The wait ends this Saturday. At long last, Husky football is accessible to the masses by means other than buses crawling through a sea of cars and then a wall of people.

The 2016 edition of Husky football kicks off Saturday at 11 am, against the Scartlet Knights of Rutgers.

This will be the first-ever Husky football game served by Link Light Rail.

Post-game shuttle boarding locations.  "Sound Transit" is UW light rail station.
Post-game shuttle boarding locations. “Sound Transit” is UW light rail station.

King County Metro will once again be running park & ride shuttles (the 700 series in the above map) from Eastgate Park & Ride, South 320th P&R in Federal Way, Houghton P&R, Kingsgate P&R, westbound on 100th NE by Northgate Transit Center, Shoreline P&R, S Kirkland P&R, and S Renton P&R, departing as buses fill up from 2 hours before kickoff to 1 hour before kickoff. Fare is $5 cash, round trip, or presentation of a UW Athletics season pass.

Most routes that regularly go through campus will be re-routed during game-day traffic (44, 45, 65/67, 71, 73, 75 & 271). These routes will still serve NE Campus Pkwy, from which free shuttles depart every 7-8 minutes to do a loop between the U-District and the stadium vicinity.

There will be a limited number of neighborhood shuttles on routes 44, 65, and 75, serving select stops. The stops for these routes shown on the map above are just for these shuttle trips. These will accept ORCA and charge regular Metro fare. There will no longer be a shuttle from downtown, but the light rail train is much faster anyway, getting you from Westlake Station to Husky Stadium in 6 minutes.

The regular local bus service to UW has grown significantly since last year, thanks in part to Seattle Proposition 1 from 2014, but mostly due to putting service hours cleared off of the I-5 traffic jam back into neighborhood service. Route 372, in particular, has gone from not running on weekends to running every 15 minutes on Saturdays. Route 65/67 has gone from half-hourly all week to running every 15 minutes on Saturdays. The same has happened with route 75. Route 48 has jumped from running every 15 minutes to running every 10 minutes on Saturdays.

Whether by bus or train getting to Husky football has just gotten a whole lot easier.

30 Replies to “Light Rail Service to Husky Football Kicks Off Saturday”

  1. Getting to and from Husky stadium from the Eastside by transit will get a whole lot harder when WS-DOT is permitted to remove the Montlake Flyer freeway stations. Stupid decision on the part of the agencies not to push for their retention. The top of the lid will be parking lot.

    1. In the long run, Eastside buses won’t go all the way downtown anymore, so the Montlake Freeway Station won’t be used, anyway. The amount of service hours that get squandered traveling from one end of downtown Seattle the other end is huge – in the case of the 545, the amount of time spent on surface streets downtown each trip is enough to go from Montlake all the way to Redmond.

      In a way, I almost see the closure of the Montlake freeway station as a blessing in disguise. If routes 255 and 545 could be truncated, the frequency benefits could be huge – enough to improve all-day service from every 30 minutes to every 15 minutes – including evenings and weekends. Service would also be much more reliable, as the random delays traversing downtown would no longer be a concern.

      Currently, finding the political will to actually do the truncation is difficult, as people will inevitably scream about the one-seat ride to downtown trumps all else – even if it means that a ride home in the evening will run just once an hour. If the closure of the freeway station is what it takes to find the political cover to push through the route truncation, then that’s what it takes.

      1. I’m not so sure that the truncation will happen all that soon, and when/if the truncation were to happen, I think it will damage political support for transit on the Eastside.

        I’ve made multiple attempts when heading from the Eastside to downtown to use the UW transfer. I’ve tried it at the Montlake Freeway station, at the Shelby stop, and at the Pacific Street stop. And I’ve compared it to riding both the 255 and 545 to downtown. I’m talking evening rush hour with congestion on I-5 and Stewart. Every comparative attempt was 10-15 minutes faster on the “1-seat ride” vs. transferring to Link. There wasn’t much to be gained in difference between Montlake Freeway vs. Shelby vs. Pacific St – time distance to Link entrance was pretty much identical. Traffic light to exit freeway costs time. Left turn to Pacific St costs time. Bridge costs time. So it’s 6-8 minutes just to get to the surface entrance to Link. Then 3 long escalators down with walks between them takes another 5 minutes.

        There is clearly a significant time penalty to do the transfer, and the I-5/Stewart traffic don’t nearly eat as much time – and outside of peak hours, they are much, much faster, and you have to add in Montlake bridge openings.

