King County Metro is running a survey on late night service from now until May 4.

Metro bus service nearly universally evaporates after 2 am. Even the routes that continue to run do so less than hourly, making them nearly unusable.

Routes that shadow Link Light Rail trips (not including the dozens within the downtown core) include the A Line, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 36, 38, 43, 48, 49, 50, 60, 106, 124, and the First Hill Streetcar. Of these, the A Line, 7, 36, 43, 49, 106, and 124 have a trip between 2 am and 4 am, but all have a gap of over an hour before their morning schedule starts up.

Other routes with trips between 2 am and 4 am are the C Line, D Line, E Line, 4, 11, 40, 44, 120, 150, and 180. All have that hour gap between their last night-owl run and their first regular morning run.

The last survivors of the dreaded 80-series routes — 82, 83, and 84 — also come more than an hour apart, with only six trips total between the three routes. Even Stephen Fesler over at the Urbanist admits it is time for those routes to go away.

Which routes would you like to see run overnight, and how often would you like to see them run? Where do you hope the funding comes from?

79 Replies to “Late Night Service Survey”

  1. ST3 could have an overnight bus service subsidy item in the package. It would attract support for the vote from some that may otherwise vote no.

    1. Money that’s spent on operations is money that can’t be spent on capital projects. Is that what folks want for ST3?

  2. The airport to downtown is a useful enough route to be a one-seat ride. Overnight 124 should run at least hourly, and start at S 176 St (which is the A Line stop nearest the airport) when Link is not in service to downtown.

    1. Agreed though I had a hell of a time getting home once when I missed the last Link. Its almost impossible to get out of the airport on foot when Link closes and along with it the foot access to International Blvd. I found myself climbing over jersey barriers with my luggage. Then it was a long wait for a bus to Tukwila International Blvd Station so I ended up walking then waited some more for the 124 to downtown. Next time I wont miss my flight or I take an Uber.

      1. Where were you climbing over Jersey barriers!?! I would have thought you’d have to climb down a retaining wall to get to International Boulevard from the north end of the airport near the train station if you couldn’t go through the Mezzanine level (it’s completely nuts that they’d close the Mezzanine level of the station off-hours)…

        … but from the south end of the airport it should be pretty easy to walk out to the A Line stop at 182nd. At least it was last time I did it, which was a few years ago. Getting there from the Link station is a hike, of course.

      2. There’s supposed to be a way to walk out of the airport but I’m not sure where it is.

      3. It used to be from the south end of the main terminal–not sure if it still is.

        The station mezzanine should remain open as it is a direct route to transit that is still operating, particularly as the airport routes used to serve the terminal directly and no longer do.

      4. Since reconfiguration of the Airport Expressway to accommodate Link, the only other pedestrian access to/from the airport is along the south end of the Arrivals Drive (following Concourse A) to Pacific Highway South.

        Seems the 124 could be easily extended to serve the existing bus bay on the Arrivals Drive after Link shuts down for the night. Also, as a selfish NE Seattle resident, I wouldn’t be opposed to resurrecting the 194 for night owl service to downtown.

        With ever increasing flight operations at SEA, transit needs to make some attempt to keep up.

  3. “Nearly unusable” is a bit of an overreach.

    These routes run, and provide coverage, in the middle of the night, when the passenger loads are lowest.

    I’ve lived on, and used, the 80-series routes, on occasion, when I needed to get around by bus late late at night or early early in the morning.

    The are usable. And they provide utility to those that need to get around. But yeah, you do need to research your trip and know the schedule. Should we expect to have a “just stand out there and wait, its so frequent you don’t need a time table” type service in the middle of the night?

    Could the late night service be better? Of course it could be. But how much money do you want to toss around for owl service in the middle of the night?

    I’d actually argue that the inbound trips on the routes that depart downtown in the 3:30AM pulse, returning to downtown just before 5AM are extremely useful to those that start work early, early in the morning. The largest problem with our all night network is the gap (identified above) between when the night owls quit and the first AM trips start running.

    1. The biggest problem is that there are no night owls north of 85th except the E, so Lake City and Northgate have no night owl service. Also Kent, which has warehouses with 24 hour shifts.

