Joe Wolf (Flickr)

At a media briefing this morning, Metro, SDOT, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association revealed draft near term concepts for the One Center City Plan. Borne of perceived emergency due to expedited Convention Center construction and the removal of buses from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT), the plan offers surprisingly aggressive options for transit restructures and street rechannelization, while strategically hedging on things like protected bike lanes and broader policy questions such as fare payment. Today’s release marks the kickoff of a public process that will involve an online open house (live tomorrow at onecentercity.org), successive rounds of public feedback, and independent adoption by the respective governing boards/councils by early 2018. Changes would likely take place in September 2018.

Though the long-term future of Downtown’s surface streets is one of less intensive transit use – as Link bears a heavier burden and fewer buses go downtown – staff called out a “period of maximum constraint” of 40 months from mid-2018 through late 2021. This period represents the unfortunate pre-Northgate convergence of Convention Center construction, a rail-only transit tunnel, a shortage of Link vehicles, East Link construction, Alaskan Way Viaduct removal, Alaskan Way rebuild and rechannelization, Madison BRT construction, Center City Connector streetcar construction, and more.

Without mitigative action and simply surfacing routes 41, 74, 101, 102, 150, 255, and 550, the agencies estimate transit travel times would increase by 3.5 minutes per rider per day. Metro estimates that this would add between $6-7m in annual operating costs and require 15 new buses in order to maintain the same frequency. To put this in perspective, this is roughly the scale of resources that was needed to split Rapid C and D and extend them to Pioneer Square and South Lake Union. This is significant, but whether it’s a pending disaster is a debatable question. The DSTT is a shadow of its former self in terms of buses, carrying a much lighter load than the arterials to which they’d move. And 20 routes and 50,000 daily riders were surfaced from 2005-2007 to prepare for Link, and the sky emphatically didn’t fall.

Chart by the author. Current as of May 2016.

Though much of the draft concepts are too generic to be helpful – such as unspecified signal retiming and soft talk of improved partnerships – the nuts and bolts and transit and street operations could change radically. So what’s being proposed?

Service Restructures

Most impactful to transit riders, the draft concepts involve widespread truncation of bus routes at Link stations:

  • All SR 520 service that currently serves downtown (except Community Transit 424) would be truncated to UW Station (Routes 252, 255, 257, 268, 311, 545)
  • Route 550 would terminate at International District Station
  • Route 41 would live loop using the Pike/Union couplet, requiring transfers to access the southern half of downtown
  • West Seattle and Burien routes would serve International District Station before heading to First Hill (Routes 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 116, 118, 119, 121, 122,  and 123). These routes would make use of the new Yesler Bridge and serve Harborview along the way.

Changes to Downtown Streets

Nearly as radically, transit priority could be substantially improved. The 4 options here:

  • Option A: No action
  • Option B: Retain current channelizations but make spot improvements, including signal retiming, policies to expedite boarding, etc.
  • Option C: Intensify the 4th/5th couplet, including adding a second bus lane on 4th Avenue and a southbound transit lane on 5th Avenue.
  • Option D: A two-way, transit-only corridor on 5th Avenue, and the conversion of 6th Avenue to two-way for auto traffic. In this scenario, nearly all buses would be removed from 2nd and 4th avenues, and transit service would be concentrated on 1st, 3rd, and 5th.

Policy Changes

Staff repeatedly mentioned efforts to “speed up bus boarding”, but little detail was offered except for a discussion about handheld ORCA readers and the fleeting mention of “new fare-free zones”. Whatever is being discussed internally, staff are staying mum for the time being. Metro’s Victor Obeso noted that ORCA use has risen by 17% since U-Link and ORCA Lift – from 60% to 70% of boardings – potentially greasing any policy transitions away from on-board and/or cash payment.

In addition, Mike Lindblom of the Times asked if increased priority and/or enforcement on 3rd Avenue was a possibility, and staff would only say that “it’s being looked into”. Currently bus priority ends at Virginia St, ends at 6:30pm, and is rarely enforced anyway.

Bicycle Network

Sadly, the bicycle network is a mess of conflicting policies and goals. Policies recently adopted with great fanfare, including Vision Zero, were not mentioned in the briefing until brought up by media. OneCenterCity calls out a protected bike network as a goal, but makes no commitments to build it even though an Implementation Plan has already been passed and funding secured through Move Seattle. Even worse, the focus on vehicle throughput (whether SOV or transit) may actually worsen the bike network. Option C – which seems likeliest due to the Goldilocks nature of these proposals –  not only doesn’t build the 4th Avenue bike lane just promised in exchange for axing Pronto, but it actually removes the existing bike lane. Something has to give, and it doesn’t look good for bikes.

***

The process kicks off tomorrow with hopefully much more engagement than has been seen to this point. Other questions abound, including:

  • Though bus truncations would occur in September 2018, new Link vehicles won’t arrive until mid-2019. Can Link handle the load? Sound Transit admitted there would be a lag of nearly a year, but also stressed that improved running times may free up another trainset or two to boost frequency. Once the new vehicles arrive, Sound Transit may still look into running turnback trains from UW to Stadium.
  • What would be done with the service hours saved by truncating routes? Would they be directly reinvested in frequency in order to sweeten the forced transfer?
  • Will UW Station be able to handle the additional volume, and will UW make any concessions on access to its property?

The best case scenario is congestion-free trips on Link, easy and frequent transfers, reduced reliance on surface arterials, new transit priority, and (maybe?) some protected bike lanes. The worst case is crushloads at UW and especially International District, a grid that still doesn’t move, and a network that is no safer than when the process began. The reality will likely fall somewhere in between, and planners have an admittedly long list of priorities to balance and stakeholders to appease. It’s imperative that we show up in the next few months in support of aggressive transit priority, and for not delaying the overall vision along the way.

168 Replies to “One Center City Proposes Aggressive Bus Restructures, More Transit Priority”

  1. Is there layover space at Northgate? Seems like some of the 41s during could turn back at the transit center instead of heading all the way to 125th.

      1. I’ve heard there will be layover space in the future on the southern of the old P&R lots between I-5 and 1st Ave; however, that wouldn’t be available until after Northgate Link construction is done.

  2. Could some of 520 buses replace the 43? That would lessen some pressure on uw. Could loop at chs or 3nd like 43/49/et al

    1. I don’t think there’s a good way for them to make the 520 eastbound -> Montlake southbound maneuver. They’d have to take the Lake Washington Boulevard exit, and those corners don’t feel wide enough for a bus to make it.

  3. My simple ideas:

    1) Extend skip-stop on 3rd Avenue further north. 3rd/Virginia is a badly overcrowded bus stop today. Too often buses must wait for other buses to clear the stop in the PM peak.

    2) Remove more parking on 3rd Avenue. North of Stewart there is still some parking remaining. I’d replace the parking cut-outs with emergency vehicle only zones to give police and fire vehicles somewhere to park that isn’t the street. Lots of routine service calls don’t require blocking 1-2 lanes of traffic.

    3) Retrain operators to more efficiently navigate the skip-stop operation on 3rd.

    1. I have to agree with these also. As a transit rider, I remember during 2005 when 3rd was bus only during peak times that the first week was horrible and after that we got used to it. In addition to a major arterial being bus only, there really has to be a bus-only I5 exit and bus-only left turns to get them there. And in my dark moments, every bus needs a cow catcher on their front bumper to move parked cars for a little frontier justice.

      I think that downtown has to ensure that transit is much faster. Even if transit is only marginally faster, it means that those on the fence take their car and make it horrible for everybody, And it also means that the transit rider has to squawk as loudly to the good as the car rider does when its bad.

      I’m a 41 rider. I can support north down loading as long as the stop/ intercept street is close to Westlake.

      1. Too bad there wont be a new Convention Place Link Station with buses looping around in the basement of the new Convention Center for a direct cross platform transfer between the North & NE regional buses and this missing Link station.

        Apparently we need a 3rd convention center that does nothing but fu– up transit downtown for locals.

  4. this is lovely.
    >All SR 520 service that currently serves downtown (except Community Transit 424) would be truncated to UW Station (Routes 255, 257, 268, 311, 545)
    >Route 550 would terminate at International District Station

    Would like to see these changes done now.

    1. I’d love to see those changes sooner rather than later, too. But I don’t believe ST has enough LRVs to make that work, and keep up with the number of LRVs needed to handle growing peakloads down to Angle Lake Station.

    2. > All downtown SR 520 service would be truncated to UW station.

