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Metro is making another attempt at restructuring the trolley service on Queen Anne Hill. Metro hasn’t released enough details about the proposals for me to yet decide if the proposal is an improvement over the existing service pattern. Moving service from the historic streetcar tails on routes 3 and 4 on Queen Anne Hill looks like a smart and productive gain. But I want to see how much productivity could be gained system-wide with changes to the entire Queen Anne-based trolley network. There are plenty of inefficiencies in Metro’s current Queen Anne to First Hill/Madrona/Judkins Park/Mt. Baker trolley network. How much better can the network become if the existing resources were deployed more efficiently?

To begin this project, I gathered some paper timetables and consulted the online schedules at OneBusAway to try and figure out the service patterns for the existing Queen Anne, First Hill and Mt. Baker routes (1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 14). As best I could figure, this is the current midday operating plan for the routes I looked at:

  • Routes 1/14 are operated with 8 buses on 20 minute headways
  • Routes 3/4 are operated with 16 buses at 7.5 minute headways on the common routing, 30 minute headways on the tails
  • Routes 2/13 are operated with 9 buses at 15 headways (Madrona to Seattle Center) and 30 minute headways (north of the Counterbalance)
  • Total = 33 buses
  • The challenge is to create an operating plan that would be cost neutral (33 total buses during the midday) but provide the most coverage possible. Because the peak hour services of the existing Queen Anne based trolley routes are currently some of Metro’s most productive routes, I won’t offer any changes to the peak hour routes. These changes will only affect midday services.

    The Queen Anne Plan
    (Step 1) Create 2 strong spine routes that anchor the entire system. These routes would replicate the route paths of the current 3S and the 4S from First Hill/Madrona/Judkins Park to Belltown. These routes would offer very frequent service (every 7.5 minutes) for the many landmark neighborhoods and institutions along the path (Central District, Garfield High School, Swedish and Harborview Hospitals, Seattle University, Downtown, Seattle Center, Queen Anne Hill and Seattle Pacific University). This spine would look very much like a combined 3S/4S/3N/13 route, (although I will later propose a modification of the 4S that I think would be a major productivity gain). The 3S and 4S would both begin at their existing Madrona/34th Avenue and Judkins Park terminals, but both routes would run every 15 minutes from the terminals and provide 7.5 minute headways on their common corridor from First Hill through downtown Seattle and Belltown. This spine route would then split in Belltown with one route serving the west side of Seattle Center (continuing to SPU on the 13 route path), the other route would continue to SPU via the 3N path to Queen Anne/Boston Street where it would then continue to the SPU terminal. Using the route timings in Metro’s current timetables, this spine route would require a minimum of 18 buses to operate during the midday, but it might be wise to add 1 or 2 extra coaches to guarantee on-time operations.

    (Step 2) Modify the 2/13 timetable to replace the 13 SPU service with the 1 Kinnear route. This would maintain 15 minute headways between Madrona Park and lower Queen Anne and the paths to Kinnear Park and West Queen Anne would each receive 30 minute service.

    (Step 3) Route 14 would then be a Mt. Baker to downtown-only route and would require 5 coaches to offer 20 minute headways unless modified (see below).

    Total buses needed for this plan:

  • The 3/4S/13 Spine Route: 18-20 buses
  • 1 Kinnear/2 WQA-Madrona Park Route : 9 buses
  • 14 (Mt. Baker): 5 buses for 20 minute headways
  • Total: 32-34 buses
  • In order to create a cost-neutral plan, at most I need to eliminate 1 bus from my plan. An easy way to reduce the number of buses needed would be to reduce service to the Judkins Park and Madrona/34th terminals on the spine route from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes. This change would maintain the existing service levels on those corridors, but I think Metro riders would greatly benefit from a revised 4S route path south of Jackson Street.

    A Modified Route 4 to Judkins Park/Mt. Baker Transit Center
    The existing 4S wanders through the Judkins Park neighborhood and inefficiently duplicates service offered by existing Routes 8 and 48. To improve service on the 4S I propose the following changes for the route paths of the 4S and Route 8.

    Route 4S: starting at 23rd Avenue & Jackson Street, the outbound route path would (1) turn left onto Jackson Street (2) then turn right onto MLK and stay on MLK until it terminates at the Mt. Baker TC. With the 4S operating on MLK south of Jackson Street, the 8 could then be revised to terminate near Garfield High School at the existing 3 First Hill terminal. This change wouldn’t reduce the number of buses needed on the 4S, but it would free up 2 buses from route 8. Because this plan would involve new trolley wire it could be decades before Metro would be able to act, but the benefits of connecting MBTC with First Hill via a fairly straight path are enormous.

    Some might object that the running the 4S directly to MBTC would eliminate front door service to the Lighthouse for the Blind. A possible solution to that problem would be a van that connects Lighthouse to MBTC and then continues to the legacy Hanford Street terminal of Route 14 (replacing the trolley bus). Eliminating the crazy split-tail routing of the 14 would save one bus from the 14 schedule which would pay for the van.

    Is This a Better Plan?
    This plan would offer more frequent service on most of the existing Queen Anne based trolley routes. SPU and the Boston Street commercial area would receive much better service. The Madrona/34th and Judkins Park areas would also get 15 minute headways. The only service reduction (other than the legacy tails on 3N/4N) would be on the 1 Kinnear route path north of Uptown (20 minute headways would become 30 minute headways).

