction route 73 trips will be signed “373” and extended to Aurora Village. Frequency along the combined 73/373 will be half-hourly at all times, except at peak of peak where there will be a few extra 373 trips in the peak direction. This decisively addresses one of our criticisms of Metro’s proposal: that the 73 and 373 picked up at different stops.
Restore Route 43 at Peak Hour. One of the most consistent complaints about all of Metro’s proposals was that elimination of route 43 made service slower for two groups of riders: those in Montlake commuting southbound, and those on Capitol Hill going northbound who are farther than walking distance from Capitol Hill Station. The Dembowski amendment restored service on route 43 only during weekday peak hours. Frequency on the restored service remains unclear, but some of the service will likely be provided by trolley coaches deadheading to and from route 44 trips, so we can expect service to be more frequent northbound in the morning and southbound in the afternoon.
The choice to restore the full route 43 only at peak hours is a missed opportunity. Service for the affected riders could have been preserved all day at similar cost through Zach’s proposal, using a partial route between CHS and UW Station and avoiding the hours-consuming, duplicative slogs through Summit and the U-District.
Additional Service on Peak Routes 76 and 316. The Dembowski amendment expands the span of service on peak-hour route 76, connecting NE 65th St and downtown via I-5, to include several shoulder-peak trips. The route will run until 10:00 a.m. in the morning and 7:30 p.m. at night. A few trips will also be added on route 316, although they will improve frequency rather than span.
Transfer Point Work Plan. In addition to its service changes, the amendment requires Executive Constantine and Metro to submit a “work plan” for improvements at key transfer locations throughout Northeast Seattle, identifying planned improvements and funding sources for those improvements. Given the centrality of transfers to good network design, this is a terrific idea. I look forward to seeing the results.
Traffic Analysis of Bus Stop. Finally, in a regrettable piece of micromanagement, the amendment requires the Executive to conduct a traffic study before installing a new bus stop northbound on Montlake Boulevard adjacent to UW Station.
This is especially bizarre because, after the amendment’s changes, the new bus stop will see only one bus every half hour on the remaining stub of route 78—not nearly enough to create any significant traffic impact. (UPDATE: Metro’s Jeff Switzer clarified that Route 65 will also travel eastbound along Pacific and Montlake, and will serve this stop. Accordingly it will serve six, not two, buses each hour.)