      Only problem with this is the exit from 520 onto Montlake Blvd northbound gets very backed up at rush hour and can take several light cycles to get through. A bus-only exit lane would become a near-necessity. (Anecdotal: I make the evening Eastside to Downtown commute and I’ve found it’s faster to ride the 545 to Montlake Freeway station and walk the ~0.5 miles to UW station rather than use the 541/2.)

      1. A bus-only lake on the Montlake exit would be great, assuming that it doesn’t cause SOV traffic to back up onto the freeway, thereby forcing buses to wait in it anyway. Fortunately, the backup on the exit ramp is pretty much a rush-hour-only thing – off-peak, it’s usually just one cycle to get through.

        One thing that does need to be worked out, though, is coming up with a plan for what all those buses are going to do when there’s a game at Husky Stadium, when the line for the exit ramp can become truly unbearable. My suggestion would to follow the 271’s Husky reroute – stop at Montlake Freeway Station to drop off people going to the game (or transferring to Link), then take the Roanoke Exit off 520, and continue nonstop over the University Bridge, making one last stop at 15th/42nd before heading for the layover space. Not ideal, but still better than waiting 20-30 minutes in a long line of game traffic.

      2. Montlake Lid will be under construction from 2018-2022, so I think it’s unlikely we’ll get a bus lane until that is complete. I guess add “520 west of the rest” to the list of stuff going on during this time frame.

      3. I will not mention escalators. I will not mention escalators.

        Truncating all 520 routes at UW Station (or rerouting some of them to Laurelhurst) has been on the pro-rail restructrualists’ wishlist for a long time. If ST and Metro actually do it, it will show how much the fears about Montlake congestion increasing travel time are real. I could see a potential problem. But on the other hand, it is the long-term goal, and the state could do something about transit lanes and a transit-ped bridge (though not by 2021). As if the state cares. And if other people are sacrificing during the nadir period, why can’t Eastsiders sacrifice too?

      4. The “rest of the west” project includes a 3+ HOV ramp from westbound 520 to Montlake Blvd. That should be sufficient, once the construction is complete. The problem is the interim period when buses are forced to slog it out down the ramp with general-purpose traffic.

        All in all, I do think a truncation of SR-520 routes is still a net positive, even before the “rest of the west” is finished. The surface streets of downtown are already unreliable, and are only going to get worse. I-5 is also fickle, and seems to get more so every year. On top of that, Montlake Freeway Station is closing around 2018, and a route truncation is the only reasonable way to avoid throwing U-district/eastside riders under the bus. And, the 255/545 have some big frequency gaps, like Saturday night service dropping to hourly as early as 8 PM, which a restructure could finally address.

        I also believe that, if push comes to shove, that if the 545 were to stop serving Capitol Hill (the 545 stop isn’t really near the Link Station part of the hill), Microsoft would add Connector service to replace it, if for no other reason, due the shear volume of MS employees that currently board the 545 at that stop.

      5. @Mike Orr — OK, I’ll mention the escalators for you. There were no functioning downward escalators at UW street level this afternoon at 4:15, and only one functioning upward escalator. Every elevator filled to capacity before going down and left people behind. Now imagine that same scene as entire buses of eastside commuters, booted from their warm, dry seats, arrive simultaneously by the hundreds in the morning.

      6. Contractors can’t use the Microsoft Connector. They may be the ones filling up the 545. I live right near the Capitol Hill stop and I see a couple dozen people waiting for the 545 all morning and I’m the only one waiting for the 10 to go up to the Link station or the 47 to go to the library.

      7. I don’t think it’s just contractors. That Connector route goes all the way through Capitol Hill before finally getting on 520 at Montlake. I’m pretty sure the 545 is a lot faster in the mornings.

      8. It sure would be nice if Microsoft allowed contractors on their buses, even if they charged them a bit. That doesn’t mean that this isn’t a better route though, as William said.

      9. You’d think that expediting getting contractors to work and letting them work on the van would be seen as benefitting Microsoft.

      10. Mike, unfortunately, blame federal regulations. If you give contractors any nonmonetary benefits, they might be counted as employees – which triggers any number of other things.

      11. @William — They could simply charge them, along with the regular public. If I want to visit someone in Redmond, I would have to pay. It wouldn’t be a regular bus, but more like an airline ticket. I would have to go to a website, fill out a form, and pay. One day trip is expensive, but a monthly pass is pretty cheap. But since it is available to everyone — and there is a charge — it is pretty hard to call it a benefit. It is simply a private bus.

        I have a feeling Microsoft simply doesn’t care. Everyone I’ve talked to who has worked at Microsoft (as an employee or contractor) has talked about the class distinction made between the two groups. Contractors are treated as second class citizens, in ways that I’ve never experienced at any other company (either working as an employee or contractor).

      12. asdf2 said the Connector is inside Microsoft’s NDA zone; that allows people to work while commuting without having to worry about somebody looking over their shoulder. That’s one of the primary purposes of the Connector so it’s not something MS would want to lose by accepting non-Microsoft riders.

  5. While Metro is mum about ORCA, I hope they are considering all door ORCA readers and proof of payment model (SF Muni) so all door boarding all the time. Low hanging fruit. Even if ORCA technology changes it makes sense to install ocurrent readers now and swap out with new ones at the appropriate time.

    1. Yes, please.
      While we recognise that a new set of readers are coming along, MUNI have indeed shown the way with back door readers. Let’s get with it.

    2. It seems like the downtown core is small enough that it wouldn’t take too many ticket/ORCA vending machines to make a prohibition of on-board cash fare payments (even if only during peak times) defensible. It would be much harder to do county wide but reasonable downtown and perhaps at some high use transfer points elsewhere.

    3. Just please, oh please, don’t bring back PAYSTTE. That would add yuge amounts of time to each of the routes dropping off downtown commuters outside of downtown.

      1. +1 Pay as you leave confuses passengers horribly, especially when it changes by time of day, and multiple fare-free zones sounds worse than one. How about fare-free routes for downtown circulation. It’s easier to put a “Free” sign on a bus route than to make people understand and remember pay-as-you-leave.

    4. One other problem with the ORCA-hardware-intensive plan is that the vendor, Vix Technologies, has stopped manufacturing ORCA hardware, and the RapidRide C/D split was supposed to be using up the last of the readers. Maybe they meant after accounting for the readers needed for Madison BRT. But anyway, the equipment is not available for massive new ORCA infrastructure. It looks like we’re going to have to hope for the best with the Transit Go Tickets app, and get ST Express and CT on board.

      Hopefully there are enough hand-held readers in reserve, especially after they are no longer used in the DSTT, to cover the main stops on 3rd.

  6. I’m curious at the parameters used to calculate travel time differences for the major changes like Link truncation. What’s the traffic level of I-5 assumed? How much time is assumed to cross Montlake Blvd, and descend into the deep UW station? What percentage of Link headway is assumed for the wait (50% for average, 100% for worst case, or 75% as a middle ground)? Any crowded station adjustment for peak of peak? And really, the picture is incomplete without more descriptive figures. During peak-of-peak, Link truncation could be faster most of the time. But off-peak, travel time will always suffer my much more than 3 minutes, and because of the transfer, will always be subject to a volatility of at least +/- 10 (or is it 5?) minutes. Furthermore, it adds one seat to almost every trip except to UW/Link, which could be quite detrimental depending on the prevalence of 2/3 seat rides today (which will become 3/4(!) seat rides).

    1. As an SR 520 rider, that inherent transfer time penalty could be nicely made up for by increased frequency off-peak. The 545 drops to half-hourly at 8 PM, and it never gets better than that on weekends. I’ve been waiting for better frequency for years.

      But, even more importantly, what happens if you get off Link – which only just got real-time scheduling – and narrowly miss your transfer to an outbound SR 520 bus? Sure, if you’re going on the peak 271/545/whatever, you can just wait eight minutes for the next bus. But there’re any number of infrequent peak-only routes, and even the 255 and 545 drop to hourly in the late evening. Sound Transit / Metro are going to need to provide an ironclad guarantee such as “be at Westlake by 8:45 PM, and the next train WILL connect you to your bus.”

      And what’s more, buses are going to need better priority on Montlake. I’ve been on many 542’s sitting in traffic on the exit ramp waiting to turn into the bus-only lane… and even that vanishes for the bridge itself… and what about game days?

