King County Metro rolled out a restructure proposal last month that would, among other things, change bus travel patterns in southwest Beacon Hill and Georgetown.
The proposed route 107 extension would be a boon for students and employees of Cleveland High School, with a new one-seat ride to a wide swath of south Beacon Hill. It would also give residents along that path better access to the soon-to-expand Link Light Rail system, and improve frequency on 15th Ave S.
For a portion of Georgetown, the proposal degrades transit options, by removing route 106 service between Georgetown and downtown, as David pointed out.
But that begs the question: Why is route 60, which serves southeast Georgetown and heads to Beacon Hill Station, not seen as a frequent option for heading downtown? The answer lies in a basic routing error: The route skirts the southern edge of Georgetown heading south (S Albro Pl / Stanley Ave S / 13th Ave S / S Albro Pl / Ellis Ave S), and misses most of central and northern Georgetown heading north (following Carleton Ave S / S Bailey St / 13th Ave S / S Albro Pl). Riders using route 60 to get home have to backtrack northward after departing the bus.
There is a way for route 60 to serve a larger walkshed in Georgetown: Have route 60 cross through Georgetown on Corson Ave S and S Lucile St (which is essentially one long street that becomes an overpass over the railroad tracks and under I-5), between E Marginal Way S and 15th Ave S.
Not only does this widen route 60’s walkshed and remove the Carleton/Ellis couplet, but it also provides direct service to the Georgetown campus of South Seattle College, and save several minutes of travel time for through riders.
A further problem with the current Carleton Ave S path is that it features a series of traffic circles, forcing the bus to crawl down a street that was clearly not designed for bus travel, and frequently scrape its tires. In a conversation I had with a King County Department of Transportation employee a few years ago, it was indicated that SDOT put the traffic circles on Carleton Ave S without consulting King County, and that if King County had been consulted, it would have said No.
Route 60 currently runs 20-minute-or-better headway during the day on weekdays, and 30-minute headway late into the evening seven days a week, thanks to 2014 Seattle Proposition 1 funding. Compare this to 30-minute headway on routes 106 and 124, which tend to be much less reliable than route 60 due to traveling through downtown. Route 60 could easily become the favorite route of many Georgetowners with a simple tweak to put its routing where it can serve the most riders, and take the most direct path to Beacon Hill Station.
Route 124 currently does a better job of reaching northeast Georgetown, but could also improve its walkshed and travel time via a similar restructure, traveling on Corson Ave S between E Marginal Way S and Airport Way S. It, too, has to suffer the Carleton Ave S traffic circles.
One additional tweak that could be considered is decoupling route 124 from route 24 downtown, and putting route 124 in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which would be an essentially 1-to-1 switch with peak route 106 trips, proposed to no longer go into the DSTT. This would improve reliability on route 124 and potentially improve usage of the tunnel off-peak if route 124 gets an all-day frequency bump. The decoupling from route 24 would be a prerequisite to that all-day frequency bump.
The travel time savings from straightening the path of routes 60 and 124 through Georgetown could help pay for that frequency bump for route 124. Indeed, having each 60 and each 124 travel along Corson three times per hour in each direction all day on weekdays would give central Georgetowners a bus headed in the downtown direction every 10 minutes, if the routes are synchronized well.
Metro’s Comment Period
Metro is continuing to collect input on the restructure proposal, via phone, email, and a survey, through Wednesday, December 23. There will also be a public meeting:
Wednesday, December 9, 6-8 p.m.
Filipino Community Center
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S, Seattle 98118