Bruce Qu (Flickr)

Last October we reported on a partnership between Metro and SDOT to overhaul the last remnants of the vestigial night owl network (defined as service between 2:15-4:30am). The plan announced then would eliminate Routes 82/83/84 while beefing up service on a number of key corridors:

If approved by the County Council, the proposal would boost total overnight service by roughly 50%. The proposal would:

  • Replace Route 82 with Night Owl trips on Routes 3 (to Seattle Pacific), Route 5, and Route 62 (to Roosevelt only).
  • Replace Route 83 with Night Owl trips on Route 70
  • Replace Route 84 with Night Owl trips on Routes 3 and 11
  • Add Night Owl trips on Route 120
  • Upgrade RapidRide C, D, and E to hourly overnight service, up from 75-90 minute frequencies currently
  • Extend Route 124 to SeaTac Airport when Link isn’t running.

In response to public feedback, and because SDOT money is funding 80% of the new service hours, SDOT and Metro have since worked together to tweak the October proposal. Some of the most prominent feedback from the first round was the omission of overnight service in NE Seattle, particularly in Lake City and Northgate. In revisions released today, the new plan adds trips on a number of additional corridors, including Routes 44, 48, 65, and 67. Doing so not only provides NE Seattle with all-night service, but also considerably beefs up service to the UDistrict and UW Station area in the hours in which Link isn’t running.

The new proposal includes one deletion, Route 62. Originally slated to do 4-5 short trips only as far as Roosevelt, SDOT and Metro are paying for NE Seattle service in part by deleting these trips. There would be no Owl service across the Fremont bridge, though Route 5 would still operate, providing access to Fremont for those willing and able to walk down the hill from 39th/Fremont. Wallingford would no longer see Owl service from Downtown or Fremont, but would see service added from Ballard and the UDistrict on Route 44.

The historic Night Owl network has been strictly radial, providing overnight service from Downtown to the pre-1954 Seattle city limits. But in this new proposed network, routes might be able to be timed to provide late-night transfers outside of Downtown, exponentially multiplying the number of trip pairs accessible overnight. New transfer points could be 15th/Market (D/44), 46th/Aurora (E/44), 15th/Campus Parkway (44/70/65/67), 23rd/Madison (11/48), 23rd/Cherry (48/3), and Mount Baker Transit Center (7/48).

Other concepts from the original proposal remain, including overnight service on Routes 3, 5, 7, 11, 49, 70, C, D, and E. Routes 120 and 124 (with an extension to SeaTac) also remain, as these are Metro-funded additions ineligible for a Prop 1 boost from SDOT.

Check out the slides below from the presentation last month at the Seattle Transit Advisory Board. The proposal will now move to the County Council, and if approved the new network would be implemented in September. King County’s media release is reprinted after the jump.

King County Executive Dow Constantine submitted to the King County Council legislation that expands and improves late-night bus service in the City of Seattle.

Late-night Metro ridership increased 20 percent in the last five years. This proposal more than doubles the City of Seattle’s investment in late-night bus service, through the City’s voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District.

Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation developed the late-night service expansion package after a public outreach process last year that drew more than 4,500 responses and identified better late-night transit options for:

  • Workers in jobs with late-night or early-morning work shifts such as health care and many segments of the service industry.
  • Travelers and workers heading to and from downtown to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.
  • People enjoying Seattle’s nightlife, including music and arts venues.
  • Low-income and vulnerable populations.

“We live in a fast-growing region, and late-night mobility is critical for nightshift workers to support their families, for travelers on early-morning flights, and for those out enjoying Seattle’s arts and music scene,” Constantine said. “Metro’s partnership with the City of Seattle makes our late-night transit network easier to use and more accessible for everyone at all hours.”

“Giving people affordable, reliable, and convenient transportation choices is key to Seattle’s top two priorities — equity and sustainability,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “This is particularly important for working families and people of color who are hit disproportionately by the increasing cost of transportation, which is nearly $10,000 a year on average.”

Metro currently has about 40 routes with some level of late-night service, including three Night Owl routes that loop through some Seattle neighborhoods between 2:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. and operate only during those hours. The City of Seattle fully funds the Night Owl routes.

The proposal invests about 11,000 annual service hours, 8,800 of which are funded by the City of Seattle, and replaces current Night Owl routes 82, 83, and 84 by adding late-night trips to existing all-day routes.