      1. The local transit agencies will need to get much better at guaranteeing a timed transfer. If my inbound bus to Lynnwood is a few minutes late, I will miss my transfer and have to wait for the next one in 30-40 minutes. I’ve had the good fortune of having drivers that don’t leave the transit center until a ST Express bus pulls in and empties, which is a decent enough system that requires 0 tech and only a bit of schedule padding. Hopefully ST can coordinate this into a reliable system.

      2. Oh yes, transfer-based operational provisions in this region is abysmal. Sounder connector routes like the 497 make provisions to wait for the sounder connection before arriving, but that is IT for the guaranteed transfers. Sensible bus transfers that usually work just fine (like the 578 southbound to 181 westbound weekday nights, which I used to do a lot) really break down when the 578 is 10 minutes late, and would be really simple to have the 181 wait until the 578 shows up before leaving, and would probably cost 0 service hours since there is padding in the layover schedule. But the benefit of a rock-solid transfer is huge. About as good as a 179 that runs into the night.

        But since we’re building a decidedly transfer-based system, I would hope that signage and operations would become transfer-optimized. It would be cool to have the bus schedules in the tunnel replaced with timetables of significant regional Link-bus transfers (e.g., to Lakewood, Issaquah, and Puyallup).

      3. The 541 was an initial step toward UW truncation, to get people used to it without deleting the old routing yet, and to see how people would react to it. So a more widespread followup would be a natural second step. And it would be interesting to hear what ST thinks the reaction to the 541 and that concept has been so far.

      4. Nobody waits specifically for the 541, but people do take it if it happens to come by first. Anecdotally, enough people ride it to fill up most of the seats, at least from OTC to the U-district. Of course, the tail from Overlake P&R to OTC, the bus is completely empty, which I guess is somewhat understandable, given that the closure of OTC’s parking lot hasn’t happened yet.

        I have also ridden the 542’s new midday service, and I have found it to be quite reliable, without rush hour traffic to slow it down. Much more reliable than trying to catch the 545 at Montlake, eastbound, and traffic congestion at the Montlake exit ramp, westbound, is virtually non-existant. During the weekday midday, the 542 and 545, combine for 6 trips per hour (542 every 30 minutes, 545 every 15 minutes), which means a combined route could travel from the U-district to Redmond every 10 minutes, while still saving money. Every 10 minutes is the magical threshold where you have a bus to connect with every train, which means, even in the eastbound direction, you can just leave downtown spontaneously whenever you’re ready to leave, without the need to worry about bus schedules. This would be huge.

      5. which means a combined route could travel from the U-district to Redmond every 10 minutes, while still saving money.

        In the midday. If you can do that in the evenings and weekends, too…

        (And I agree completely with your estimation of the 541.)

      6. “Every 10 minutes is the magical threshold where you have a bus to connect with every train”

        I see you have more faith in freeway reliability than I do.

    2. The problem is the timing on these projects. Eventually it will be very fast to go from 520 to Husky Stadium. Not as fast as it would be to transfer to a train station under 520 (which unfortunately doesn’t exist) but still pretty fast. But even now this transfer makes sense, given the service and traffic realities that exist.

      At rush hour it is pretty much a wash. Traffic downtown is really bad, so transferring could actually save you time. Outside of rush hour is when a bus is likely to be much faster. But that is precisely when service drops off. The biggest time penalty is simply the wait. So if you increase frequency, you can more than make up for the transfer.

      You also have added service to the UW. Right now these buses drop people off at Montlake, but that is a long walk to most destinations. It isn’t clear where the buses will go, and it will take them a couple minutes to get there, but for someone headed to just about to the UW (or trying to make a transfer to places north), this will save five to ten minutes. Right now service to the UW is OK, but not great. This would change that. Dropping people off at the UW is not like dropping them off at SoDo, or Mercer Island; it is more like dropping them off at I. D. Most of the riders will want to make a transfer, but large numbers of people will simply walk from there.

      This is a trade-off, and some will lose out, for sure. But that was also the case with the truncation of the 71/72/73. If you rode the 73, you really didn’t get anything out of the bus restructure. If you were headed to the UW, then nothing much changed (it is a bit more reliable and they finally cleaned up the 73/373 timing, but no real increase in frequency). If you were headed downtown from UW, they just removed one of the options — a big loss. Sometimes it was faster to take a bus downtown, sometimes it was faster to take the train. But when the buses went away, the only extra service you got was essentially a shuttle to the other side of campus (big deal). Of course the big change is that extra service was added in other places, like Wedgwood. The same sort of thing will happen here. My guess is most of the riders of the 255 lose out. Most are going to a downtown tunnel stop and really don’t benefit from better service to the UW or Capitol Hill. But other riders, on less served bus routes likely will. For example, the 252 could run from Totem Lake to the UW in the evening, meaning folks who want to head into town have a reasonable transit option. Right now it is just isn’t worth it, as whatever time you save by having the bus move quickly on 520 is erased by having a bus slog through the streets of Kirkland, or making the transfer in downtown Bellevue. Those people just drive right now, and I don’t blame them. It is possible that at least they will now have decent transit options.

      There will be winners and losers with this change, but overall, I bet more people will come out ahead.

  7. Also, is it likely that live-looping the 41 through downtown streets will absolutely destroy reliability northbound? For example, the reliability on the 12 (which is live-looped through downtown) is horrendous eastbound during peak (an unreliability which is also invisible to Metro’s reliability model due to flaws arising from mixing data from both directions at peak). I worry that seeing 2 or even 3 41s bunched together northbound will become as commonplace as 2 (and yes, even 3) 12s bunched eastbound.

    1. Having 2 or 3 41’s bunched together sounds like todays Tunnel ops. Advantage to eastbound Pike is the new bus lane and queue jump at 6th (?), which allows transit to move to the express lanes from the bus lane. Union westbound, OTOH isn’t too bad. In the mornings around 8:30 it can get pretty congested though and back up onto I-5. Some signal timings around 7th and 6th could help.

      1. Today’s bunched 41s are a product primarily of existing volatility on I-5, and I think there’s some layover space on the south end of IDS. I would think that adding that to the volatility of surface streets would exacerbate the problem.

    2. The 10, 11, 47, and 49 don’t have much trouble downtown. They just go in and out, and while there’s some traffic slowdowns part of the day, it’s not horrible. Eastbound at PM peak is the worst but even that seems better than a few years ago. I think the problem is that the particular 12 corridor is built for slowness. I only ride it occasionally but I’m amazed at how slow it is downtown, and I feel for those who use it every day. I once used the 12 every day but that was a long time ago, and it wasn’t bad then. The 2S, 3S, and 4S have similar slowness problems, but the 3 and 4 have always been bad.

      1. Don’t bring up route 11 avoiding Capitol Hill Station. Don’t bring up route 11 avoiding Capitol Hill Station.

        Don’t bring up re-directing route 47 to Capitol Hill Station, as the potential western layover of route 11, either.

      2. Route 11 has an important job which Metro and SDOT don’t seem to fully comprehend. When the 10 moved to John, most of the 10’s riders switched to the 11. There’s a lot of demand for transit on Pine Street to 15th, and between Pine Street, Madison Valley, and Madison Park. The 11’s dropping to half-hourly evenings and Sundays is a problem, and Madison BRT and the 8 replacing the 11 will leave an even larger gap. The kind of people who live in those Madison Valley apartments and houses shop and recreate in Pike-Pine and go to Westlake and 3rd & Pine and Pike Place Market more often than they go to Madison Street downtown. Only people who work in the hospitals and clinics go to Madison Street on First Hill, and only those going to the library or ferry terminal or the office buildings down there go to Madison Street downtown. If you’re transferring to another route, there’s more of them at Pine Street than Madison Street. That’s probably why the 11 and 12 were set up the way the are in the first place. If the redevelopment in lower downtown leads to more 24-hour street-level retail, that could change, but it would take a lot of redevelopment to even approach the level of choices in Pike-Pine.

      3. Mike, the LRP shows the 2 shifting to Pine west of 14th and taking over that role for the 11. (And as an everyday 2 rider I love that idea!)

      4. ah hahahahahaha the 11 doesn’t have much trouble downtown. As a daily rider of that bus I humbly beg to differ with you–there are few if any days where you don’t see something like a bus, followed 8 minutes later by another bus, followed 27 minutes after that by a third bus (instead of the 15 minute headways scheduled). A bus arriving at 10th and John–closest stop to Link–less than 5 minutes late in the evening is rare–they’re usually in the 15 to 25 minutes late range, but not consistent with one another. At least once every two weeks or so I will just miss a bus and be able to walk the 2.5 miles home before the next one catches up to me. As there are substantially no traffic problems east of Broadway save going down the Madison hill (even the construction at 23rd isn’t a huge delay), it’s almost assuredly due to having much trouble downtown.