      San Francisco and Chicago have half-hourly night owls spaced a mile apart. That should be our goal. If the budget can’t stretch that far then we can only implement part of it now, but we shouldn’t pretend that’s comprehensive service for a city that wants to not be car dependent.

    2. Let’s look at the 82. It is a route with two runs per night, three schedule codes, and a service note. It claims to serve part of routes 3 and 4 yet doesn’t serve Queen Anne on one of its trips, instead staying on 99.

      There’s a difference between “it’s a night owl, so expect it to be infrequent” and an unnecessarily confusing route.

    3. I’ve costed it out before. The 82, 83, and 84 are surprisingly expensive for the amount of coverage they provide. For the same cost as the 82/83/84, we could fund two night round-trips on the 67/70, *three* night round-trips on the 11, and two night round-trips on a combined 13/3S.

      Should we expect to have a “just stand out there and wait, its so frequent you don’t need a time table” type service in the middle of the night?

      No, that’s not realistic right now. The vast majority of Metro’s routes understandably have no trips after midnight or 1:00. But people do depend on late-night/early-morning service, whether they’re getting home from work, or heading to work, or coming home after a night out where they responsibly decided not to drive. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for all-night half-hourly service on a small number of routes that provide coverage to the geographically-separated parts of the city.

      1. I takes three coaches to run the three remaining routes.

        The beauty of the 80-series routes is they are able to cover a ton of area (making an assumption that all riders are heading to or from downtown) and make it back for another pulse 1hr and 15 minutes later.

        One of the difficulties with other service patterns is that they either cost *more* than what we had before (the C & D owls take more units than the 81 and 85 did, for arguably better service) for questionable utility gains.

      2. I takes three coaches to run the three remaining routes.

        And it would take three coaches to run the alternative that I’ve described, too.

    4. Agreed. The second 82 run is perfect for Early-ish flights (6;30 or so) for people in Greenwood or Wallingford/Greenlake. You pick it up between 4:00–4:15, it takes you to Stadium station for the 4:40 SB link train, and you’re at the airport in an hour–easily the most pain-free airport travel of the day. I do this fairly often; I’d say there are generally around 5-8 airporters, a couple of rolling shelter dwellers, and another 5-8 headed downtown for work.

      I know they’re comparatively expensive but if you killed it you’d need to replace it with a 5 and and a 26 to cover the same territory. I’m not convinced their the useless disaster everyone else seems to think they are. I’m sure they could be improved in terms of the precise areas they cover, but providing some coverage for certain destinations on multiple routes seems like a reasonable solution to covering the key destinations without running all the major routes all night.

      1. “I know they’re comparatively expensive but if you killed it you’d need to replace it with a 5 and and a 26 to cover the same territory. I’m not convinced their the useless disaster everyone else seems to think they are.”

        This. Mike Orr mentioned somewhere in the thread that one of the problems with the 80-series is that there is no coverage outside of the historical city limits (and by that I mean, 85th Street).

        I don’t disagree.

        But if you were to say, can the 82, and run a 5 to Shoreline CC and a 26 to Northgate, you would not be able to get one coach out of downtown, to the far terminal, and back downtown in order to cover the next pulse at 0330.

        So you’d go from one coach doing two loops on the 82, to four coaches (one covering each round trip on the 5 and the 26). And that begs the next question … where does the bus come from to cover the 3:30AM outbound trip on a 5 or 26?

        Changing the service pattern gets very expensive, very, very fast.

      2. We don’t need a 5 and a 26. We just run the 26 perhaps. The 5 is seven blocks from the E, and there’s also the D.

      3. Agreed. Adding an early morning trip southbond trip ~2AM on the 26 would be good. There’s already a 1AM northbound trip that gets to Northgate at 2AM, so maybe just run it back to base as a regular revenue trip?

        Then add a ~4AM trip on the 67 and/or 75 that gets to UW Station around 4:40 so people can catch the first train, and it would be a much more useful late-night network than we have now.

      4. Although the Aurora express routing is less than ideal at night. Perhaps it could revert to Dexter/Fremont for the owl runs.

