Of all the good urban problems to have, an overactive downtown core is among the best of them. We’ve come to the point where a weekday/weekend transit service dichotomy is too simple to adequately respond to unique changes in demand or stresses to the system. From Pride, SeaFair, Rock and Roll Marathon, Obama x 3, Xi Jinping, and on and on, there are ever more days each year in which unique pain points occur for Downtown service.
The impetus for this post, of course, is Obama’s visit yesterday. Walking along Stewart in the PM peak, it was a wall of continuous gridlocked buses from Harrison all the way to 6th, burning fuel, transporting no one, and wreaking havoc on the broader transportation network. The poor Tacoma drivers operating Sound Transit’s 590s were diverted onto westbound Denny, woefully stuck with everyone else.
At the ST3 Board Meeting last Thursday, CEO Rogoff gave his customary ridership update, and disclosed that not only will ST be tripling 3-car trains on weekdays, but will also be looking at turnback trains between UW and Sodo for special events. Previously, this idea was limited to helping bridge the 2 years between Convention Place closure and Northgate Link’s opening. But why should event-related service improvements be limited to trains, when buses and their crazy reroutes bear the brunt of the pain?
A proposal: its time for a new “Enhanced Weekend/Event” layer of service. Here are some possible criteria: If both of the following are true, operate “Enhanced Weekend/Event” service:
- Sound Transit expects weekend/ridership to be within 10% of weekday ridership
- Buses will be rerouted by 2 blocks or more for 4 or more hours that day
If buses cannot serve the downtown core, and if the stops they serve are duplicated by Link, those buses should not serve Downtown at all. Routes such as 255, 545, 554, 578, and 594 should run to their nearest Link station, and run twice as often.
In turn, Sound Transit should operate Link with equivalent weekday capacity, just spread out evenly throughout the day. So instead of 10-minutes off-peak and 6 minutes peak, run it 7-8 minutes all day.The truncations proposed could also apply on weekdays for limited but severe stresses like Presidential motorcade closures.
Surely a forced transfer is preferable to a bus that’s an hour late, and buses idling with no passengers are in nobody’s interest. What do you think?