Last weekend’s long-awaited ULink opening has been a smashing success, with UW and Capitol Hill boosting Link ridership by nearly 50% in a matter of days ($). More impressively, this is being done both prior to the big Metro restructure tomorrow and prior to UW students returning from Spring Break on Monday. With many reports of train overcrowding already, it’s a relief that Sound Transit will begin mixing in much-needed 3-car trains. But Monday in particular brings a new era for Seattle transit riders.
Amidst the deserved joy of ULink’s opening and the intense feelings around ST3’s draft rollout, let’s not lose the sheer magnitude of Metro’s bus restructure, the largest in decades and one that will change tens of thousands of daily trips, mostly for the better. We’ve already covered the restructure exhaustively, and Metro has come out with a slew of helpful videos for riders (two of which are shown above), along with route-by-route transfer animations for riders connecting in the Montlake Triangle.
The basic theme of the restructure, especially in NE Seattle, is higher frequency service paid for with a reliance on ULink and increased transfers. The ease and reliability of these transfers is an open question, and their success or failure will largely determine the public’s view of this restructure over time. Even prior to the restructure, this week I’ve taken a few trips between Capitol Hill and The Ave via Link, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the ease of the trips (pro-tip: use the UW Station elevators, they’re lightning fast and go all the way to the pedestrian overpass). On my first trip, I emerged from Link and waited 3 minutes for a Route 271 on Pacific St, and after boarding I was at 43rd & University just 4 minutes later, for a total trip time of 14 minutes. My Route 49 bus is scheduled for 18 minutes to travel the same distance. When Saturday’s restructure exponentially boosts service to the Montlake Triangle, riders will become accustomed to very short waits for buses in all but the worst traffic conditions.
Let us know in the comments how your Saturday experience goes, and especially any new commutes you try out on Monday! We’ll be covering the ridership and travel time changes extensively as data rolls in over the next few months.
And let’s also say a thank you and requiem for the buses that will no longer be with us after today, including:
- Historic milk-run Route 16, which will graduate into a full-time, frequent Route 62 serving far more neighborhoods.
- Lightly-ridden Route 25, which will mostly not be replaced except for a tiny Laurelhurst loop on new Route 78.
- A shadow of its former Sand Point-Seattle Center self, Route 30 will finally give up the ghost.
- Route 66, which will go into cryogenic stasis until SDOT reanimates it as high capacity bus rapid transit in a few years’ time.
- Route 68, which will be taken over by more adaptive species (Routes 67 and 372), which are both able to come twice as often and exist without taking Sundays off
- Route 242, the last remaining Metro service from NE Seattle across 520 to Redmond. From now on those are solely Sound Transit Routes (combinations of 540, 541, 542, 555, and 556)
- And of course, the often crushloaded, decades-long workhorses of Routes 71, 72, and 73 Express.