        So what about those service hours? Well there isn’t any good layover space near Husky stadium. So if you send Eastside buses up to the U-District or UW campus, you are eating up service hours. And return routes, whether Montlake Blvd or Pacific Street are congested a lot, so you kill reliability and headway maintenance.

        Had there been a serious design effort to truncate Eastside routes at UW/Husky, then the transit/HOV lanes should have had ramps from the bridge to the Husky parking lot and a transit center right there. That would have been awesome and made truncation a really good choice and saved a ton of service hours – and delivered on the transit part of the promise.

        Instead we have a crappy situation that will have the politicians and riders wailing or else kill political will to support transit… or waste service hours forever. The 541/542 are not carrying nearly as many riders as the 545, and the 540 is a small fraction of the 255. That tells you something.

        The lid does not improve anything about the UW transfer – in fact, it makes it worse, as it adds another traffic light compared to the current situation. The transit traffic on the lid has a traffic light where SOV traffic headed south crosses the transit lane, then another light at Montlake Blvd.

        The designs are not well-suited either for current service patterns, nor for service truncation without a serious degradation in the transit experience for 255 and 545 riders headed to/from downtown. And on Husky game days, also. For everyone arriving, and for those currently departing on 255/545. In fact, truncation on game days will be a royal cluster****

      2. The lid will help things by putting buses in an exit ramp separate from general-purpose traffic, allowing them to exit the freeway in one light cycle, rather than up to five. That, alone, could save a good 10 minutes, right there.

        Pacific St. is usually not all that congested, and the last half mile or so up to Montlake already has a bus lane. The Montlake bridge also doesn’t open that often either. When it does, the time sink is mostly the long line of cars leading up to the bridge, not waiting for the bridge itself. Again, this is where the HOV exit ramp helps things, as does the bus lane on Pacific, going the other direction.

        Looking at ridership numbers today between the 541/542 and 545, a lot of it simply a function of the service patterns. The 545 operates a lot more trips than the 541/542 do, so of course, they’re going to carry more riders – the 541/542 carry exactly zero riders when they aren’t running. Even during peak hours, when everything is running, a lot of people (myself included) simply take whatever happens to come first. This is why there is still at least 10-15 people per trip, peak hours, getting off a westbound 545 at Montlake Freeway Station.

        540 vs. 255 is similar – the 255 runs a lot more frequently than the 540, so people naturally gravitate towards the more frequent route – this includes even people headed to the U-district – if you’re waiting for the 540, but the 255 comes first, it is usually faster to just hop on the 255 and ride it to Montlake Freeway Station than to wait for the 540.

        Exactly how the total time numbers work out between transferring to Link vs. staying on a bus, that depends on what part of downtown you’re going to. If you’re going to Stewart and Denny, the bus is probably nearly always faster. Going to the international district, the train transfer is probably faster because of the 30+ minutes it takes the bus to get from one end of downtown to the other end. 5th/Pine may be closer to a wash – it would depend on how gridlocked I-5 and Stewart St. are on a given day.

        Other considerations:
        – Today’s Link’s cause is hurt by the fact that it gets stuck behind buses in the downtown tunnel. Kick the buses out of the tunnel and Link’s speed through downtown will improve further.
        – When Link opens to Roosevelt and Northgate, there is going to be a whole new market of people wanting to transfer between and Eastside bus and Link to go to destinations north of the U-district. Today, transit serves these trips so terribly that the market basically doesn’t exist – those lucky enough to have a Microsoft Connector bus can ride that, the rest drive. But, moving forward, that will change.
        – There is a huge imbalance in the extra time to go to downtown via the U-district vs. going to the U-district via downtown. Get buses out of the general purpose Montlake ramp, and the time penalty for downtown travel drops to about 5 minutes – small enough that improved frequency can make it up. But the time penalty to go from Redmond to the U-district by backtracking all the way downtown would be an excess of 30 minutes – even with Link for the downtown->U-district segment. To force this kind of a penalty when Montlake Freeway Station closes, outside of a few hours each weekday is simply not an option.

      3. Carl, my experience has been a little different.

        I agree with you that the transfer is designed in a boneheaded manner. But even so, I’ve found that it saves me time on a consistent basis when going inbound at AM peak, because I-5 and Stewart can literally eat 15-20 minutes. I use the transfer inbound whenever possible.