    5. They’re in a loop to give more front-door service, but that represents 1970s thinking when they were created: loop around streets ten blocks apart, stop every two blocks, and it doesn’t matter if it comes every 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 120 minutes. That’s wrong on several counts. A more frequent route will be used more because it coincides with more people’s trips. Conversely don’t have to serve both Phinney and Meridian, or Jeffersion and Madison, or earlier 15th NW and 24th NW: just choose one of them, or generally service a mile apart. We can expect people to walk longer and wait half an hour, but don’t force them to walk a mile or three miles or wait 90 minutes or two hours. And if people need to transfer, they have to be frequent enough to transfer.

      1. The 80-series night owl routes date back to at least the 1950s, though they weren’t numbered that way.

  4. In the past, when you people have talked about allocating service hours in the burbs vs the city, some of you have argued that transit agencies need to focus their limited resources on the most productive routes.

    So how come when we aren’t talking about geography, but time of day, that argument disappears?

    1. I, for one, am skeptical about late night service. Every time i see a bus in the middle of its route around 2a in Seattle, it’s mostly empty. I really want to see ridership numbers for late night trips.

    2. Because 24-hour service is a significant factor in being able to downsize your number of cars.

      1. In other words, transit agencies don’t have to focus their limited recourses on the most productive routes?

      2. It’s a balance, Sam. Everywhere in the world that has evening and night service subsidizes it from day service. They also put the most service in the highest-volume corridors and times. You have to do a bit of both if you want a comprehensive network that gets the most people out of their cars. As San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver, New York, Toronto, London, Duesseldorf, etc do to a much better extent than we do.

      3. Watch what you wish for Sam.

        Twin Transit in Centralia cut back service to the “most productive” routes, and their budget skyrocketed because instead of $5 per bus rider they had to start spending $34 per rider for the wheelchair access vans to move the same people that can’t drive.

      4. they had to start spending $34 per rider for the wheelchair access vans to move the same people that can’t drive.

        That doesn’t make any sense. Wheelchair access vans are only required to provide service withing a very limited distance of regularly scheduled service. They are require only to provide service for those that can’t walk to the bus stop. If Centrailia chose to provide special service for a subset of the population that’s their choice but it’s not because they made their transit system more cost effective. They also have the choice to not accept federal funds which I’m guessing would have been more cost effective than $34 per boarding. FWIW that $34 figure is pretty close to the cost per Access trip in King County.

      5. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original set of articles from The Centralia Chronicle. However, this reprint by an organization in Fresno, Calif. explains part of the situation:

        During the years before this article was published, most transit systems in the USA including Twin Transit cut back on routes due to the economic downturn.

        In the case of places like Centralia, many of the regular transit riders are those that have issues with driving, and therefore qualify for the paratransit service. If the regular route goes away, naturally they will apply for paratransit service.

        So, at $27 (the figure I remembered from above was off a bit) a trip vs $5 a trip, when they cut back on the regular routes in 2013 it led to an overall increase in costs due to the percentage of people that now applied for a much more expensive way to get around.

        As the article mentions, this led them to consider further service cutbacks in 2014.

      6. If the regular route goes away, naturally they will apply for paratransit service.

        If the regular route goes away then the mandate for paratransit also goes away. From the linked article:

        a significant number of our passengers applying for paratransit because they see it is more convenient to use,

        It doesn’t matter if they could take a regular route. What might have been a well meaning policy would continue to get exploited. Also, the $27 figure is per paratransit ride (cheap compared to King County) not the system wide cost per boarding which surely went down with the service restructure. It’s the exploitation of the paratransit that is forcing “efficiencies” on the rest of the system. The initial reduction in routes may have highlighted this but the genie is out of the bottle.

      7. Mike, I’m all for people taking the bus as much as possible. But it’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t widespread gridlock at 2am. With the exception of people pouring out of the bars in Cap Hill or Ballard, the city is suffering from horrendous jams late at night. Pushing for the reduction of cars on the streets after midnight is unnecessary.

      8. It’s also about the cost of driving, the burden of having a car and a home parking space, and fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

    3. Also, the last run makes people more willing to take the second-last run, knowing that they won’t be stuck if they miss it or it doesn’t show up.

  5. I’m skeptical of owl service. I can understand the need for Friday & Saturday in the most dense neighborhoods. But are we pushing for owl service because we’re simply playing into “big city” hype? Aside from very few corridors, is service starting after 130am truly needed every night? It’d be interesting to see the ridership numbers for routes that have trips starting after 130a.