        I do say a little thank you to my neighbors in Mad Park for not allowing the direct transfer at the station every time I just miss an 11 whilst walking the 1/4 mile from the station to the bus stop. It’s awesome. /snark

  8. Construction of the Seattle Bike Plan was delayed so that this study could tell us how the bike plan should be implemented. Now this study punts and tells us nothing new about the bike plan? WTF? We need to hit SDOT hard for their failure to build the bike lanes we were promised by Move Seattle.

    1. Bikes are getting theirs on Eastlake, where the BRT is going to be stuck in the congestion to make room for bike lanes.

      1. Meanwhile, nobody gets anything out of the streetcar. If they want to placate bike riders, then start by killing that thing. Unlike Eastlake, no transit advocate will shed a tear if they just get rid of it. It is a hazard for bike riders, mucks up any effort to make downtown better for transit, while costing a bunch of money to build. Meanwhile, it is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to transit. Notice how they are thinking of sending all those buses up to First Hill. Notice that no one here has said “Why send the West Seattle buses up to First Hill — just take the fast and frequent streetcar if you want go up the hill”. Because such a statement is absurd (it is neither fast nor frequent). They have said the opposite (the streetcar isn’t useful). So the thing that they spent millions of dollars building performs so poorly that Metro is thinking of spending thousands of dollars as a substitute.

        Time to admit we failed, and try something else. Don’t spend $10 million (on top of the $14 grant) to extend the streetcar 7 blocks on Broadway. Don’t spend $7 million moving the streetcar a couple blocks to make way for the Roosevelt BRT. Don’t spend tens of millions building the new streetcar line. Just kill it, and switch over to BRT. You have a lot more flexibility when it comes to routing. No longer do you have to worry about acute angles and bike traffic. You can leverage what is already there (the stations) or simply make a new route, without worrying about the steepness of a hill. Maybe you run the buses on Yesler instead of Jackson. Or maybe you stick with Jackson, but simply skip the button hook mess on 14th.

        The buses will be much faster than the trains, because when a car sticks out a few feet, the bus driver will simply drives around it. The routes will be a lot better, because it doesn’t cost millions just to skip a stop or move it a little ways. We should just admit that the streetcars were a very bad idea for this city — as it is for most cities — and spend our money on better projects.

      2. Ross,

        The streetcar could be given useful transit priority at any time.
        SDOT just needs to make it a priority.

        Ripping out the streetcar would be a ridiculous waste of money.

      3. No. The Center City Connector will be a great addition, and will mostly be funded by federal and private monies.

      4. You guys don’t get it. *Our* streetcars can’t do anything *our* buses can’t do. That’s it. End of story. We can talk all we want about the theoretical benefits of buses versus trains, but if the trains aren’t *bigger* than the buses, then you better have a very good reason to spend extra for the train, and in this case you don’t.

        It isn’t about transit priority (since that can be given to a bus) nor is it about the sunk cost. If the extra money doesn’t buy us anything extra (and it won’t) then it is a waste.

      5. We get it just fine. Some corridors merit premium service, and First is one of those corridors. Trains provide a superior rider experience to buses and attract more riders than buses. The CCC streetcar will provide that superior service at five minute frequencies while drastically improving the utility of our existing lines. It will do so largely with federal and private dollars. You’re getting something approaching 15K daily riders for hardly any local investment, and a dead fast trip along a corridor with tons of major destinations.

        Thank you, though, for keeping your response to a readable length.

      6. Not to mention the simple fact that the city managed to get the business community on board with taking a lane on First Avenue, and taking a bunch of parking in the process. That was not happening for a bus.

      7. How many times must we go over this. THE SERVICE IS NOT SUPERIOR! If the train is the same size as a bus, has the same number of doors, has off board payment and level boarding, at best it is the same. But it is worse! It is worse because it isn’t as fast, nor as consistent, because unlike a bus, it can’t move out of it’s lane a couple inches when some bozo sticks out a bit. The main reason it is “smoother” is because it is so darn slow. The New York subway is not smooth — it is fast. I suppose the drivers could slow down to the speed of a streetcar and it would be smooth, but my guess is you would have very few who want that.

        the city managed to get the business community on board with taking a lane on First Avenue, and taking a bunch of parking in the process. That was not happening for a bus.

        And yet it did, on Madison. Somehow the Madison BRT will carry just as many riders (if not more) and run in its own lane most of the way (a higher percentage than the streetcar). It won’t make silly button hook switchbacks up the hill, and if they did make a mistake when it comes to routing, they can change the route easily.

        We are spending millions and millions on a completely inappropriate technology (tiny streetcars) and the best thing that people have to say for it is that someone else paid for most of it. That is supposed to make me feel better? So someone from New York, Boston or Peoria is chipping in for this thing, and we *only* have to pay tens of millions for it. Sorry, this is no bargain. It is a white elephant.

        Of course it will carry a lot of people, but a bus, running a similar route, given the same investment, would carry more. It would be faster, more consistent, and you could spend more money on the things that matter (stops, signal priority and taking lanes) instead of simply laying rail.

      8. “The main reason it is “smoother” is because it is so darn slow.”

        Smoothness is in the technology. San Francisco’s F line has exclusive lanes and few crossings for part of it, and its 1950s streetcars are as smooth Seattle’s streetcars, while its older streetcars are bumpy and loud. Link is somewhat smooth but not as smooth as it could be, and that’s a disappointment. The track quality also plays a part; I understand Japanese bullet trains use continuously-welded track and they inspect the entire track by hand every night. The shimmying in Link’s elevated TIB section is due to something cost-cutting or hurried in how they built it. I don’t remember the NYC subways’ smoothness precisely; my impression is “average for an old subway”, and it has a backlog of deferred maintenance issues. I know one car driver who is so smooth you can hardly tell when he starts and stops. I’m not sure how much of it is his driving style and how much is his car. Hybrid cars get much smoother in electric mode. So speed may be a factor in smoothness but there are a lot of other factors, and most of them come down to technology and maintenance.

      9. Using all-caps doesn’t make a wrong point correct, Ross. Streetcars are a superior rider experience. They are not smoother because they are slower, they are smoother because they are trains. They attract more riders than buses. Again, some corridors merit a premium service, and First Avenue certainly meets that criteria.

        Focusing on the cost to taxpayers in New York is beyond absurd, and the fact that the CCC is mostly privately and federally funded is far from the “the best thing that people have to say” on its behalf.

        Again, no one was ever going to take a lane and parking on First Avenue for buses. Madison is not First, it should go without saying. No bus service on First Avenue would seamlessly connect with our other streetcar lines. You can type thousands more words in all caps and howl at the moon all you want, but the political reality is they aren’t going anywhere. This proposal drastically increases their utility (especially the SLUS), funds significant time savings to their existing segments, and provides fast, frequent, premium service along a major corridor. And it does all that dirt cheap. It’s an all-around win.

  9. I think those truncations will go over like a lead balloon with transit riders. Without changes, the average rider sees a 3.5 minute increase per day. With the truncation proposal, the transfer penalty of moving those riders onto Link will greatly exceed 3.5 minutes per day. As an example: 550 riders — if Link is every 6 minutes, and you count a 3 minute walk from the ID link station to the ID surface bus stop, you’ll easily eclipse 5 minutes of extra time one way. Not to mention the disruption of not having as many peak trasnit lanes because of the closure of the middle roadway and the various Link construction impacts in Bellevue — it might be faster to walk than ride the 550. 550 has 10,000 riders per day.

    1. That’s what Zach meant by is it really an emergency. I experienced the building of the DSTT and its renovation for Link. Things got somewhat slower but what’s new, downtown buses are slow. That’s why we’re building Link and more RapidRide lines downtown. A somewhat slower 41 and 550 is not necessarily worse than these proposals, and they would guard against overshooting Link’s capacity and people waiting at UW for multiple trains. The 41 live loop sounds great though: the 522 has the same routing and it’s doing better than the 255 and 545 are, by missing the Stewart/Denny congestion.

      1. If Metro were to keep the 550 running all the way through downtown (but slower), would they even have the buses to add to the route to maintain the existing peak-hour frequency? If not, maintaining the one-seat ride to Westlake would require either cutting frequency on the 550 itself (which would lead to some very serious overcrowding), or cutting service on other routes to free up buses to add to the 550. Or, they could paper over the problem and attempt to maintain the existing schedule, and just have bus after bus be 15-20 minutes late.

