On March 26, bus service along MLK Way between Mt. Baker Station and Rainier Beach Station took a quantum leap forward, with the roll-out of new route 38, which was split off from the infamously-unreliable route 8.
But even before the first run, Metro decided to undo the reliability improvement that was the raison d’etre for the split. On March 23, three days before route 38 was born, Metro forwarded a proposal to extend the route down Rainier and Jackson to the International District.
Metro hasn’t even given route 38 a chance to work.
Metro is funding the extension by cutting route 9X off-peak. That money could better benefit MLK riders by increasing frequency on route 38, to every ten minutes all day on weekdays. Or it could benefit a lot of Renton Skyway residents by enabling the eastern portion of route 106 to through-route with route 38 and have route 107 through-route with the western portion of route 106, albeit without increasing frequency on route 38. Or it could be used to help increase frequency on routes at the top of the priority investment queue in the annual Metro Service Guidelines Report.
Ironically, the official reasons cited for removing off-peak 9x service are reasons clearly violated by the proposal to extend route 38 duplicatively along route 7’s path downtown:
Revise service to improve productivity and operate in coordination with other public transportation modes, in accordance with the Strategic Plan for Public Transportation, 2011-2021 and King County Metro Service Guidelines:
• Strategic Plan Strategy 3.2.2: Coordinate and develop services and facilities with other providers to create an integrated and efficient regional transportation system
• Strategic Plan Strategy 3.4.1: Serve centers and other areas of concentrated activity, consistent with Transportation 2040.
• Strategic Plan Strategy 6.1.1: Manage the transit system through service guidelines and performance measures.
o Service Design Guideline – Routes should be designed in the context of the entire transportation system.
o Service Design Guideline –Routes should serve connection points where riders can connect to frequent services, opening up the widest possible range of travel options.
o Service Design Guideline – Routes should be designed to avoid competing for the same riders.
Increasing frequency on route 38 to all-day 10-minute headway, matching the headway of routes 7 and 48, with which it meets up at Mt. Baker Transit Center, and Link Light Rail, would actually be in line with these goals.
The Public Engagement Report engages in a little bait and switch. Yes, there was widespread, near-universal, applause for the idea of extending route 38 to Renton Transit Center. The more narrow proposal before the council, to extend route 38 to the International District (the least defensible and most controversial part of the original proposal), makes it much less likely that the Renton extension (the best and most universally-supported component of the original proposal) will ever happen.
The County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee will take up the proposal, Ordinance #2016-0199, at its meeting tomorrow at 9:30 am. See agenda item 10.
Email and call your county councilmember to urge her/him to save route 38 by voting No on Ordinance #2016-0199, and insisting on a better plan that doesn’t destroy the new reliability of route 38.