    1. These markets are daily —

      – Airport workers for the 6-7 AM planes
      – Late shift workers
      – Overnight delivery service workers
      – Some workers who must work with other time zones around the world, like the travel industry, shipping industry, tech support or stock markets
      – Bakery workers
      – workers who must stay late because of a work crisis

      Some aIrport, rail and cross-country bus passengers for early departures

      Some airport, rail and cross-country bus passengers on late-arriving vehicles

      1. Agreed. Having worked at the airport myself for fours years I can definitely attest that many first shifts start between 3-6a. However, aside from Link, we already have these services in place. The A-Line & 124 serve most of Seattle’s industrial centers 22 hours a day, plus the airport.

      2. I’ve proposed to Metro in previous surveys that they extend the 124 to Seatac when Link isn’t running. It’s only another mile or so, and Int’l Blvd is unlikely to be jammed at 2AM. Doing so would save a transfer to the A.

    2. One reason I defend them is they provide very high leverage/value rides.

      1) Take drunk drivers off the road–more socially valuable than your typical ride.

      2) Allow people to take late-shift jobs who don’t have cars–more socially valuable than your typical ride.

      3) Save me from paying $40 for a even slower shuttle express or $60+ for a cab for a morning flight–ok, maybe that’s just more valuable to me, but some version of the point still holds as I’m not exactly alone here. I’m willing to sacrifice some shoulder frequency in my daily life and have to wait an extra 4-6 minutes a few times a week, in order to avoid costly car service once a month.

  6. I’m still pining for less than every 30 minutes on the #8 on a Saturday night to go back to Cap Hill after Seattle Center events (theater/ballet/Siff etc.) which usually end around 10pm.

    1. Yes, this, a thousand times. The 8 shaves 15 minutes off a North Seattle -> Capitol Hill / CD trip, and is extremely convenient for event-goers. There is massive induceable demand by running it more frequently during evenings (bonus: no traffic to be snarled in).

  7. My wishlist for Metro’s owl service revision, in rough priority order:

    1. Owl service on the 67 (to serve Northgate) and the 75 (to serve Lake City).
    2. Half-hourly service on the 49. This change would save lives.
    4. Owl service on the 3S, 11, 13N, 62, 67, and 70, in lieu of the 82/83/84.
    3. Half-hourly service on the D, E, and 11.
    5. Half-hourly service on the whole owl network.
    6. Owl service on the 48, 45, and 44.

    I think that would put almost everyone in Seattle within a mile of a not-ridiculous owl route, which would be amazing.

      1. The 49 is by far the most popular Metro bus at night, in terms of riders per service hour. Only the D Line comes anywhere close. (See Metro’s 2015 Service Guidelines Report, page A-7.) The 49 serves more riders at night than the 120 serves at peak.

        While I can’t find separate late-night numbers, my personal experience with the 49’s late-night run is that it’s extremely well-used.

        The 49 runs along two of the busiest nightlife corridors in Seattle (Pike/Pine and Broadway). More late-night service on the 49 means fewer drunk drivers, which means fewer crashes and deaths.

      2. Metro has gradually been positioning the 49 as the primary route on Capitol Hill, with the most frequent service and night owl. Riders have certainly responded to it. Before Link 4th & Pike all evening there’d be thirty people getting on every 49, and the 43 and 10 and 11 often took overflow beyond that. Since Link I’ve heard the 49’s ridership has “dropped precipitously”, so it will be interesting to see what the numbers say and whether Metro is still so sure about the 49. Anecdotally, the new 10 may have gotten more riders, although that may be my bias since that’s the one I mostly take now.

      3. Aleks – the table you sent doesn’t mean that the 49 has more riders than the 120 – those are the ratios of rides per platform hour and passenger miles per platform mile. If you add more buses to a route but ridership doesn’t increase, those numbers will go down. Look a little further down (page A-19) and you’ll see that the overall ridership for route 120 was better than that for route 49.

        That being said, the fact that those numbers are so high for route 49 at night are a pretty strong indication that that would be a good place for increased owl service.

      4. Nick: that’s why I added the qualifier of “riders per service hour”. A service hour spent on late-night 49 service will serve more riders than a service hour spent on peak 120 service. That’s no slight on the 120 (which is a highly productive route itself), just a testament to how extremely popular the 49 is at all times of day.