  10. I have to say I do like the additional transit service between ID Station and First Hill. I imagine the peak headways would be pretty short and provide much more useful service than the steetcar.

      1. Long, windy route to downtown along 14th to Jackson street with dedicated ROW on portions of the route (100% at-grade), stops at every stop all the time (even if there’s no one waiting), and takes a long time to accelerate and brake because it’s a heavy streetcar, all of which factor into it hitting almost every single light red all the time. It has no meaningful signal priority, and the excuses they come up with for not having signal priority are idiotic (It will slow down buses! It will slow down the streetcar going in the other direction!).

        A huge money sinkhole that they added to ST2 to replace the first hill Link station that never happened. How ironic that the replacement for Link is a thing that is literally slower than walking.

      2. The point is the one-seat ride from other areas to First Hill. Jarrett Walker talks about serving downtown-adjacent neighborhoods rather than forcing everybody to transfer downtown, and we have talked about rerouting the 7 to Boren (SLU-Boren-Rainier), and Metro has taken a few steps this direction with routing peak expresses to First Hill, and I think it proposed to extend the 40 to it at one point. These are peak expresses, so they fit within Metro’s tradition of peak expresses to First Hill; I notice that the C and 120 aren’t on the list.

  11. As a west seattleite(alki)… If you’re going to take the peak only admiral -> downtown routes and truncate them south of downtown, I’d much rather they just get rid of them and add more frequency on 50/ rapid ride c’s so you can either do 50->link or 50-rapid ride c. Once you need to transfer on the rush hour express routes it just seems pointless to run them at all. I doubt there are enough west seattle to first hill trips only during peak for that part of the change to make sense. If i’m trying to get to the pioneer square end of downtown and am worried about congestion i’ll just take the water taxi… So i think that cuts out a bit more of the interest in this reroute.

    1. +50 to adding 50 frequency! That stillborn route never got any love from Metro.

      It has to carry the load to/from Alki, and is crushloaded on that segment during the summer.

      While we’re at it, having the 50 stop westbound in front of Seattle Public Schools HQ at the same stop as route 21 is years overdue.

    2. Just get rid of the 56, 57 and 37?! Right now Genesee Hill and Alki (away from Admiral & California) have no service whatsoever on Saturdays, Sundays, or weekdays aside from rush hour, and you’re proposing that we get rid of those ~10 bus rides a day that our neighborhoods have for commuting? The 57 and 56 I know from experience are full to the brim on the way in every morning.

      Deleting those routes would leave thousands of people over a mile from the nearest bus route.

      1. I ride the 56 daily. But if it’s not going to downtown (as this plan is suggesting) i’d much rather see those as just shuttles that meet up with the c line (with at least the 56 portion just directly turned into 50). I like them while they still go downtown, but if i have to transfer after getting on a 56 it becomes a much less interesting route for everyone from alki through admiral up to at about as far as the starbucks (which is the vast majority of the boardings).

      2. The peak 55, 56 and 57 were retained to lessen the opposition to the C restructure, and to gauge how much they would be needed in a restructured world. Metro did something similar in northeast Seattle where it truncated the all-day routes at UW Station but added runs to the peak express from 55th on north. The issue for northeast Seattle is that they’ll go away with North Link. The issue for West Seattle is how long should the 55, 56, and 57 continue? Forever until Link, or sooner? I only go to West Seattle occasionally and usually off-peak, so I don’t know. My impression is that peak expresses are full everywhere. I thought they were mostly empty, but then I rode a 216 to Issaquah and saw it was packed full, and since then I’ve seen a lot of other peak-express routes are like that, so I assume the West Seattle ones are too.

      3. @Eric — thanks for the clarification (not sure if you’ll see this). That makes a lot of sense, in fact I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Metro has for its 2040 plan after the junction light rail gets built — the 56/57 (maybe 55 too?) become feeder routes all dumping us off at the Link station.

        I’m not sure how the C Line would have the capacity to take an entire *other* articulated bus’s passengers at once. Or we’d just expect that only 1/3 to 1/2 of that 57’s riders would actually get on each passing C? Maybe if the 57 is circulating nonstop each one would be pretty empty as it makes the transfer, otherwise it seems sort of absurd to unload a whole bus just to fill up another bus. Maybe that’s the point you’re making — this plan is equivalent to ruining the 56 and 57 anyway?

        I think the big difference is that the 56 parallels 50, but much of the 57 runs over a mile away from the 50’s route, so when you say “roll them together” it’s seamless on the 56 but adding a 25-minute walk for my commute (and hundreds of my neighbors).

        @Mike Orr — I didn’t live here when C came about. You’re saying the initial idea was just to have no service west of California anywhere but Admiral? The existing plan (Metro’s 2040 plan) is to stay as is till Link is built, then reverse the 57 to just terminate at Alaska Junction in the morning, transferring us to Link there, and to pick us all up there in the afternoon (I really don’t know how commuters will manage syncing that 30-minute frequency route with their 15-25 minute ride from Link…). I’m hoping they take the bus and operator hours freed from slogging up and down 99, and reroute them to increasing the frequency and span of service on the 57.

      4. Before the C the 54 was half-hourly along approximately the C’s route from downtown to Fauntleroy, and the 55 alternated with it during the daytime for 15-minute service between downtown and the Junction. In the evening I think the 55 became a shuttle. The 56 ran all day half-hourly to Alki on Admiral Way (not the Junction area) using the slow 1st Avenue South routing if I remember, and hourly evenings/Sundays. The 21 was 30 minutes on 35th, or it may have been upgraded to 15 minutes some time before. I think the 22 was daytime on lower California but I’m not sure. I don’t know much about the far southwest that lost all-day service (Arbor Heights, Shorewood and such) so I don’t remember what those routes were; I think it was a 22 extension? But the midday service was axed because it was very low ridership, and the same in other parts of West Seattle.

        I don’t know what you mean by “no service west of California”. Since at least 1980 when I started riding Metro there has always been a Fauntleroy route and an Admiral-Alki route. The 37 that goes along Alki Beach used to be all-day, with peak service to downtown and an off-peak loop to the Junction. The Admiral-Alki route was the 15 and continued on 1st Avenue, Uptown, and 15th Ave NW in Ballard. The Fauntleroy route was the 18 and continued on 1st Avenue, Uptown, and 24th Ave NW.

      5. @Mike Orr – thanks for the detailed history. That is interesting. I believe the 57 may have originated as a streetcar line long ago, at least along Genesee. By service west of California, mainly meant the 57’s walkshed from Alaska north to Admiral, which is about 2 miles. Here is a map, and the same area imposed, basically at random, on Ballard for scale: http://mapfrappe.com/?show=45598.

        The 57 follows the neighborhood arterials west on Genesee, north on 55th, east on Charlestown, north on 49th to Admiral, where it heads east to downtown and becomes another option for 56 riders; Most of the seats fill up before it reaches CA; most of the standing room is taken soon after, like at the Starbucks around 42nd.

        I know it seems like a little single-family-home backwater, but it’s MY single family home backwater, and my wife and I (and our hundreds of bus riding neighbors) would be devastated to lose our meager half-hourly commuter bus service. We bought this house 2 years ago knowing that it was on a bus line to downtown. We can occasionally slog through the 1.5-mile walk home from the junction if we have to work past 5:45 (when Metro thinks all commuting ceases, somehow), but having to do it every day would turn us and most of our neighbors into drivers (I’d guess every rider of the 57 aside from the Madison middle schoolers sometimes hopping on could choose to drive to work).

        Yes the 57’s ridership is a drop in the bucket compared to the 41’s, but that also means rerouting us only removes four buses from 3rd Avenue over the course of two hours in the morning, and five buses in evening rush. I doubt that would make any appreciable impact on traffic flow there.

  12. Good to hear that Metro and ST are taking this challenge seriously. It’s unfortunate that the convention center construction couldn’t be delayed by at least a year (until the new Link trains arrived). Sounds like the worst of it will be 2018 and early 2019, and then things will improve when new Link cars arrive and Madison BRT is finished.