        But I haven’t found the transfer to save time outbound at PM peak, partly because the I-5 congestion is far less severe, and partly because my second leg would be on the 540 which is infrequent and has proven unreliable (with several buses that failed to come altogether) at the times when I’m traveling. The reduction of buses in the tunnel last March made the 255 (and the tunnel generally) far more reliable at PM peak, and I use the one-seat ride almost every time in the PM.

        There’s not much WSDOT/ST can do about the traffic lights without building an extra ramp that isn’t in the plan, but the failure to have a bus lane on either Montlake offramp is completely inexcusable.

      4. I can see why getting rid of the stops could be a blessing in disguise. Not only because of the truncations, but because it will force WSDOT, Metro and the university to do something about the situation. It would be too easy to just keep running the buses, and basically not worry about the connection with Link (“if folks want to get to the train, then can exit at Montlake”). But now it is clear that the buses will be headed to that station, and we need to make sure that trip is as good as possible.

        Whether people will ultimately prefer the new solution is a different matter. It probably depends a lot on timing. But that is true with every piece. Ride the 41 from the Northgate area at 10:00 AM and it is great. It cruises through the city streets, gets on the express lanes and through the tunnel very quickly. But try and get downtown in the evening and it is hellish (getting to Capitol Hill or UW is also a lot slower any time of day). So while there will be plenty of people who will miss their old one stop ride to downtown, there will be plenty more who will gladly make the trade. My guess is the same is true for east side riders. Those traveling midday will probably miss their one seat ride, but commuters won’t (unless the transfer is really bad).

      5. In the outbound direction the transfer will definitely be slower. Not that much I-5 congestion. And from the UW station, it requires 2 street crossings. Pacific St is often very congested. While there is a transit lane, it only starts halfway down Pacific, and sometimes Pacific is clogged all the way to the intersection with 15th Ave, and traffic exiting from the medical area (free right) will keep not allow much traffic from 15th to move. Bus arrival times in this direction will be sporadic.

        If you don’t notice many bridge openings, they are prohibited during peak times (like 3-6 on weekdays). But middle of the day and weekends they can occur whenever boats toot their horns, so they are unpredictable. Altogether it can be a 10-minute penalty. It makes it hard to plan a trip if you are making a connection to a less frequent bus or ferry.

        I have little confidence in time savings from the lid, given the new added traffic light on the lid so that southbound traffic can cross the HOV ramp, and then a traffic light to make the northbound turn. I don’t expect much of a time saving, maybe a wash.

        As to relative frequencies, when it started the 540 was an all-day 7/day week route. It was chopped and chopped due to small ridership, which says something about where passengers want to go. The 541/542 combined offer a headway not too different than the 545 during the peaks, yet the 545 continues to carry far more riders. Consider that crowdsourcing. If UW time consistently, you would see more of a shift, especially given 545 crowding and empty seats on the 541/542.

    2. Once the Montlake lid is complete, there will be both freeway bus stations on 520 and HOV ramps for buses to exit 520 onto Montlake.

    3. One the Montlake Lid is complete, there will be both freeway stations on 520 and HOV ramps for buses to exit 520 onto Montlake. Should be a significant improvement over the existing infrastructure.

      The HOV ramps should make it more palatable to truncate routes like 545, especially off peak. On peak I believe they will have access to the HOV ramps downtown as I think 520 HOV’s lanes will merge onto the express ramps, but I’m not 100% sure on that.

      Rather than a simple truncation, I’d like to see ST shift routes like the 545 to run peak only when they can use the I5 express lanes, and then boost the frequency of 542 & 540 and coach riders to transfer at Husky Stadium to get downtown when their 1-seat route isn’t running.

      1. (during the few hours a day that Link is crush loaded between U District and Westlake, it would actually be helpful to run buses to take people away from Link, insofar as those buses are just sitting in rush hour traffic)

      2. Wait, OK, I’m confused. I thought (based on what was said above) that they were getting rid of the Montlake 520 bus stops permanently. There is some logic to that, if you assume that buses will no longer go downtown (all buses will go to the UW). Is that not the case? Is this just a temporary thing?

      3. In the current WS-DOT plan, the only stops will be on top of the lid and are designed for U-District service. The current flyer stops which let buses make a stop without exiting and without traffic lights won’t be provided. So it will not be possible for buses to I-5 to make a stop at Montlake without 3 traffic lights and whatever congestion exists on Montlake.

        The current plan does not provide for HOV access to I-5 express lanes.

        Off-peak and evening times the truncation is a particularly large time penalty as compared to current service.