  8. I’m sure there are still plenty of existing routes that would generate far better ridership with increased frequency than a night owl “network”. Likewise for service to areas that currently have no coverage.

    Question, how many advocates of night owl service would like to work those routes?

  9. You can start clammoring for night service once parts of the county that are dense get peak hour service. Very dense portions of south King don’t even get peak hour service. We’ve been overlooked or disregarded by transit planners for too long. No, I won’t support night service in Seattle. It is not a necessity. The one exception is airport to downtown, direct, to shadow Link when it is out of service. This would be useful to business travelers and tourists and make Seattle a more attractive destination. We all know that flight schedules tend to depart or arrive at bizarre hours. That is all.

    1. Which dense portions of South King? You can definitely complain about the route structure there, or the frequency on some corridors, but I was under the impression service existed everywhere except the far suburban reaches of Lakeland North and East Hill. Or are those areas denser than I thought?

    2. Everything in South King that’s denser than an isolated single-family neighborhood has a route that’s at least half-hourly daytime and hourly evenings/Sundays. There was a Southcenter/Des Moines restructure a few years ago that put connector routes between all the suburban cities. There are a few that fall slightly short like the 164 that doesn’t run Sundays, but in general there’s all-day coverage service everywhere until you get way out to Black Diamond and Enumclaw, or to isolated single-family areas like 24th Ave S or northeast Lake Meridian.

    3. We all know that flight schedules tend to depart or arrive at bizarre hours.

      There are next to no flights between 2:00-6:00AM because of noise restrictions. Of course for a 6AM flight you might need to be at the airport at 4:00AM. But business travelers will almost always rent a car or use a hotel provided shuttle service even when Link is running.

      1. People take 6am flights because trhey’re less expensive and have more seats available. They aren’t rich business travelers.

      2. People also take 6AM flights if they want to get to the East coast at a decent time. Even non-stop flights are something like 6 hours, plus 3 hours of time difference, means that leaving at 6AM you get to your destination at 3PM.

      3. Exactly – two of the busiest “banks” at Sea-Tac are the 5-8am and 10pm-12:30am ones, specifically because of the time zone issue (on the East Coast, even a huge airport like Atlanta is nearly desolate after 9pm for the same reason). I have flown out many times too early to consider transit, and even though Link runs just late enough to catch most of the later arrivals, most of us won’t risk it as if anything goes wrong in the flight schedule you’re stuck…let alone if you have a checked bag.

        Many international flights to Asia leave between 1am and 3am, as do a handful of flights to Alaska. The international traffic to Asia is just going to continue to grow.

      4. There are actually lots of flights starting at 5 a.m. out of SEA, as SEA is heavy with outgoing traffic in the morning (and conversely heavy with incoming traffic in the evening).

        Alaska Airlines alone starts running its flights to the west coast (as well as the “shuttles” to Eastern WA and PDX) at ~5 a.m., and that means folks need to start being at the airport at 4 a.m. at the absolute latest to make sure they don’t miss that flight. The most popular flights to the east coast leave at 7 a.m. to make sure you get to destinations like New York at a decent hour, and you’re going to want to be to the airport no later than 5:30 for those as airport security lines start to fill up.

        Having taken my fair share of 7 a.m. flights out of SEA, I know that I need to be on the very first Link train out of Westlake (4:56 a.m.), or at very latest the second train, to make sure I’m at the airport and through security on time. Anything earlier and I’m calling an Uber (which is about $40 from downtown) instead, and that sucks.

        Now I know it’s probably self-serving here because getting between the airport and downtown is my main use for owl transit service, but I would really enjoy having the Link run through the night, even if it was just hourly — 2, 3 and 4 a.m. — in each direction to cover these scenarios. I can guarantee it would have plenty of ridership in both directions.

