2017 will be a relatively quiet year for Sound Transit in terms of service delivery. The agency released its annual Service Implementation Plan (SIP) (Executive Summary, Complete) last Wednesday, combining 5-year service planning with in-depth route and corridor performance data. Here are some highlights:
Sounder and Amtrak
The biggest service addition in 2017 will be September launch of the final two new Sounder roundtrips funded by ST2, which will bring peak service frequencies closer to 15 minutes, compared to 20-30 minutes today. Further Sounder trips, lengthened platforms, and longer trains await a successful ST3 vote before their formal planning could begin. The final schedule will be released sometime next year, pending negotiations with BNSF, Amtrak, and WSDOT, as Cascades trains will begin using Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square in September 2017 also.
Facing worsening congestion, and like Community Transit did last year, Sound Transit will sink 15,000 bus hours into schedule padding to make timetables more realistic for ST Express. That’s over $2M a year in direct congestion costs, borne by us the taxpayers, due to our inability to effectively prioritize transit on our highways and surface arterials.
During the ULink restructure process, many Eastside changes were proposed but scrapped at the last minute, as a lack of overall response from the public spooked ST and Metro into backing off. The 2017 SIP promises Eastsiders a redo (page 69):
In the spring of 2017, Sound Transit and King County Metro plan to re-engage key stakeholders and the public in East King County to review key outcomes of the changes completed for the opening of the University Link extension.
ST expects Link ridership to grow another 24% next year as ULink matures and Angle Lake catches on, with annual ridership exceeding 20M for the first time. With continued organic growth and the two new roundtrips, Sounder is expected to grow by 10%. Meanwhile, ST Express is projected to grow 1% and Tacoma Link will continue to be flat or decline slightly.
- The I-5 North corridor (Route 510/511/512/513) will be adding more double-decker buses in Spring 2017.
- The I-405 North corridor (Routes 532/535) will also add double-decker buses, but only once those routes are redesigned to avoid entering Bellevue Transit Center, whose overhangs are too low for the Double Talls.
- The I-90 corridor will see intensive East Link construction begin in spring 2017, with the express lanes permanently closed to buses beginning in June. At that time, 2-way HOV lanes will be in place from Mercer Island to Seattle, speeding the reverse-peak commute significantly while slightly worsening the peak-direction trip. The Rainier Freeway Station will remain open until the closure of the D-2 roadway in Fall 2018 for the construction of Judkins Park Station.
- The I-5 South corridor will remain largely the same, though Sound Transit will consider deleting Route 586 and rerouting ST Express 574 to serve both Angle Lake and SeaTac/Airport Stations. In addition, the state grant to extend some Route 592 trips to Olympia ends in June 2017, and ST will review the extension’s performance to decide whether to continue funding it (hint: it’s carrying less than 100 boardings per day).
Corridor and Route Performance Data
The 2017 SIP has a fantastic new presentation format, offering ridership, reliability, and crowding data for every trip on every route. A deeper dive will have to await future posts, but the new format is intuitive and compact. Check it out.