    14 Replies to “A Queen Anne Plan”

    1. Metro’s 2012 restructure for RapidRide C/D proposed consolidating the 2N into the 13, moving the 2S to Madison with ultra-frequent service (7 minutes), merging the 4S into the 3S, and the 3N into the 4N with the SPU terminus. I still think it’s a better idea. It got dashed because of status-quo activists on Seneca Street who wanted front-door service and were afraid to transfer downtown, and to a lesser extent by activists on 6th Ave W and 23rd Ave S. However, Lighthouse for the Blind and its clients did not object; it was the people around it who objected on its behalf (and whose real motivation may have been front-door service for themselves even though they rarely rode it). Metro withdrew all the Queen Anne and CD changes to avoid complicating the larger restructure, but it didn’t promise to never do them. Now it’s going ahead with the SPU terminus, so the other changes will probably come back eventually.

      The 4S is so slow that people curse its speed and take other routes if they can (27, 7, 14). Moving it to MLK would not improve that, so people would still avoid it, and the increase in coverage is tiny. I see the point about efficiency on the 8, but the greater need is east-west service in the eastern CD, which deserves more than the half-hourly 3.

      1. The way SDOT is doing Madison BRT, with buses running in the center lane and needing doors on the left, makes it significantly harder to shift the 2 to Madison. It would need buses with doors on both sides.

    2. I live on Queen Anne and generally would support this. My regular commute is from West Queen Anne to First Hill/Capitol Hill (near Broadway and Madison/Union). As such I generally take routes 2, 13, or 29 from Queen Anne. I would certainly welcome a more frequent Queen Anne Ave route, but my concern is not there. Under this plan you could force a transfer downtown for those going to Capitol Hill. This isn’t actually that big of a deal: many people (including myself) transfer to the 8, 10, 11, or 12 to reach parts of Capitol Hill. I just think you need to state as one of your drawbacks that you lose direct Queen Anne/Central Capitol Hill connectivity.

      This plan would draw opposition from W 6th Ave folks, but they would either walk 4 blocks down to the 1 on 10th or 6 blocks up to QA Ave. Would you leave the 29 on 6th? I would probably say no, and instead move it to the ave, unless you wanted to run it at 30 minute frequencies all day long. In that case I would leave it on 6th to basically replace the lost rt. 2 service (although at that point you would have to add a bunch more buses, and I don’t know if there’s the demand to warrant that kind of service).

    3. There’s a good case for increasing transit service between Madrona/34th and Garfield HS. The current 30 minute headways are insufficient. There isn’t as good a case to keep the 4S route in its current form. Extending the 4S to Mt. Baker TC, however, creates an easy pathway between south Seattle and the First Hill hospitals. Harborview, Swedish and the Providence/Swedish facility would be connected to the south end without requiring a transfer downtown. Most of the delays and frustration with the 4S occur between downtown and Broadway, which would still be there, but more riders would be able to get to First Hill via MBTC, possibly alleviating overcrowding on the James Street portion of the 3/4. The proposed 4S would also run completely on arterial streets, require fewer turns and all turns would be at signalized intersections. I think it would be much more efficient and productive. Wouldn’t it also connect with East Link?

      My proposed route paths on QA are the same as Metro’s proposal. Unless the people along Kinnear Park object to longer midday waits or the people along the deleted terminal paths get angry and organized, this plan should be acceptable to all Queen Anne riders.

    4. >>Routes 3/4 are operated with 16 buses at 7.5 minute headways on the common routing, 30 minute headways on the tails<<

      Huh? If they're 7.5 minutes on the common routing, wouldn't that make them 15 minutes outside that?

    5. I like it. I think it makes a lot of sense to have the pairing you do.

      I’m not sold on moving the wire for the 4S though. I would prefer that routing as well, but it seems like a huge hassle (both politically and financially) for a small benefit. I do like the idea of connecting First Hill with Rainier Valley though (beyond the 9).

      When Madison BRT is added, I think it will shuffle things in the area. These particular runs look pretty good as you proposed them (I wouldn’t wait, either). I would make other changes, though. I would simply get rid of the 12. I would replace it with a bus that helps close the biggest gap in the area: between 23rd and Broadway south of Thomas. I would run a bus along 15th north of Madison, then 14th south of there.* Once that bus hits Jackson, there are a bunch of choices. It could just make a beeline south Rainier Avenue. Or it could cut over on Jackson and then head south on 23rd or MLK. Either way it ends at Mount Baker Station.

      Doing that would make it easier to truncate the 4S. I wonder in general how much time is spent on that section of the route versus the tail end of the 3 (in Madrona). I would guess quite a bit more. This means that if you truncate it, then maybe you could run the whole thing more often. If you could truncate and turn around somewhere around 24th and Judkins, that might save a considerable amount of service time. I would imagine that is a minimal amount of line work (unlike the better, but far more extensive proposal you made).

      * Since I am proposing this new bus and dropping the old 12, this could become the new 12. If people complain too much about losing service on 19th Ave East (on the old 12) you could alter this route easily to serve that area. So, from the north, the new 12 would start where it does now, head south along 19th, then cut over to 15th, then down 15th until Madison, where it continues on 14th until Jackson. Personally I would prefer just running the thing along 15th the whole way. That would give folks along there some very good frequency to downtown, either directly (on (the 10) or indirectly (via the 12 and the Madison BRT).

      1. Just a coincidence, but before the 4S was known as “4 Judkins Park” it was known as the “12 26th Ave S.”, so your idea actually revives the “very old” numbering of the bus.

        You’re right, the Madison BRT has to be settled before Metro can make a final decision on the 4S and 8 (and maybe the 2S).

    6. The bigger issue is the need to eliminate the duplicative 4S tail. That can happen once Lighthouse gets decent walking conditions. At that point you basically kill the 4 and run the 3 twice as often. We have 1 transfer now along MLK between the 8 and 38. Even with the dumb 38/106 changes, that stays the same. With this pattern, riders would need to transfer twice to get up and down MLK from Mt. Baker to the CD.

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