      5. A quick search of flights shows United runs a 5:15am plane to D.C. Some days Delta and American have a 5:30, 5:45 flight. The vast majority of trips are later in the day. Given that most passengers don’t take transit even when it’s an option extending service to the dark hours is unlikely to get more than a handful of takers. If 24 hour service is important then hit up the Port and/or Washington State Convention Center for funding the way Amazon coughs up some dough for street car service. My bet is they laugh at you. Extending the 124 to the airport makes sense. The marginal cost is next to nothing and improves the network. The other thing that might pencil out is an earlier ST bus from Tacoma. It could pick up a few airline passengers and employees but my bet is there is a latent demand from DT workers that would love to shift their work day as early as possible to avoid rush hour traffic at both ends of the commute. Of course there would have to be matching service in the PM.

      6. @Bernie

        Obviously you’re coming at this from the stronger side, as is everyone who is fighting against some owl service since it’s going to serve so few people, but I think the argument has been made several times here that no owl service is going to be profitable or make sense on a per-rider basis in the same way that daytime service does. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist for those who want or need it.

        I see you point out three flights (on United, one of the smallest carriers at SEA) that depart before 6 a.m., and for some reason are using that as reasoning for not having owl service on Link?

        I’ll simply reiterate my point from above: any flight that leaves before 7 a.m. will require people to take some other form of transportation than Link to get to the airport. And for anyone who is checking bags or traveling with a companion, you could easily push that window to 7:30 a.m. Now I don’t think that taking a flight at 7 or 7:30 a.m. is at all abnormal, or something that just businesspeople do, that’s just a normal morning flight.

        And with that being said, those 7 or 7:30 a.m. flights are in most cases not the first flight of the day to those destinations, or even the second or third. Alaska Air, obviously a huge airline from SEA, starts flying to many of its West Coast destinations at 5:00 a.m., or at least 6:00 a.m., with service every 30 minutes. There are dozens of flights leaving SEA every single day just on Alaska that Link is in no way a viable transportation option to get to the airport for. Then you add Delta and American and Southwest…

        This is before we consider the long-haul flights that come in from Asia (and to a lesser extent Europe) that land extremely late at night or very early in the morning. Long-haul flights with hundreds of passengers each.

        And of course then you have all of the airport employees, which are starting even earlier in the day — how do you think those flights leave at 5 and 6:00 a.m.?

        Could the Port Authority maybe chip in some money to help Link run to the airport? Sure they could. Should that be a requirement of having Link run to the airport? Not at all. It’s completely baffling that you build a light rail line that goes to the airport, but simply shuts down for 3.5 hours when there are a considerable number of flights. People ride Link to/from the airport the rest of the day, I’m not sure why you assert that nobody would ride it earlier in the morning when there are dozens upon dozens of flights to/from SEA at those hours.

      7. I see you point out three flights (on United, one of the smallest carriers at SEA) that depart before 6 a.m., and for some reason are using that as reasoning for not having owl service on Link?

        Only one flight was United, the earliest. The other two were Delta and American. The point is it is a small number compared to when Link is already running. There are several reasons to expect transit use for these flights to be low. Transit is the slowest option and people already getting up at Oh’dark thirty aren’t likely to want to get up even earlier to take transit. Second, there is no problem with traffic at those hours making the time delta for transit even worse. But the most important reason is that without the rest of the network almost nobody can access it without driving. For that reason alone I think it makes more sense to incrementally extend the earliest and latest “regular” service instead of tossing in skeletal service throughout the night.

        The problems with 24 hr operation of Link have been well hashed on this blog. Not only would 3AM service to the airport have the worst ridership it would also be the most marginally expensive service to add. It’s cost effectiveness isn’t just bad it boarders on foot ferry service to Kenmore ridiculous.

        And of course then you have all of the airport employees, which are starting even earlier in the day — how do you think those flights leave at 5 and 6:00 a.m.?

        And of course there is the same problem you have with Link to Paine Field. Most of those jobs are nowhere near the main terminal. Also, people working those jobs probably don’t live on Capitol Hill. Much more likely they live in Kent which means night owl service for Seattle is useless.

        Bottom line, there are just way more important things to spend transit dollars on.

      8. “Anything earlier and I’m calling an Uber (which is about $40 from downtown) instead”

        Isn’t the taxi downtown-airport fixed rate around $35 or $40? And Shuttle Express around $15-30?

        “The other thing that might pencil out is an earlier ST bus from Tacoma.”

        The 574 runs northbound from 2:15am to 9:52pm, so it’s already skewed to the early morning hours. Also the 180, 3am to midnight. And the A, 24 hours.

