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I have long opposed the plan that it seems that Sound Transit is planning to adopt (from where ST will end all express bus service to Seattle, and instead truncate buses at Kent-Des Moines station, on the basis that travel times will double overnight from all destinations south of and including Federal Way due to slower travel and added transfers, and that fares would be higher as well. What’s even more deplorable is that Sound Transit is not really considering major network changes or service additions to accommodate for this, but instead is mostly considering reducing the amount of service hours allocated to ST express, meaning that we’re essentially building out billions of dollars of light rail lines just so we can have less and worse express service without any new connections or anything.

But as poor of a deal this is for the Federal Way or Tacoma or Lakewood to Seattle travel scenario, which has gotten a lot of love from Sound Transit in recent years, this potentially opens up a whole new network of express bus scenarios. I made a map of one such scenario, with the assumption that Thurston County joins ST (a big assumption for sure, but can be adjusted if that doesn’t happen). Of course, truncating and reinvesting alone won’t be enough to cover all of this service, so there will need to be a service hour increase, but I think it makes sense in a time when new transit investments are being made. This would provide a nice immediate service element of ST3 (or maybe a second ST3 vote if the first one fails), since a common criticism of big ST measures is that the timeline is always 15-25 years before we see new service. Also, there are improvements for essentially everyone in the South King/Pierce taxation area of Sound Transit, so this may be a winning plan for the suburbs, although it will bother urbanists who think “Sound Transit” is really “Seattle Transit” and then is confused why the ST3 draft plan has light rail going to suburban areas.

Some themes in this plan:

  • Pierce County is a first-class citizen, with new off-peak service to South Hill, Bonney Lake, and (yes) Orting
  • All Seattle travel is done via a transfer to Link Red Line at Kent-Des Moines Station
  • Bellevue is treated as a job center and commute destination, and gets direct service to make up for long Seattle travel times (which cause even longer Bellevue travel times without direct service)
  • Olympia Express is integrated into Sound Transit Express, streamlined, and expanded to accommodate Seattle and Bellevue travel with one transfer
  • I-5 has distinct peak-only routes and off-peak-only routes, mirroring today’s system, while 167 has off-peak system that is sufficient for peak hours as well
  • Three routes to more remote Pierce County destinations run hourly, all converging to form a 20-minute spine that runs from Sumner to Auburn to Kent to Kent-Des Moines station
  • Peak-only two-directional 599 accommodates non-King County commutes, with service to Tacoma shadowing peak-only 592 (and catching Pierce/Thurston commuters that fall in the cracks of lost Tacoma connections during peak), and service to Tumwater (shadowing the 609).
  • Most (not all) service to Lakewood serves Lakewood Sounder Station, transit center, and 512 park and ride in a triangle, expanding on the one route (574) that serves Lakewood TC, and better enabling people to (love it or hate it) park at Lakewood TC and take transit to Seattle or Bellevue
  • Services that connect to light rail have headways of multiples of 6 in peak and multiples of 10 off-peak to match Link
  • Services that connect to Sounder AND are specifically designed to be Sounder connectors have headways of multiples of 20 (30 at the edges) to match Sounder
  • I-405 BRT is not a single arbitrary route, but is a redundant overlapping of several routes. These routes are BRT on I-405 between Bellevue and SR 518, and have all the speed advantages of BRT on that segment, but also have the flexibility to go off BRT and (less rapidly) go to areas beyond the BRT portion of the route. Combined BRT routes run every 10 mins from Renton to Bellevue and every 20 mins from Burien to Bellevue
Here is a link to a map of what the network would look like:
(just an aside, being able to embed images into page 2 posts would be a good improvement. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to stick maps into their posts)
(KDM = Kent-Des Moines, 512 = S.R. 512 Park and Ride, TIBS = Tukwila International Boulevard Station)
Peak Network:
577 (every 12 mins): South Federal Way to Federal Way to KDM to Kent to Renton to Bellevue
Same as current 577, except with transfer at KDM to Seattle, rerouted to Bellevue, and extended to south Federal Way park and ride. Service connects to every other peak link train.
590 (every 6 mins): Tacoma to KDM to Kent to Renton to Bellevue
Current 590 with transfer to Seattle at KDM and rerouted to Bellevue. Connects to every peak Link train.
595 (every 18 mins): Purdy to Gig Harbor to Tacoma to KDM
Current 595 truncated at KDM. Connects to every third peak Link train.
597 (every 24 mins): Lacey TC to DuPont station to Lakewood (Stn, TC, and 512) to KDM
598 (every 24 mins): Olympia TC to Hawks Prairie park and ride to Lakewood (Stn, TC, and 512) to KDM
Routes 597 and 598 are based on the current 592 with truncation at KDM, alternating stops in Thurston/South Pierce counties, and redundancy in Lakewood. The result is effective express service for far-south destinations, and double frequency in Lakewood. Lakewood connects to every other peak Link train, and DuPont and south connects to every fourth peak Link train.
599 (every 30 mins): Tumwater to Olympia TC to Lacey TC to Hawks Prairie P&R to DuPont to Lakewood (Stn and 512) to Tacoma
An entirely new route that makes sense with Thurston county annexation that takes care of north commutes to Tacoma, south commutes to Tumwater and Olympia, and any combination of trips you can think of for south destinations at peak. This route isn’t intended to get people to Seattle or Bellevue, and hence doesn’t go to KDM and runs less frequently.
580 and 596: Unchanged from how they operate today.
Off-Peak Network:
594 (every 20 mins): Tacoma to Federal Way to KDM to Kent to Renton to Bellevue
Takes over the 577, Federal Way portion of the 578, and the Tacoma portion of the 594 off-peak, and transfers to KDM for Seattle and also goes to Bellevue. Connects to every other off-peak Link train.
592 (every 30 mins): Olympia TC to Lacey TC to Hawks Prairie P&R to DuPont station to Lakewood (Stn, TC, and 512) to KDM
The peak-only 592 becomes off-peak-only, gets truncated at KDM, and stops at every ST stop between Olympia and Lakewood. Naturally, as an off-peak service, it is less “express” than the 597/598 and runs less frequently. Connects to every third off-peak Link train.
 Peak and Off-Peak Network:
560 (every 2o mins): Westwood Village to Burien to TIBS to Renton to Bellevue
Same as current 560, except with a transfer to Link at TIPS for the airport, and it runs every 20 minutes. Connects to every other off-peak Link train, and approximately every third peak Link train.
582, 583, 584 (every 60 mins each):
  • 582 tail is Lakewood (Stn and 512) to Tacoma to Puyallup
  • 583 tail is Orting to South Hill to Puyallup
  • 584 tail is Bonney Lake
  • All three routes converge from Sumner to Auburn to Kent to KDM
This is a major reconfiguration of service for SE King and East Pierce that gives Orting and Bonney Lake baseline hourly service, Auburn and Kent service every 20 minutes, and effectively a return of the old 582 with a new Lakewood connection that runs every hour. This route picks up where Pierce Transit fails, and could get funding from PT to replace the 400. For the first time in a long time, there is a connection between Puyallup and downtown Tacoma on weekends, and off-peak service to Bonney Lake. Sumner and north connects to every other Link train. South Hill, Orting, and Bonney Lake connects to every sixth Link train. You can also transfer to route 594 to go to Bellevue.
This potential network in many ways mirrors the Alternative 1 U-Link restructure, except on a more massive scale. In this network, Seattle is no longer the complete center of attention, and both Seattle and Bellevue are more equally treated as major destinations and job centers. There is also a rich system of suburban connections to Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and even other suburbs, with frequency and speed that naturally tapers off with distance. Also, even though many current one-seat rides now require a transfer, every common commute scenario now has either one or zero transfers:
To Seattle: one transfer from everywhere
To Bellevue: zero transfers from Federal Way, Tacoma, or Kent, one transfer from everywhere else.
To Tacoma: zero transfers from Kent, Federal Way, Lakewood, Gig Harbor, Puyallup, and Sumner, one transfer from everywhere else.
Lots of more obscure commutes are also covered:
to Tumwater: zero transfers from Olympia through Tacoma (one transfer from Lakewood TC), one transfer Gig Harbor through Purdy or Federal Way through Kent.
To require two transfers, it would take a really, really obscure commute before that can happen, like Orting to DuPont (for which you would take the 583, then 584, then 592 or 597/599.
Of course this is done with no service hours analysis or anything like that. It’s just a concept that sees what kind of connections can be made when the focus is not on one-seat rides to Seattle. It also shows the kind of reinvestment that I expect from Sound Transit if they want to replace ST Express to Seattle with a transfer at KDM, especially since the system extends farther out to the south than to the north and Link on the south takes longer because of things like the Rainier Valley deviation and constantly switching alignments. Of course I don’t have any faith at all in Sound Transit’s leadership to design a network even remotely close to this when KDM station opens, as they will probably just truncate and reduce service hours. If only we could elect Sound Transit board members who would make better decisions ;-)

