The comment deadline for Metro’s SE Seattle restructure proposal has been extended until next Sunday, January 10. As a refresher, the proposed restructure would primarily change Route 106 between Rainier Beach and Downtown, severing its connection to Georgetown while providing new connections to local destinations along MLK Way while also extending it to the International District along the path of Route 7. The plan would also extend Route 107 from Rainier Beach to Beacon Hill Station and reduce Route 9 to peak-only.
We made a public records request on November 30 to King County for documentation of how this proposal was developed and prioritized relative to other documented service needs, and we expect to have those documents in the coming days (but likely after the comment deadline). The impetus for developing the proposal goes back to 2012, when Metro deleted the remnants of Route 42 against the opposition of community groups in SE Seattle. This year, Metro formed a community advisory group to analyze and propose these changes, and addressing local bus service on MLK was sure to feature prominently in any proposal, and rightfully so. Current services on MLK have been among the most unreliable in the city, as MLK’s Route 8 suffers badly from upstream congestion of Denny Way every weekday.
I believe we should be constructive and strongly supportive of quality local connections in SE Seattle, while also demanding data-driven and transparent service planning processes. Here at STB, our writers applaud Metro’s efforts to achieve more frequency and reliability in SE Seattle, while also being wary of new duplicative services that effectively push other riders’ needs to the back of the queue.
To that end, this proposal is decidedly a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is much to like. New local connections between Rainier Beach and Beacon Hill are needed and welcome. Frequent, all-day service between Renton, Skyway, Rainier Beach, and Mount Baker would knit together similar communities in a much more intuitive way.
Yet there is also much to dislike. The 106 extension to the International District adds another 15-minute route to the already 10-minute Rainier/Jackson corridor, ahead of 51 other corridors that the 2015 Service Guidelines Report (pg. 12-13) targets for priority investment. The new 106 would still see only half-hourly service on evenings and Sundays. Georgetown also would get a service reduction, losing half its frequency on Airport Way, ironically when three routes serving Georgetown (routes 60, 124, and 131) are in the top seven routes on the priority list for service investments to meet target service levels.
In your comments, we’d suggest effusive praise and support for:
- More frequent and reliable local service on MLK Way
- More frequent and reliable connections between Renton, Skyway, Rainier Beach, and Mount Baker
- New local connections between Rainier Beach Station and Beacon Hill Station
We’d suggest criticism of:
- Reducing Georgetown service during an environment of revenue growth, especially when multiple routes serving Georgetown are close to the top of the queue for service investments to meet target service levels.
- Extending Route 106 from Mount Baker to the International District via Jackson St, which would spend over $2m per year to duplicate an ultra-frequent Route 7 that is not targeted for frequency or overcrowding investments, ahead of 51 other corridors already targeted for investment.
We’d suggest the following alternatives:
- Use the service hours from the proposed 106 extension to fund frequent night and weekend service on MLK Way, preferably to match Link’s frequency
- Maintain at least current levels of service between Georgetown and Downtown Seattle
- Work with SDOT to accelerate plans to improve Mount Baker and identify short-term improvements that could improve the transfer environment between Link and Routes 7, 8, 9, 14, and 106
- Work to get rid of paper transfers and simultaneously reduce or eliminate the cost of obtaining ORCA cards, to eliminate any fare-related aversion to transferring to Link.