NE Seattle subsisted for decades on infrequent half-hourly service, and Metro’s recent restructure (despite some pain) largely doubled weekday service on all major corridors, giving NE Seattle frequent service for the first time and a much stronger base network. But a couple weeks in, it’s become clear that the restructure didn’t quite go far enough, especially in providing equivalent span of service. While reliance on frequent transfers makes for a better network, the infrequent legacy network of one-seat rides is better than a reliance on infrequent transfers, which is what the weekend network now provides in NE Seattle.
Looking through route schedules, it looks like Metro paid for weekday frequency in part by trimming first and last trips, making a few trips notably worse. Say what you will about the crowded 70-series, but they began service before 5am on weekdays and 6am on weekends. Their replacements, with the exception of the 372 (which improved across the board), don’t begin weekend service until 6 or even 7am, and Routes 71 and 73 don’t run at all on Sundays. As a result, the ULink restructure made the following trips a lot harder:
- Early morning weekend trips from Wedgwood/Ravenna to the UDistrict via Route 65 (20 minutes later on Saturday and Sunday) and Route 71 (90 minutes later on Saturday and no Sunday service)
- Early weekend trips to SeaTac Airport via Link
- Sunday trips to Downtown via Link and Routes 8, 65, 67, 75, and 372, all of which require bus/rail transfers at 30-minute headways.
There are a number of ways to fix this in the next few service changes, and I believe that we should only ask riders to rely on transfers if we can make them frequent 7 days per week. Once we’ve achieved that, we should work to match arterial frequencies to Link, as transfers between 10-minute trains and 15-minute buses make for good connection opportunities only twice per hour.
As ridership data begins to roll in this summer and Metro looks to its September 2016 and March 2017 service changes, I hope they consider further investments in arterial service feeding Link, and feel confident in cutting back less-ridden services to do so. Route 73 probably needs Sunday service, routes 8, 38, 65, 67, 75, and 372 need to be frequent on Sundays, and an early/late trip may need to be added on each. To pay for it, likely fat to trim could include Routes 71 and 78 in their entirety, or maybe even some trips on Route 49 if its 12-minute service is leaving it as empty as my front-window anecdotes suggest. Of course, there are also other areas in which Metro is adding duplicative frequency while these neighborhoods would continue to wait. Beyond the less than fun zero sum game of service hour allocation, we can of course also hope a growing economy continues to increase total service hour availability.
In addition, continued reliance on a UW Station transfer should come with an unwavering service availability guarantee. Anyone who experienced the 520 Bridge opening last weekend saw newly restructured routes unable to reach the station, in some cases dropping riders off at 15th Ave NE instead. Reliance on transfers can and should work, but we have to sweat the details.
[Update Wednesday 7:45am: Oran has sent over a version of his Seattle Transit Map showing only the routes that run frequently 7 days per week, and it does a stellar job of visualizing the gaps in relying on Link connections on weekends.]