    In Option D it seems as though they could run the 41 up 2nd and 4th if they’re moving all those buses to 5th, that way the 41 continues to serve all of downtown. They could do this for the 550 as well. Although I’m generally very supportive of bus truncations (and the 520 bus truncations at UW sound great) I’m concerned about the 41 and 550 being truncated on the edges of downtown. Imagine you want to commute from Bellevue to First Hill. Under this plan, you’d have to get off at the ID, transfer to a north downtown bus, and then transfer again to a First Hill bus. That turns a two seat ride into a three seat ride. Or imagine you want to go from Northgate to the Eastside. That’d require a transfer at Pike/Pine to a bus/train to the ID, then another transfer to the 550, again created a three seat ride. Plus a two transfer trip is much more confusing for new/inexperienced riders.

    Given that both the 41 and 550 are high ridership buses, this could potentially impact a lot of people. If we were talking about going from a one seat ride to a two seat ride, I’d be fine with that. But a three seat ride seems a little excessive for what should be a simple transfer downtown.

    1. The 550’s ancestor was on 2nd and 4th, along with most suburban routes. (It was interlined with the 255.)

      1. Mike Orr: re Route 550. No. Route 550 replaced Route 226 that was in the DSTT. Route 226 was formed in fall 1997. Route 253 had been a SR-520 and DSTT route and it was split. Route 253 was intra Eastside and replaced by the B Line in fall 2011. Route 255 was and is in the DSTT. Many SR-520 routes have been on 4th and 5th avenues.

    2. I take the 41/77 daily. The 303 [shoreline Park and ride to first hill] would work but I have a later start time at work. The last 303 is at 8:30 AM. Its first stop is 5th & James.

      More 303s would be nice.

    3. I thought that when construction starts, the 550 will have to come off I-90 at Rainier Avenue anyway. At least that was what was presented last year:

      https://www.seattletransitblog.com/2016/02/13/coming-in-2018-major-changes-to-i-90-buses/

      Is ST magically going to leave the D-2 roadway open during the entire time of East Link construction for ST 550, like the diagram in the One Center City describes? Is the diagram an error?

      Anyway, if ST 550 is on Rainier to Jackson Street, and Jackson from Rainier to IDS (explained in the June 2016 hyperlink), there is only a simple single transfer required to get to First Hill on the empty FHSC.

      1. The post you’re linking to was only looking at preliminary thinking. Obviously things have changed since then.

        ST and KCM would like to keep the D2 roadway open as long as possible, even without DSTT access. Last I heard, the closure could possibly be delayed by up to a year once construction of the Judkins Park station gets going, but that pretty much puts us at September 2018.

        The 550 would use the 4th Ave ramp, and loop via 4th Ave-Jackson-5th Ave-Seattle Blvd-Royal Brougham. What’s unclear is if the proposal would live-loop the 550. There’s no layover space around IDS, although they could layover at one of the bases but this adds running time.

        If you truncate the 550 at IDS, you almost have to truncate the 554 as well or else you’re going to end up with overloads on the 554 from Mercer Island into Seattle, ala what happened with the 218 (when the 212 was surfaced the 218 stayed in the tunnel but kept serving the Eastgate freeway station. So the 218 got crushloaded by Eastgate-bound travelers who liked being in the tunnel. KCM fixed this by having the 218 skip Eastgate).

      2. Sorry, the loop is via Washington St, not Jackson St.

        I should add that they could maybe use the layover space on Washington and 5th, but that would require displacing the current routes that layover there (RR-E?).

  13. Two ideas that other cities are implementing that Seattle should at least study:
    1) Congestion pricing
    2) Having a SOV free zone somewhere in the center city

    1. Step 1: extend the SOV-free zone on 3rd Ave much further north. The cluster of cars swarming in there then getting stuck trying to turn on Pike and Pine always gets in the way of the hundreds of southbound buses (carrying thousands of riders) at PM rush hour.

  14. Why can’t we enforce an exit the rear door policy on our busses? Seattle is the only city I’ve been to where people insist on exiting the front door. This pretty much doubles the amount of time a bus needs to wait at each stop.

    1. From what I’ve seen ranting here and on reddit hasn’t done much. Is it just old habits from the ride free zone era? Usually when I’m exiting out the front it’s because I need positive communication with the driver before I get my bike off the rack.

      1. Yep, me too. It’s either that or because I’m sitting in the very first seat (hey, I like looking out the windshield) and it’s much too far to the door in the back of an articulated bus.

      2. We could but we’re wimps. San Diego did a pretty serious “exit out the rear” door campaign on their buses over several months; which included public outreach at TC’s, posters, arrows on the floor, audio announcements, and a message on the outside route sign (“go with the flow…exit out the rear door”). It worked like a miracle as most people were broken of their bad habits.

    2. One very simple method: When people are trying to get on, bus drivers should stop indicating they should wait for people getting off who’re walking to the front door.

      1. +1. This is a simple fix that costs nothing (actually probably saves Metro money through fewer delays). I don’t understand why Metro doesn’t just tell their drivers to make people get off at the back.

      2. It’s particularly irksome to have to wait for someone coming from past the side door to the front door while standing in the rain. And this is not hyperbole; it’s how your typical Metro driver acts.

    3. I agree. But now I do it too. Metro did try when the Ride Free Zone went away. There were signs on the ceiling and an automated announcement. Seems like they gave up after awhile though, I haven’t heard that announcement in a long time, and the signs aren’t on the newer buses.

    4. In Washington, D.C., Metrobus riders love to exit out the front and WMATA barely makes any effort to encourage riders to use the rear doors. (A longtime D.C. resident once told me it was impolite to exit a bus without thanking the driver and that a proper exit included making eye contact with the driver.)

      I was pleasantly surprised when I moved to Seattle from D.C. by how much more Seattle commuters use the rear doors compared to D.C.

    5. I usually try to get off the back.. but on older articulated buses without another front door it’s an unusually long detour to exit via the back (and slows down exiting anyway since i’m not willing to cross the flexing portion while the bus is moving in a lot of situations so i can’t pre-stage by that door to exit). It seems a lot more doable to enforce once buses all have a second front door in the future (hopefully). That said i’d love if by then it’s off board payment for all buses so it also doesn’t matter.

    6. It’s partly because of the old buses that were designed for the ride-free area. The back door is behind the articulation and it’s a long difficult walk back, especially when it’s crowded and you’re carrying a backback or bags and you walk across the articulation and there’s no handhold and you fall onto one of the seated passengers. When there is a door a few rows behind the front, people use it. And when it was pay-as-you-leave you weren’t allowed to exit by the rear door, you had to come up front or the driver would yell at you. And then there was the time Metro prohibited using the rear door after 7pm for “safety”. That lasted several years, and that on top of pay-as-you-leave made people just never use the rear door for long after the policy changed. But a lot of it is the kind of doors they have, their far-back location, narrowness, stairs sometimes, and larger gap and dropoff to the curb.

      1. Yeah, and the irony is that it is worse when it most crowded. If there aren’t many on the bus, then it is pretty simple to get up, walk to the back, and be ready when the bus makes the stop. But if it is crowded, you have to push your way through, and who knows how many of those people are trying to get off. You run the risk of having the door close, and having to yell back at the driver to open the back door again.

    7. The crowded part also applies to the aisles. On the old buses when all the seats are full, one person with a backback or bags can barely squeeze through, and if people are standing it’s practically impossible and it takes a long time to get through, and that can hold up the bus as you squeeze to the rear. In the new buses the aisles are wider, and the doors are more forward and wider.

    8. Or at least, even if the alsles aren’t wider, every few rows there’s a single seat or sideways seat. It’s easier to go through a narrow area that’s just two rows at a time rather than one that goes on and on.

    9. You’ve never been to Minneapolis, where people wait for passengers to start boarding before moving towards the front door to get off. Seattle riders are much better about getting off a bus than everyone in the Twin Cities.

    10. As soon as I stop having to shout “back door” to the bus driver. Often they don’t open the rear door without prompting

    1. First won’t have buses; it’s transit contribution will be streetcar running in 100% dedicated lanes.

      1. All the more reason to make these streetcar lanes shared transit lanes for BOTH bus and streetcar, what a complete waste of dedicated transit capacity with only streetcar on 1st.

      2. The 1st Ave streetcar will be center-running, IIRC. That doesn’t work with most of Metro’s livery except the Madison BRT specialty buses. But I assume construction will take multiple years, and has to be done starting next year in order to not forfeit the federal contribution.

      3. The center lanes will be bus-compatible. Madison BRT will use them to turn around, and they’ll be available for any 1st Avenue bus routes that may be desired in the future. Perhaps something to Belltown and Seattle Center.

      4. SDOT is planning more widespread center lanes, such as on part of 45th. So left-door buses may become more commonplace and they’ll just become a regular bus type and ordered in aggregate.

