This past Monday, Zach introduced STB riders to Metro’s new Long Range Plan. The plan sets forth an ambitious series of large-scale goals for Metro. Most prominently, it brings truly frequent service (15 minutes or better, daytime and early evenings) within a 10-minute walk of 70 percent of King County residents. While the plan is considerably more than a network planning vision, its centerpiece is a rough, high-level network proposal restructuring Metro service around Sound Transit’s regional projects and relying on an ambitious increase in service levels.
The proposal has two parts: a near-term “2025” vision designed around the funded projects from Sound Transit 2, and a longer-term “2040” vision that reflects King County projects included in Sound Transit’s ST3 draft plan. The 2040 vision would bring Metro from roughly 3.5m annual service hours today to about 6m. Metro emphasizes that neither vision “is a service change proposal” and that proposed routes in these visions need to go through much more analysis before they could become part of service changes. In other words, this is all very much Before Seattle Process.
Still, the plan provides insight into what Metro’s professional planners think would work given local jurisdictions’ long-term plans. Metro’s Chris O’Claire, one of the plan’s principal architects, emphasized to us in a briefing that Metro considered local comprehensive plans, growth expectations, and transit priorities, and that the plan reflected a cooperative process between Metro and lots of local and regional stakeholders. One pleasant surprise is a very heavy emphasis on frequent Link connectivity systemwide, resulting in a major shift toward east/west service in Seattle and South King County, and north/south service on the Eastside.
The 2040 plan changes literally every route in the Metro system to some extent, so there is no realistic way for us to cover all of the changes, no matter how deep we try to dive. Below is a grab bag of a few of the most interesting, and likely controversial, specifics I’ve found in the Seattle portion. A suburban installment, equally full of new ideas, will be coming later. Reach in, pick your candy, and comment after the jump.
The 8/11 Chimera Lives! Both the 2025 and 2040 maps revive the “Alternative 1” idea of replacing the East Madison segment of route 11 with a frequent extension of route 8 to Madison Park, relying heavily on Link connections at Capitol Hill Station. In the 2040 vision, the 8/11 is upgraded to RapidRide standard. But this time Metro would be able to do something about notoriously poor reliability on Denny. Instead of Denny, the 8/11 would use Mercer and the newly reconnected Harrison between Uptown and Fairview, using Denny only for the short trip across I-5. Meanwhile, the relatively few route 8 riders along MLK would see their service become more reliable, but less frequent. A short, 30-minute north-south route would run between Madison Valley and Beacon Hill Station, relying on connections with Link at Judkins Park (formerly I-90) Station and with Madison BRT.
New Connections on First Hill. Metro is thinking about two different new north/south corridors across First Hill. In both maps, Route 38 would be extended to Little Saigon, and then along Boren and Denny to Uptown (replacing the western part of route 8’s Denny coverage). Route 27, proposed for deletion in the past because of its proximity to frequent routes 3 and 4, would stay, but head across First Hill on 9th and 8th Avenues rather than going downtown. (It would come very close to the downtown retail core at 8th and Pine.) As a bonus, it would provide partial replacement service for route 2 riders on the west end of First Hill, as route 2 itself would move to Pine Street.
A More Northerly Crosstown Route. One of the longest-standing criticisms of the Metro network is that there is no crosstown route anywhere in the considerable area between Denny and the Ship Canal. The reason is physical: today, there is no east-west route across Capitol Hill north of John that is passable for buses. The plan shows that Metro would like to change that, with a service pattern that would run from Uptown to East Capitol Hill via the Lakeview Bridge, Belmont Av, and Roy and Aloha Streets. The route would be infrequent in 2025, but upgraded to frequent status (as a combination of two infrequent routes that differ only in their tails west of Uptown) in 2040. Major capital investments would be needed to make such a route possible, but it would be a major improvement.
