Ballard 2015 and 2040 Isochrones
Mobility from Ballard today and under Metro’s 2040 vision.

About nine months ago, Metro released a draft of its first Long Range Plan in quite some time.  We were enthusiastic about the plan, which lays out a comprehensive vision for the Metro of the future, including network, Sound Transit integration, facilities, fleet, and capital improvements.  We nerded out over some of the network planning ideas, and spent hours poring over the network maps, which show real imagination and are a revealing distillation of planners’ ideas for improvement throughout the county.  More than anything else, we got excited about Metro’s isochrone maps, which show how far you would be able to get from a given point with ST3 and the LRP network in place.  They paint a picture of timely car-free mobility throughout the city and even to many suburban areas, one which probably seems like a faraway dream to anyone who spends their afternoons stuck along Denny on the 8 or Dexter on the 62.

The King County Council has been considering the plan ever since, and Councilmembers apparently liked what they saw as much as we did.  In its Monday meeting, the full Council adopted the plan unanimously, with only minor changes from the draft Metro released last April.  The final documents include some welcome additional information about the assumptions behind the plan, including detailed data on how many residents of each area will be near frequent service; minute-level estimates of travel times between areas; and a breakout of expected cost per service hour for each of the four service types included in the network (RapidRide, frequent, express, and local).  Network planning for integration with ST3 reflects some additional work by planners, with a significantly revised post-ST3 network in Magnolia and Ballard, and other smaller network changes throughout the area.  We expect to provide additional coverage of Metro’s newest Ballard network vision in another post, as it has some new and interesting concepts we haven’t seen before.

As always, shepherding a mostly abstract, years-away long-range plan through the Council is an easier task than implementing specific service improvements with immediate winners and losers.  Nevertheless, adoption of Metro Connects is a very welcome step, and the apparent lack of controversy is an encouraging sign for faster, easier transit service throughout the county that uses the considerable resources we are putting into ST3 as effectively as possible.

24 Replies to “County Council Adopts “Metro Connects” Long-Range Plan”

  1. OK, what about, except, usually, for LINK, our major travel routes blocked solid for thirty miles out of Seattle in every direction but west? And stopped cold by one collision? And the economic forces powering the disaster? Which everybody across the political spectrum accepts as much as weather.

    New flag salute posture: a shrug! I don’t care if all we can do is take a grader and cut good gravel roads along every freeway. With bus priority signals at both floating bridges. And couple Sounder cars to the Amtrak trains south of Lakewood. For starters.

    Right now, coffee break up by the hospital in Tacoma, after an hour on the back roads that are the only pavement moving traffic this part of the region. Will soon leave the car at Tacoma Dome, take the 574 to Federal Way, and transfer to the A-line to Angle Lake. Want to see Federal Way LINK route before this afternoon’s ST Board meeting.

    Will have to look at King County’s document of the morning. They’re probably already doing everything I said.

    Mark Dublin

  2. I think of this as merely the 2040 projection-based plan using 2010 transit technology. For example,, a network of slower-moving, high-frequency, driverless mini transit shuttles radiating from Link stations for the last one or two miles of trips could easily be outcome of choice for lower density neighborhoods. That would be a very different plan map.

    Of course, Metro voted on one plan put on the table, and Council did not choose from more (like four or six) alternatives. Anywhere else, it’s a choice between Alternatives A, B, C and D; with Metro, it’s a yes or no proposition. The lack of alternatives is a cultural attitude which Metro exemplifies here — an attitude that many transit agencies in other regions in America don’t have because the narrow focus limits potential outcomes.

    1. Long range planning can’t assume technology that doesn’t yet exist. But, long range plans can be, and are often, updated.

      1. The technology is far enough along to where there should be at least one alternative scenario created by Metro to show what a system could look like with these vehicles. It doesn’t even have to be adopted — but to deny that it’s not a possibility shows the inadequacy of this document and the “one alternative at a time” cultural limitation of Metro. We need multiple scenarios in the document!

      2. If stuff is along arterials (and it is), why would this lower capacity alternative be any better? What problem do you believe it solves

      3. Not everyone is going to be heading to Link. There are still large areas of the county that will have no Link service, and there are many trips that will be faster with bus service than Link (i.e. Burien – DT, Fremont – DT, and many suburban/non-Seattle trips). I don’t think forcing everyone to use Link in every transit trip is a good idea.

    2. But the council has ways of controlling the turn-by-turn paths of their favorite routes, when they want to. This is not always bad, as it took council intervention to make the new 106 path be more than just 38+express to Jackson. But what happened with the northeast Seattle restructure certainly counts as micromanagement the likes of which I’ve never seen before from the council.

    3. It’s very easy to imagine a scenario where future technologies implement the “Local” part of the plan’s vision.

      Low-capacity, low-speed shuttles are not going to be able to replace the RapidRide or “Frequent” parts. Those are corridors that will require high enough capacity that a traditional bus, whether automated or not, will be needed.

    4. Of course, Metro voted on one plan put on the table, and Council did not choose from more (like four or six) alternatives. Anywhere else, it’s a choice between Alternatives A, B, C and D; with Metro, it’s a yes or no proposition. The lack of alternatives is a cultural attitude which Metro exemplifies here — an attitude that many transit agencies in other regions in America don’t have because the narrow focus limits potential outcomes.