        I suspect what will end up happening is an inconsistent service pattern, with retention of 255 and 545 service to downtown, non-stop during peak periods, and with a surface deviation off-peak. And a pattern of 540 and 541/542 service to supplement that during peak periods and weekday midday, much like today. Perhaps when the 541/542 operate, the 545 will skip Montlake.

      4. Relying on the exit ramp from the I-5 express lanes to Stewart St. during morning rush hour would be a joke. The express lanes and their ramps into downtown are already very congested, as is, and the ramp from 520 is just going to make it worse. On top of that, the HOV Pike St. exit is going to be going away for the convention center expansion.

        Nor does exiting the freeway for the stop on lid make much sense. It’s tolerable westbound, with the HOV exit ramp, but eastbound, buses would be stuck in the general-purpose line for the UW (which I have observed being quite bad, even at times like 11 AM on a weekday).

        Once you pay the cost of exiting the freeway once to serve the Montlake lid, there is little reason to not truncate the route and least allow improved frequency to make up some of the time. And, that’s after the Montlake lid is finished. During construction, the freeway station will gone, but there will be no Montlake lid yet to stop at. The only options will be to either bypass Montlake altogether or truncate to Link.

        Meanwhile, as Northgate Link opens, the number of people who will want to exit the bus at Montlake will only increase, as many of the people going downtown are only going downtown because they have to (to catch a bus heading north to their Seattle neighborhood), not because they want to. And, and the same time, with the opening of EastLink, the need for a Redmond bus to go all the way downtown will decrease.

        There are also options available to provide a bit better connections to Link than what the buses currently do. Alternative 1, proposed several months ago, had the 255 exiting at Montlake, stopping right in front of the station, then continuing on to Childrens Hospital, in lieu of the 78. The plan definintely had its problems. It shipped the service hours saved by the route truncation into other corridors, rather than improving frequency on the Kirkland->Seattle route, thus giving people in Kirkland zero reason to support it over the status quo. It also subjected eastbound downtown->Kirkland trips to the vageries of southbound Montlake traffic approaching the station. My suggestion was, and still is, to keep the service hours of the Seattle->Kirkland route on the Seattle->Kirkland route, and add a layover at Montlake to make the departure time from the UW Station predictable (perhaps, it could be branded as a 255 truncated to Husky Stadium that thru-routes with a modified version of the current 78, but with the thru-route happening in the northbound direction only).

        So, my best guess at this point is that we’ll see something like this:
        2020 – Montlake Freeway Station closes, all-day service on route 255 replaced with route 540 at improved frequency, with peak-hour service continuing to serve downtown, without stopping at Montlake at all. Route 542 becomes a full-time route, while 545 continues to run, but with a schedule more peak-oriented, like today’s 542.

        2023 – EastLink opens, route 545 discontinued, but route 268 continuing to provide peak-hour service between Redmond and Seattle, possibly gaining a few trips. downtown Redmond->downtown Seattle options include taking a very frequent 542 to a choice of either U-link (at the UW) or EastLink (at Overlake).

        Of course, if ST 3 passes, and additional service-hours become available, we may very well have a world where the 542 and 545 are both operating as parallel all-day routes for several years between when Montlake Freeway Station closes and EastLink opens.


        I was thinking long term – I’m not sure what the intermediate plans are. Still all only applies once the lid is finished.

        But if you look at the lid diagrams (pgs 1, 5) – there will be a transit stop on the lid directly fed by HOV ramps. Pair with Transit-only lanes on Montalke Blvd, and I would think a bus coming from the Eastside can stop at Montlake Lid and UW Husky Stadium and turn around and head back to the Eastside with reasonable reliability? Paired with high frequency on Link, this should be time competitive with a 1-seat ride downtown that fights through GP traffic on I5.

        So it’s not a flyer stop per-se, b/c there is not HOV access for buses coming to/from I5. For peak-only buses, they would have to navigate GP lanes west of the Montlake bridge – I thought I saw something about the express lanes being connected to 520 HOV lanes, but either that’s not funded or I just dreamed abut it.

    1. It is. The map is basically a retread of last year’s minus route 43. “Sound Transit” was then an obstruction rather than a station.

  2. I’ll never forget the nightmare of waiting for a bus to capitol hill after a Husky game. Dozens of shuttles to Federal Way, Kirkland, Renton and beyond came and went while we stood for about an hour waiting for a local bus we could squeeze onto.