Making the 49 Useful. Anecdotal experience since U-Link opened suggests that the current 49 routing south of Capitol Hill Station has become redundant. Metro would combine the north end of the 49 with route 36 to Beacon Hill, using 12th Ave to connect the two segments. The combined route would have current 49 frequency in 2025 and become RapidRide in 2040. This would, for the first time, create a truly frequent and easy-to-use north-south route through Capitol and First Hills. It would also introduce service to 12th.
Radically Streamlined Downtown Service. In the 2040 map, just eight bus routes would run along Third Avenue in downtown Seattle, all either RapidRide or frequent service: rough equivalents to RapidRide D, RapidRide E, 1/14, 3N, 3S/13, 5, 7/70 (upgraded to RapidRide), and 62 (upgraded to RapidRide). This demonstrates dramatically how Sound Transit’s proposed second downtown tunnel and Link connections can relieve both capacity constraints and congestion through downtown.
Smith Cove is a Big Deal. Sound Transit’s planned “Smith Cove” station on the ST3 Ballard line, in the otherwise unappealing neighborhood of Elliott and Prospect, looked to some observers like a sop to Expedia. But Metro finds it a very convenient place to make west-side connections. The 2040 network has Smith Cove as a terminal or major connection point for all Magnolia routes (there is no one-seat Magnolia-downtown service), for RapidRide D’s successor, and for no fewer than four crosstown routes serving Uptown, SLU, and points east.
Metro Wants 130th Street. Metro’s 2040 map counts on something that we agitated for in Lynnwood Link, and still hope will be built later or included in ST3: a NE 130th St station. The map proposes a straight, fast, frequent route (attached to what is now route 75) connecting Lake City, 130th Station, and Bitter Lake. Overnight, the route and Link would become the best way to get from Lake City, Pinehurst, Ingraham HS, or Bitter Lake to… well, almost anywhere in the region. The station and this route have always seemed to us like a no-brainer, and we hope Metro’s demonstration of the potential connectivity helps persuade Sound Transit of the station’s benefits.
Pinehurst Was Heard. Probably the most consistent complaint about Metro’s Alternative 1 proposal for North Seattle was the lack of easy southward connectivity from Pinehurst. Metro reversed course for the LRP, turning a frequent route along 15th Ave NE into a critical piece of the Northeast Seattle network. The plan combines the 73 and 348, providing north/south service along 15th all the way from UW Station to North City, and then connecting to the NE 185th Link station and Shoreline.
New Greenwood East/West Connections. SDOT’s Transit Master Plan has long featured an extension of RapidRide D to Northgate via Holman Road and N 105th St. Metro’s LRP puts this extension in place, displacing Route 40… but what it does with the 40 instead may be more interesting. The north end of the 40 would use a new crosstown routing connecting Crown Hill, Greenwood, Northgate, and Lake City. This connection would give Greenwood commuters a faster alternative to reach Link than route 45’s slog through Green Lake; make the fastest Lake City-Northgate connection more frequent; and connect Lake City and Greenwood directly for the first time ever.
Much Improved East/West Service in Northeast. East of I-5, Metro’s 2040 plan would have crosstown routes on 45th, 55th, 65th, 75th, 105th, 125th, and 145th. This route spacing is a major upgrade from today’s, and would restore all-day service to east/west customers of deleted routes 30 and 68. All of these routes would be frequent except the one along 75th, and all of them would connect directly to Link.
Streamlining the 62. Metro’s new route 62 has attracted some criticism for its indirect and unreliable routing in the Wallingford and East Green Lake areas. Metro would streamline it, serving N 56th St and Latona Ave NE rather than narrow, winding Kirkwood Pl N and Woodlawn Av NE. This would give north Wallingford and Tangletown a significantly faster connection to Link at Roosevelt Station, and speed other crosstown connections between Wallingford, Fremont, and NE Seattle. The lost coverage would be replaced by a local route connecting U-District Station, Latona, East Green Lake, and Northgate Station.