      Exactly. That really is the biggest problem with transit in this city. It is all good and well to say the council liked what they saw, but in reality they only saw one thing, and voted unanimously in favor. That right there is a bad sign. Just pick an issue, and you will find great disagreement on this blog. For example, assuming you build a Ballard to UW subway, should it serve upper or lower Fremont? You will find lots of arguments either way, and at the end of the day, you will have a split vote. Just on one, relatively minor issue! Yet this entire package sails through and everyone loves it. Is that because they spent hours and hours debating the thing, and finally decided on a great consensus plan? Of course not. They simply looked through this one proposal, figured it was good enough (especially since there is no alternative) and voted in favor. Then they got back to worrying about the budget (where real battles lie). Sorry, but that just isn’t a very good process. We should have several options on the table, not just one.

      1. You don’t just get the Council rubber-stamping Metro plans. I think the network plan shows pretty obviously the incorporation of input from each area within the county, which includes both local jurisdictions and the Councilmembers themselves from each district. You’ll see some SDOT pet ideas in the Seattle part, some of Kathy Lambert’s favorite alternative-service things in the north Eastside part, ideas from Bellevue’s transit plan in the Bellevue part, and so on. The Councilmembers approved this unanimously without debate because they all knew about it and had at least some of their priorities in it.

      2. The first draft was what Metro planners thought was best. That was a significant step because before then we never heard what the planners thought was best, we only got a watered-down compromise that Metro thought would pass the council. But the first draft of the LRP was just, “This is what Metro wants. Let’s talk about it.” If it presents other options beside that, those will necessarily be options the planners think are not as good so why are we discussing them, and they take resources to draw up. Multiple options occur most commonly to choose between different philosophies; e.g., the U-Link restructure started with a maximum or a minimum option, and options in other cities have done similar things (“Do you want a network based on ridership, coverage? Do you want a smaller frequent network or a larger infrequent network?”) Metro had asked that broad question before the first draft. The philosophy in the LRP is a mostly frequent-corridor. mostly ridership-based network, with more all-day expresses. After the first draft people gave Metro months of feedback, how well they liked the core routes and whether they wanted to move a terminus or two or reconnect segments. That all led to the second draft (and third draft?) and final.

    5. What this mainly shows is the level of service in each corridor, and which neighborhoods you’re connected to. In all 10+ year plans Metro, ST, and SDOT are evaluating the technologies that will be feasible when the service opens, not just what’s feasable now. SDOT’s RapidRide+ baseline is trolleybuses but they’re also looking at battery-powered buses and things like that. If driverless technology becomes more widespread, it can be added to the mix. If it turns out that a robobus is more economical at a short distance than a regular bus is, then Metro can split a Local route into two at a central station, if the primary purpose of the route is to serve each segment rather than multiple-segment trips. Sometimes segments are interlined because there’s significant passenger demand from end to end; other times it’s just for operational efficiency. The latter cases can be more easily split.

    6. Of course, the agencies may be more conservative than you wish, such as ST not considering open gangways for Link. But at the same time they’re not just locking in to 2017 technology completely. It’s just a question of the degree of conservativeness in different aspects. One good thing about light rail is it has been tested for a hundred years and is available off-the-shelf from several vendors. That’s the good side of conservatism. There are bad sides too of course.

  3. “The final documents include some welcome additional information about the assumptions behind the plan, including detailed data on how many residents of each area will be near frequent service; minute-level estimates of travel times between areas;”

    Where are these documents? I see a link to the network map, but did you just remember the differences from the previous version? And what are the few changes the Council made?

    1. Go to the King County Council meeting page I linked, and look at all of the attachments to the LRP agenda item. There is more information in there than Metro is publishing on the plan website.

      When the plan was first introduced I compiled lists of all of the routes in the 2025 and 2040 network maps. This time around, I did it only for 2040, but there are some meaningful differences, especially in Seattle. The Ballard network is the biggest difference between the initial and final network plans, and will be the subject of a future post.

      1. OK, because the Ballard part in the interactive map looks to me the same as it did in the earlier drafts. I’ll be looking forward to the article on what the big change is and maybe then I’ll understand why it’s invisible to me.

      2. The previous draft retained an extended RapidRide D as the cornerstone of the Ballard network, and heavily modified other routes around it, most prominently the 40 which didn’t go downtown anymore. It also had “local” instead of “frequent” service on a few local corridors.

        The new draft retains the current route 40 (upgraded to RapidRide) as the cornerstone of the local network, splits the D, and adds more frequent service. I think it’s a vastly better service pattern.

  4. Well, that’s disappointing. I was hoping they’d change the map to provide service to Lakeland Hills in Auburn, but that didn’t happen. Because why would you want to provide services to the largest neighborhood in town?

    1. They are planning to extend the replacement for the southernmost part of the 180 to Lakeland Hills.

      We’ll see if it happens. The former 151 service to Lakeland Hills was canceled due to lack of ridership.

      1. I would bet increased Sounder runs (with no available parking at the station) plus neighborhood growth will drive ridership.

    1. Thanks for the find! I hope it comes to fruition. It would’ve been nice to see connecting service grow with Sounder run increases.

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