      5. Brent,

        You can forget any “Federal contribution”. It ain’t coming, and you can go to the bank with that. You guys finally got total control of the government and now we’ll see exactly how completely a bunch of Midwestern hillbillies can ruin a modern economy.

      6. There are a lot of buses that can use the left boarding stops. All of the RapidRide+ will have those buses. Of those, you could easily have Corridor 3 use it, as that route (basically a replacement for the 7) will go on Jackson. It would likely tie into one of the other RapidRide+ buses, like the Roosevelt BRT, or Corridor 6, which would replace the 40. Of course the C, D and E could be moved to over to 1st quite easily. Once you did that, of course, you really wouldn’t need the streetcars (in general they would just be in the way) so that means you could just remove them, and provide much more useful service via the buses. Maybe that is the one good thing that will come of the streetcars — it is the stone soup of Seattle transit. Very expensive stones, but at least we have soup.

    2. @Richard Bullington The President is a Republican and I’m pretty sure Brent is a Democrat. There are plenty of reasons to hate Trump, but at least he has pledged to spend some money on transit. So, at least some funding will be becoming down the pipeline…

      1. Trump does not write the budget. The House has pledged to zero out transit. We’ll see if that comes to pass, but don’t expect generosity for an “all-Blue” state.

      2. Let me be clear. I DO know that the Administration provides Congress with a large document titled “The Budget of the United States”. When it arrives in Congress it is quickly sent to the recycle bins and the two chambers get down to business writing the real budget.

      3. I would be very surprised if Republicans increase spending on transit. At best, some of the existing grants and projects will be kept. But I doubt much will be spent on urban infrastructure. But given the makeup of many mass transit projects, that might mean they keep them. ST3, for example, is almost entirely suburban in nature (along with some big business oriented work) and so wouldn’t get much opposition from Congress.

        I could easily see the streetcar, though, being the next “bridge to nowhere” poster child for the right. There is local opposition (both from the transit community and from the city council) and the argument that keeps coming up, over and over, is that it is worth it because the U. S. government is paying for most of it. Given the really poor record of the first two streetcar lines, it seems like easy picking, really, for a right wing demagogue to attack. The big question is whether the grant is too far along to stop now.

      4. If I’m not mistaken, it is actually written into the Republican Party platform (in slightly less blunt wording) that any dollar spent on transit, period, is a dollar flushed down the toilet. I also read a summary of Trump’s proposed “infrastructure” plan – the only project it has in the Puget Sound area is an expansion of SeaTac airport (and, even that, only because voters in red states like Idaho and Montana need to connect through it to fly to Asia). We should count ourselves lucky if existing grants that have already been awarded don’t get zero’d out.

        Fortunately, though, ST has a lot enough timetable that by the time ST applies for federal grants for ST3 projects, Trump will likely be out of office. So, there’s some chance we might end up getting something after all. Of course, if the entire grant programs are scrapped to the point where even a future Democratic administration couldn’t award any transit grants without a re-authorization by a Republican congress, we could very well not get anything.

        All in all, Sound Transit’s decision to be conservative in its budgeting and set up ST3 to not be dependent on the feds for financing has turned out to be very prudent.

      5. Why would they want to fly to Asia? It’s socialist over there. But at least if they see good transit and density and a cooperative society that gets things done, they might want some of it over here.

      6. asdf2 and The Rest of You,

        You don’t understand. They are serious about drowning the baby in the bathtub. By the end of Trump’s term they will have blown the deficit up to a trillion plus per year, even in a healthy economy — a trillion and a half in a down one. They will have sold off the nation’s patrimony to their friends in “Boris Yeltsin Goes to Washington” the new hit thriller being written in the Hallowed Halls of Congress as we communicate. They will have voucherized Medicare, turned Social Security into a fixed term non-COLA’ed annuity, and fired all the talented people who actually run the government.

        Hell, they don’t even try to hide it any more.

        In short, there will be nothing left! “Transit grants” will be way down the line of priorities if Democrats win in 2024.

      7. Reagan ran up the deficit too. There’s a difference between what they say and what they can get passed. We don’t know yet how much they’ll be able to pass or what form it will take. Bush II tried to privatize Social Security and failed due to overwhelming public opposition. Trump and Congress have backed down on some things a few days after proposing them for the same reason. Even if there’s a huge debt and programs are slashed in four years, it doesn’t necessarily mean the next government won’t prioritize transit higher than the recent ones or that foreigners won’t buy our bonds. Financing depends on how the US is doing relative to the rest of the world, and other countries currently have an even worse economy and lower interest rates, and unknown changes could happen in other countries. Europe was flattened after WWII and they didn’t say, “We can’t afford to rebuild transit”, they said, “A good transit network is one of the basic things we need for economic prosperity and to fix our other problems”, and their lenders agreed with them. Things could all go to bottom-floor hell with no way to recover afterward, but it’s still not certain at this point. The best thing we can do is have projects shovel-ready so we can jump at any opportunities, not bury our head in the sand and say it’s hopeless.

    1. The Yesler trolley plan has been repeatedly neglected for funding, and I don’t think there’s any timeline yet. It would be for the 3 and 4.

  15. If Link has crushloads between UW and ID and the new trains haven’t arrived, couldn’t they take frequency from the RV and push it into the core? Even at peak, does the demand for Link south of SoDo merit maximum frequency?

    The article mentions improved tunnel congestion could free up a trainset or two …. wouldn’t slightly trimming frequency between SoDo and Angle Lake free up an additional trainset or two? Is that being considered?

    ST would actually need to do the operational math, but something like 4 minute headways downtown and, say, 8 minute headways elsewhere?

      1. I don’t think it would require more trains. My understanding is that the problem is not lack of engines, but simply lack of cars. I have no idea how many they have, but for the sake of discussion, I will assume they have 45.

        It wasn’t easy for me to wrap my head around the idea, but I think it works. To begin with, here are some timings, taken from this:

        UW to SoDo: 15 minutes
        SoDo to Angle Lake: 29 minutes.

        Assume that it takes a minute at each end for the trains to turn around, which would mean an entire “loop” would take 90 minutes. In other words, the same train heads south from the UW every 90 minutes. If you have six minute headways, that means 15 trains are operating at the same time. With three car trains, that works out perfectly (the reason I chose 45).

        If you run those trains every 8 minutes, you have 12 trains operating instead of 15.

        Meanwhile, you have trains doing a shorter “loop”, from the UW to SoDo. Those are also running every 8 minutes, opposite the SeaTac trains. UW to SoDo is 15 minutes, making for a 32 minute round trip. That is 4 trains.

        So, you need one extra train. But again, my understanding is that the trains aren’t the problem, it is the lack of cars. So with 45 cars, we would have to run some two car trains. That would likely be the UW to SoDo trains.

        This helps quite a bit. Within a twelve minute period, it would mean an additional train from the UW to SoDo. Even if that is a two car train, it is still an extra two cars, or from six to eight — a 25% increase. If all three happen to be three car trains, then you have improved things a third.

        The numbers might be a bit different, but that certainly seems like it is worth exploring.

    1. That’s a great idea! And I don’t see any reason why ST wouldn’t have enough trains for that…. if they cut the frequency on the RV they would definitely free up a couple trains, and going from 6 minute to 4 minute frequency probably only requires a couple of cars.

    2. Can Sound Transit buy second hand LRVs just to last them until the new cars arrive? Are there spare original San Diego LRVs they could acquire and use for a couple years?

      1. Much of that fleet got sold to somewhere in South America. Also, the old Duewag control system is probably not compatible with the existing Link cars. If you get high floor cars You’d want something that can be run in MU with the existing cars so you have low floor + high floor car mixtures.

        You need a more complex deal. Maybe send some of Ottawa’s cars that are being tested to Portland and some Portland cars to Seattle? We get a close look at a 100% low floor car design for the first time on the West Coast, and Seattle gets to see assorted Siemens seat configurations that Portland has used in various light rail cars and see what works best for their new order.

      2. There probably aren’t many LRVs available secondhand, and Link uses 1500 V DC instead of the more common 750 V DC. They would need to retrofit the power system, traction motors, controls, etc. to make them work. While this is fairly straightforward, it takes time and we’re only a couple years away from getting the new LRVs. They probably couldn’t get secondhand LRVs in service quickly enough to matter at this point, so not worth the effort.

      3. The power system isn’t too much of an issue, because Siemens has to build those anyway for the new fleet. From the static converter to the rest of the car the system is the same electrical system so they can standardize everything.