South and West Seattle
Splitting Route 7. SDOT has long proposed that South Seattle’s workhorse route 7 be split in half, to enable new connections not covered by Link and prevent reliability issues in the International District from affecting service along Rainier Av S. Metro is now on board. In both maps, Route 7 would be split in half at Mount Baker Station. The south half would be connected with route 48 and upgraded to RapidRide, restoring a one-seat ride between Rainier Valley and the Central District and providing a new easternmost anchor for the gridded network. The north half would also be upgraded to RapidRide and connected with route 70 for the 2025 network, creating a one-seat surface bus route connecting Mount Baker, the International District, downtown, SLU, and the U-District. The northern route would be further extended for the 2040 network, absorbing route 67 and creating a one-seat route all the way from Northgate to Mount Baker. (How the reliability of this route would be addressed is an open question.)
Metro Wants Graham Street. Just as with NE 130th St, Metro is proposing a frequent east/west route to connect with the planned Graham Street Station. This one would replace the southern portion of route 60 with increased frequency, and would connect Westwood Village, White Center, South Park, Georgetown (along a new routing via Corson and Lucile), Cleveland HS, and Graham Street itself. Because of South Seattle’s byzantine street network, most of these connections are a bit slower than those Metro could achieve from NE 130th St. Nonetheless, the map shows how Graham, just like 130th, can help Metro create a truly frequent and gridded network.
All In on West Seattle Rail. The 2040 map would completely restructure West Seattle bus service, orienting it almost entirely around connections to Sound Transit’s proposed Link line with stations at Youngstown, Avalon, and Alaska Junction, and radically increasing neighborhood coverage as a result. RapidRide C would be entirely replaced by a new RapidRide line within West Seattle, intent on connecting additional destinations with Link at Alaska Junction: Alki, North Admiral, Morgan Junction, High Point, Highland Park, Beverly Park, and Burien. Route 120 would be upgraded to RapidRide and rerouted through Sodo, presumably with the idea that downtown passengers would mostly transfer to Link at Youngstown. Arbor Heights and Fauntleroy would be served by a new route that would connect them with Alaska Junction… but also provide an all-day express connection between West Seattle and SLU via the Deep Bore Tunnel, the tunnel’s one practical use for transit. Additional frequent lines connecting to Link would replace routes 21 and 125, and also add new connectivity to Beach Drive, Shorewood, and the unserved area east of West Seattle HS. New all-day local lines would serve several other areas close to Alaska Junction.
New Approach to South Park. In addition to the east-west Graham Street route mentioned above, South Park would be served by two north-south routes, both connecting to Link. A frequent route connecting South Park with Beacon Hill Station, Des Moines Memorial Drive, and Burien (essentially, a combination of parts of routes 60 and 132) would stop only along 14th Ave S at the eastern edge of the neighborhood. The rest of the neighborhood would be served by a local route that would connect South Park and the adjacent industrial area with Sodo Station via 1 Av S, while providing new service between South Park, the Glendale industrial and residential areas, Riverton Heights, and Tukwila. This approach would take away South Park’s one-seat service to downtown, but create more frequent connections to Link and new connections to nearby areas.
Connections at Boeing Access Road. Metro appears to be assuming yet another infill stop from Sound Transit: Boeing Access Road (BAR). Routes serving the general area of BAR would be restructured into an X shape with the station at its center. Route 124 north of BAR would be combined with route 107, connecting Skyway and BAR with Georgetown and Sodo. Route 124 south of BAR would be absorbed into an extended RapidRide A, running between Rainier Beach and Federal Way via BAR. This idea would improve connectivity along route 124, but would not provide long-sought late-night and early-morning connectivity between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport.
And Another Crosstown Route. Not satisfied with one new crosstown connection, Metro suggests another one (albeit infrequent) connecting Rainier Beach Station, South Beacon Hill, Georgetown (via Michigan St), Highland Park, Westwood Village, Gatewood, and the Alaska Junction.