  10. I appreciate this debate, as I don’t have a fixed opinion about night service. Ridership numbers would be helpful, as would the cost of our current night owl system. I see a lot of competing benefits, and it seems tough to even decide exactly what we want. Major issues I can see:

    1. Ridership / farebox recovery. Probably not great. But do we optimize for this?
    2. Continuous service. We’re a city, and if we expect people to get by without cars we should provide service.
    3. Drinking and driving. Need good service at least to 2am. Probably after. Likely saves a few lives.
    4. Late shift workers. Do we only serve some areas frequently? Or most everywhere infrequently? Do we mostly serve hospitals and the airport?
    5. Safety.
    6. Morning commute. Some start very early, and the current system limits this.

    Part of me is tempted to argue for just basic but somewhat frequent service to major nodes (and hospitals and the airport), and let people take taxis/bikes/walk to those nodes. And maybe add a far-suburban style *call for service* route for those that can’t get to a node. But it just seems like such a sub-standard level of service. How do other cities handle this?

    1. 3. Drinking and driving.

      Free taxi service is already available. If drunks won’t use that what possible reason would they have to take a bus?

    2. Late shift workers… Do we mostly serve hospitals and the airport?

      Another straw man argument. Just because airport or hospital works might have a shift starting/ending outside of transit service hours there is absolutely zero chance most of them actually live on a route that would be served by this skeletal service.

      1. “Another straw man argument. Just because airport or hospital works might have a shift starting/ending outside of transit service hours there is absolutely zero chance most of them actually live on a route that would be served by this skeletal service.”

        Speaking of “straw arguments”, the point is that those who have a frequent trunk route to the airport, like, say, Link Light Rail, are much more likely to take transit if they can take it both ways.

        That is why I want some sort of shadow service on route 38 that extends to the airport.

        Extending route 120 to the airport, at least at night, would also be nice. (I’ve been wishing it would happen during the day, but nobody seems to believe me that people riding the 120 are going to jobs at the airport.)

    3. “How do other cities handle this?”

      I was just in Berlin last week and they seem to handle it by having frequent service to everywhere at all hours of every day. Seems like a good enough strategy to me. I see people arguing over what the best use of funds (more frequent service to more areas at peak vs owl service, etc), but we should really be focused on securing more funding so that it doesn’t have to be an argument.

  11. Now that Link extends to UW, the first full-line run leaves at 4:45AM. There should be at least one run for the major routes (44, 45, 48, 65, 67, 75) get there around 4:40AM. That’s far more useful and understandable than the 82/83/84.

  12. I think that converting the 97 Link Shuttle into a night-owl route (every 30 minutes?) would help mitigate all the people who are whining over why Link can’t run after 1 AM. It can also be a limited-stop route–perhaps stopping only at zones posted near each Link Station (examples: Broadway & Denny, MLK at Alaska, Myrtle & Henderson, etc.).

    I wanna make another related point here–it occurs when late-night and accessible bus service mix. As some of you may know, it is often necessary for the driver to kneel the bus or deploy the bus’ wheelchair ramp/lift to assist someone with a physical disability. However, these devices can be very noisy, and if done in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as in a residential neighborhood late at night, that may disturb people (namely those who have gone to sleep). Many residents already take umbrage at emergency vehicles blaring their sirens at 4 AM, so what’s to say they won’t be disturbed by the loud WHOOSH of air from a kneeling bus outside their house?

    Now, I don’t have anything against accessible services or late-night service and (in my mind at least) bus manufacturers can design their accessibility systems to be less noisy for the courtesy of slumbering residents–such as adding a muffler to the kneeling air exhaust and using a much more friendly buzzer-type alarm in place of the usual beeper (like what has been used as backup alarms on construction equipment and garbage trucks in recent years), and older vehicles could be retrofitted, but until then I have no “ideal” solution.

    Similarly, I feel that the OBS exterior route/destination announcements that play when the doors open at a stop could be muted in residential areas between 10 PM and 6 AM. There again, just to avoid waking people up.

      1. Well…I’m not an expert, but I guess that MIGHT be a violation. Like I said, I have no logical solution for these issues, but while accessibility/ADA compliance is important, so is being a good neighbor (or in Metro’s case, a “visitor” of the neighborhood).

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