4 Replies to “ST Express Truncation at Kent-Des Moines: A Concept South Sound Service Network”

  1. I think the utility of rethinking a South County hub will depend on the ST3 outcome.

    If ST3 passes, Federal Way will have Link in 5 years after KDM does. It wouldn’t be surprised if that time difference ends up being even shorter! With the HOV ramps there, it would make Federal Way the most likely South County hub.

    If ST fails, it would make sense to do some serious South County express bus hub like this at KDM.

    1. It looks like you’ve traced all the primary routes and given a very nice network using them. The only problem I have with this is that it uses Kent-Des Moines as the bus intercept. I don’t think that’s a good place because Kent really wants it right within the middle of its Urban Center along 30th Avenue South. That will be a pedestrian area and, so, not a good place to have a solid trail of buses.

      Better would be to build an intercept somewhere a bit north of K-DM Road within the freeway ROW. The bus station could be elevated above the train platforms and the buses would just loop from the northbound HOV lane to the station and back south on the other HOV lane. Smooth and totally insulated from the pedestrians at K-DM.

      Yes, I understand that would mean that people actually headed to West Kent on those express buses would have to jump on a southbound Link train, but it would be only a couple of minutes to the West Kent station.

      How about putting it at 216th Street, which has a straight shot into downtown Des Moines and even could be used as access to North Kent where there is lots of employment by adding strategically places bus jumps to it east of I-5. Heck, extend it all the way east on 208th through Panther Lake/Meridian. Now that would be a suburban BRT route to remember!

      The value in it would be that folks coming on those expresses from the south would have access to West Kent and the airport via Link and Des Moines, North Kent and Meridian via the perpendicular BRT line. It’s a great place because there is no freeway access there.

      1. Interesting idea. This would marginally help with travel time to Seattle, but continuing routes to Bellevue wouldn’t be possible without some backtracking. What I had in mind is a transit-only freeway ramp that goes to a few elevated bus bays directly next to the Link platform. I think you could design it with walkability. The biggest hurdle to surmount is the freeway-looking ramps to the bus bays, which should only be one lane wide, but that’s only aesthetics, and it would be separated from pedestrian walkways.

      2. Since you’d have to have a lane northbound and a lane southbound and a track northbound and a track southbound and a bit of a mezzanine to allow people to walk between the right side of the buses and the Link platform, you’d have to cover the entire width of 30th South. Shades of The Loop!

        Yes, there would be pedestrians walking freely below it, but in eternal shadow. I think Kent would object strenuously to that.

        So far as having a separate bus intercept which allowed the buses to continue in the same direction, it seems you could do like the existing HOV interchanges and have ramps to the northside as well. You’d probably want all buses to go through the transfer facility in the same direction for good traffic flow, but have a pair of platforms for southbound and maybe one for northbound.

        Not every bus from south of Kent-Des Moines Road is going to continue to Bellevue. Those that do would call at the northbound platform while those that don’t would call at the southbound platforms. The only difference would be whether they turned right or left when returning to the center interchange. And of course, the buses that did go to Bellevue would call at the southbound platforms on the return journey.

        I really like 216th/208th as a trunk BRT route from central Des Moines to Northeast Kent. Just like 130th and 185th, it’s a cross street with limited or no freeway access. They are much better for bus interchange because they stay out of the freeway jams.

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