    1. It is a nightmare. I tried it exactly once. The experience was so horrible that I now drive my car to a spot about 1 mile from the stadium. I find that a long walk followed by a slow drive is much better than taking the game day buses.

      I was hoping that the opening of UW Station would allow Metro to reduce the number of buses idling outside the stadium, and therefore improve the situation for all bus riders and not just for those transit riders that switch to Link, but so far it appears like that won’t happen.

  3. I’m noticing that route 372 isn’t getting any extra “shuttle” service, and riding the regular service will require walking to the stadium from Campus Parkway.

    1. The # 372 will also be rerouted on Huskies home games as that information was added today to the Metro website.

  4. I sure hope that the boarding location for the 75 is accurate. This means for one night, the 75 is going to get the common sense routing that every route that metro calls a Link connector should get.
    Also, this is the day we stare at the great irony that we somehow can’t put bus lanes on Montlake boulevard when on its busiest day, the right lane of Montlake boulevard is exclusively literally a 1.5 mile long lane of buses.

    1. The map’s boarding location for route 75 (and 44, 45 still shown as “48”, and 65) are for the shuttle versions of those routes only. Sorry.

  5. So how many riders came in from downtown or Rainier Valley, anyway? Looking at the buses stacked up, I figure more people came from the west (Ballard), north or east. It is probably hard to get ridership numbers, but maybe bus numbers (how many were stationed there after a game).

    One of the few arguments for restoring Husky Stadium (as opposed to tearing it down and expanding the hospital) is that a significant number of the people who attend events walk to the stadium. This makes it quite different from most big events. So, while public transportation currently is much better around downtown, having the Huskies play there would probably cause a lot more of a mess.

  6. Are there any ticket holders here that can comment on whether UW has been communicating about the new Link service to the game?

    1. The season ticket sales page lists one of the benefits as “Game Day Express Bus Pass add-on option”. The link to more information on game-day transportation options is unfortunately broken.

      The new add-on approach makes sense, both for trying to estimate shuttle ridership, and to encourage use of regular transit.

      It would be nice if that game-day add-on served as a day pass on all regional transit services on game day.

    2. It’s part of the season ticket holders’ information package. In speaking with some of the athletic department staff, they were well aware of it and very excited (a couple of them told me that they used Link all the time to go to Capitol Hill for lunch, since it was faster than trying to go anywhere nearby the stadium–there isn’t anywhere nearby!).

      I attended the free scrimmage a couple of Fridays ago, and a large percentage of those of us who attended did so via Link. I imagine there will be quite a number of us who do so for the Friday 9/30 game as well.

      Many thousands of us tailgate and spend most of the day there, so we won’t be using Link regularly, but on gamedays that are sellouts they typically get about 20,000 riders on the bus shuttles. At least some of those will find Link convenient. It will just get better as new segments open.

      (a historical aside – I have a 1956 game program from a game my mother and grandfather attended, and there is a transit stop map in there showing that even then they were staging buses for post-game travelers around the triangle much as we do today!)

  7. To be fair, there has been rail service to Husky Stadium before.

    Back in the ’30’s there was a streetcar station and turnback loop at almost the exact same sport as the current UW LR station. Ya, SC has much lower capacity than LR, but back then Husky Stadium had much lower capacity than the palace we have now to. Percentage wise it probably wasn’t’ that much different.

    Oh, and some close friends of ours always go to the games via the game day buses, but this year they are taking the bus to downtown Seattle (the wrong direction) and then transferring to Link to come back north to the stadium. It will be interesting to see how many people do something similar.

    Going out of your way to take Link instead of the more direct game day buses has advantages.

    But in any case, go Dawgs.

    1. Streetcars and light rail are basically the same thing. Trailer cars were routinely added to US streetcars in the 1930s, and a turning loop would add a huge amount of capacity just by allowing through traffic rather than stopping and turning and allowing cars to depart in series rather than get in the way of each other.

      During the 1905 World’s Fair in Portland, the streetcar system here built trailer cars out of the old horsecars, and was running trains by the fairgrounds every 30 seconds.

      Of course, at that time auto traffic wasn’t allowed to obstruct transportation modes that were actually moving people.

  8. Any word on how the service worked leaving Husky stadium after the game ? Were extra trains laid on?
    Having taking the train to and from the spring game it looked to me that after the game unless train frequency was shortened or more cars laid on or both the underground areas could be a jammed nightmare with escalators feeding more people to the bottom deck than could be accomadated.

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