  16. I wonder if Mayor Murray could persuade the Convention center to delay by a year or two. Or is the Convention Center untouchable? Seems like it would be the easier solution, and it’s not like there’s an emergency need for convention space.

    1. That’d be awesome, but I think the ship has sailed on that. But who knows, we should all email him.

    2. Yes, please! I cant believe getting a 3rd f-ing convention center has to take such priority over transit mobility for locals.

  17. I can get onboard with a two-way transitway on 5th Avenue, though I suspect 2nd & 4th might need at least 1 reverse direction lane for general traffic as if you are heading west from First/Capitol Hill the only opportunity to head south would be 6th Ave and then not until 2nd Ave. We really need an additional bus transit-only street downtown.

    Too bad there isn’t enough space on 3rd Ave to do an arrangement like Market Street in SF with both inside and outside transit lanes in both directions.

  18. This sucks so bad for the West Seattle express buses. Five to ten minutes of battling through broken escalators with a hundred bus-mates just to reach a platform where all the trains are already crush loaded, to ride a few blocks north and then spend another 3 minutes reaching the surface where their bus used to run? This will cause transit ridership in West Seattle to plummet. I’m sure the extra car congestion from 10-20 of each current bus’s riders driving will far outweigh any benefit the downtown core gets from taking that bus off of 3rd Ave.

    1. Why do all the West Seattle buses have to go to north downtown? The C Line will still go there.

      I see no reason for route 55 to do likewise. It may as well be the Junction’s First Hill Express. And then increase 55 runs to match demand for going to the I-District and Cherry Hill.

      1. What? Because everyone on the 37/56/57 lives 1 to 2 hilly miles northwest of the C Line so it’s irrelevant to us, and we want to go downtown because it’s where most of our jobs are. Are you suggesting we all just walk 30 to 60 minutes over hill and dale to catch the C Line? That’s like saying “why does the D Line even exist? They all could just walk to the E Line! Aurora and 15th are only 1.3 miles apart, after all!”

        The 55 at least overlaps with the C Line so it would give all those people the chance to transfer at Alaska Junction, but the C does not have nearly enough capacity to carry all the downtown commuters for both. I caught a 55 on Wednesday at 6:15pm that stopped letting people board after Pike; huge crowds were left behind at Seneca and Columbia, who had already been left behind by the last C Line. Yes, they could ramp up frequency on the C, but then we’d be right back at the problem they’re trying to solve.

      2. Calm down dude. I said nothing about routes 37/56/57. I’m guessing they just ran as many flags up the pole as possible to get someone to say “Hey, I want that!”

        We have no idea how many riders would want a West-Seattle First-Hill Express because it doesn’t exist. Let it exist and we’ll know what the market is for it.

    2. Actually, JT, I think a large number of people will like it a lot. For one thing, there’s a pair of stops on Yesler between Fifth and Sixth, a short, reasonably flat walk to Columbia Center. A lot of people will walk to and from Yesler most days. You watch.

      Grant, folks who work north of Madison or so will likely want to transfer and ride to University Street, but Pioneer Square rarely has a full platform and trains from the south are only “crush-loaded” after games, so not at all an issue for morning inbound commuting.

      Yes, early evening baseball games will probably be a problem, but in the summer it doesn’t rain so walking even from up around Pike isn’t that bad.

  19. Sure is interesting how the “delay to land the bike master plan, again, with downtown being taken into consideration” became “oops we actually were not waiting for the bike stuff, rather, just to pass ST3 and tell the voters how awesome things will be”!

    Was super interested to see how a real bike master plan would come together.

    1. Particularly since it was promised as a result of Move Seattle. So that’s essentially two revenue boosting votes done with the support of the cycling community for which we got bupkis.

  20. This situation gives me the “I have a book report due tomorrow on a 1000-page book, but I have only started reading the book tonight” feeling. 2018 is next year!

    Come on SDOT and Mayor and Council! The complications from Link construction and the DSTT have been known for years. With all of the studies on Link, on the AWV replacement, on the Second Avenue Bike Track, on the Center City Connector, and on and on, we should have known this is a problem. We should have had this Center City discussion in 2013, not 2017. Consider this: Would we have proposed implementing the Center City Connector, the Madison BRT construction and the Second Avenue Bike Track had the bigger problem been made public when it should have been?

    In my mind, this really calls into question the strategic skills of department heads, and their relationship with city leaders. There are many people in positions of leadership that obviously need to publicly admit that they made a mistake. If not, they should be shamed for not doing their jobs in the press and on the blogs.

    I particularly point out the hours that the department heads and city leaders have been fretting over Pronto for the past year, when this much bigger challenge has been looming. Does anyone else get that the priorities have been mis-ordered?

    1. In 2013 there was a revenue crunch from the recession, Metro had laid off all its planning staff to keep the buses running, and Seattle was not in a position to do a lot of long-term studies. The AWV replacement was supposed to be finished in what, 2012? Madison BRT is an attempt to address a longstanding problem in east-west transit, and its construction is not contributing to the nadir much. There’s the 2 in the meantime, so only riders to the 12’s far end will be the most affected. (And I guess the 12 could move to the 2’s routing during construction, at least west of 12th.) The 2nd Avenue cycletrack is already open so I don’t see the problem. The City Center Connector seems rather pointless so I’m more negative on doing it at all than the timing.

      1. Mike, the One Center City report highlights that there isn’t enough time to implement some of these strategies. Maybe 2013 would have been a hard year but things could have been examined in 2014 or 2015 and that would have given enough time to implement some changes that now appear too late.

  21. The map shows most of the peak hour West Seattle and the Burien routes taking SR99 to and from Yesler. Only the Vashon Island routes would be coming up Fourth Avenue. So the transfer to Link will be made at Pioneer Square Station, not IDS.

    I think that is a huge improvement. Many people will simply walk to and from Yesler, and using Pioneer Square for those who do need to transfer will avoid crowding the platforms at IDS. One potential advantage is that people riding from the north will learn to change at PSS instead of Westlake, missing all that congestion down Second and Third.

    I would hope that a part of the bus accommodation will be to put temporary peak-hour BAT lanes on Yesler. If the city does that, this could be a huge improvement in south- and southwest bus service reliability.

    1. Don’t forget route 21 that serves West Seattle and 4th Ave S, and route 50 that serves Alki, the Admiral District, the Alaska Junction, the Triangle, Youngstown, and SODO Station.

      Route 120 isn’t being touched, except for no longer running on the decommissioned portion of the viaduct, but ought to also be in the running for a specialty First Hill Express.

    2. @Richard — I didn’t understand the map. Are they building a new ramp from SR99 to 1st Ave so that the northbound West Seattle express buses can reach Yesler from the south? Their drawing seems to show buses doing that merge on to 1st Avenue just north of Royal Brougham Way. It says this will require no capital projects. Maybe that’s a ramp being built already for the 99 tunnel project?

      I suspect that’ll add a few minutes as well, of slogging through the surface traffic for that half mile up to Yesler.

      I would welcome the experiment too. Their models don’t estimate the time it will take to reach 3rd and Seneca, where most of the current express passengers get off in the morning, probably because this is the least favorable comparison for them — it’s not as far as Westlake, where the train’s speed starts to make up time, but it is the most important destination for current riders. I guess you could be right that a lot of them are trekking south from there, closer to Yesler. An experiment would let us all figure out our travel time changes.

  22. I’m late to the thread, here, but there’s a comparison table on the survey website that isn’t included in the article above.

    According to that, Option D scores the highest in bus reliability, vehicle speed, and transit operating costs. It ties with B for best in pedestrian and cycling environments.

    If it’s better for all users, I suspect it will receive an overwhelming majority in the survey; I suspect Zach may be wrong, and we won’t take the middling Option C here.

  23. I like the concept of having a faster commute. I take the 545 in the morning. I either take the 545 or 541/542 + link back. At the moment both Capitol Hill and UW link stations escalators are always broken which make it super annoying to get to the link. I don’t understand how new stations can break so easily. The ORCA scanners to the link are also inconveniently located and always cause a log jam of people. Plus you occasionally get harassed by transit fare enforcement which is also annoying when all I want to do is sleep. In contrast the 545 in the morning is always reliable and much more convenient. If they fix all of the issues with the Link then I’m fine with the change but right now the link kind of sucks compare to the bus.

    1. The stations have working elevators, which are rarely crowded in the down direction. Take them. They’re yours.

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