The City’s investment includes:

  • Two additional late-night round trips on the following routes: 3, 5, 11, 70, serving neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill, Central Area, Eastlake, Fremont, Green Lake, Phinney Ridge, Queen Anne, and University District. Other routes already provide late-night service to areas such as South Seattle and West Seattle.
  • Additional late-night service on routes 65 and 67 serving Northeast Seattle areas such as Lake City, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Northgate for the first time.
  • Cross-town (non-downtown) connections through added service on routes 44 and 48, creating a grid pattern that expands late-night bus travel options without having to go through downtown and diversifying travel options to, from, and through the University District.

Metro will add 2,000 service hours, which include:

  • Additional late-night service at about 2 a.m. on Route 120 serving Delridge, White Center and Burien.
  • Hourly all-night service on the RapidRide C, D, and E Lines, which currently operate all night but with less than hourly frequencies.
  • Extend Route 124 from Tukwila to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m., increasing transit options for travelers and workers.
  • Added time to allow bus drivers adequate restroom breaks.

Metro and its partners invest about $7.7 million for all bus routes system-wide between midnight and 5 a.m. This proposal increases that total by $730,000, with $500,000 from the City of Seattle.

If approved, the late-night service plan would take effect in September 2017 with Metro’s semi-annual service change.

46 Replies to “SDOT Tweaks Metro Night Owl Proposal, Adds Service to NE Seattle”

  1. This is outstanding – as someone who spent many years in the giant NE Seattle “hole” and often walked long distances to get home (in the days before Lyft or car share, and on much smaller income!), I commend the City and Metro for providing some service to all quadrants of the city. While it no longer affects me, I’m very happy that service to NE has been added.

    I also like the concept of timed transfers at certain locations–it will go a ways towards making somewhat of a network.

  2. If part of the rationale for extending the 124 to the airport at night is that the closed Link Station makes it hard or impossible to walk to the airport from the bus stop, shouldn’t they then add an airport loop to the A-line at night as well?

    1. The rationale is the mile-long gap between the airport and TIB station. Not having the extension turns a one-seat ride into a two-seat ride, and the routes are uncoordinated so you can end up waiting twenty or forty minutes at TIB. It makes it more complicated for visitors who are already trying to figure out how to get around without Link. And some people probably feel unsafe waiting at TIB for a late-night transfer.

    2. (The southbound A Line stop at 182nd is OK for airport access… but its northbound counterpart up at 180th is a significantly longer walk. To me, moving the northbound stop to 182nd and making sure wayfinding signs were good would cover it, but it’s not something that affects me much.)

    3. The 124 night extension is for people traveling to and from Seattle. The A Line’s customers going south only have to walk less than 1/4 mile south from the airport’s bus stop.

      The A Line’s NB stop however is for some reason 2 blocks north of the SB stop. The combination of a long walk to a short bus ride to transfer to another bus isn’t appealing at night.

  3. Why is there still no downtown-Northgate overnight service? Northgate it the biggest transit center outside downtown in the city.

      1. We’ll know when the schedules come out. 49+67 may be the most important transfer on both routes in north Seattle. And really all of the 449, 49, and 645/67 overlap in the U-District, so maybe there will be a timed transfer there between all of them.

  4. The 65/67 addition is a smart way to serve NE Seattle while not inventing new Owl-only routes. Kudos to SDOT and Metro on this…

    provided that there are timed transfers in the U-District between those Owl 65/67 trips and both the Owl 49 and Owl 70 trips. Please, Metro, make it so.

    Also, I hope that with a bit of additional funding short-turn Owl trips on either the 62 or the 40 can come back. Or maybe the 5 will start serving central Fremont as it does in the Metro LRP…

    1. I’m curious why Metro chose the 65, other than that it’s tied to the 67. I thought that the 372 and 75 both had higher ridership than the 65. The 65 also got a Sunday boost while the 372 and 75 didn’t.

      I’m not sure how ridership on the 67 compares to 75/372, but a 75 night owl would directly connect Northgate and Lake City to the U District with 1 route, though it would skip the upper U District.

      1. The 65 is more central and covers much more of NE Seattle at a “walk a long way home from the owl” level than the 75. Between the 65 and the 67, you cover virtually all of NE except for Sand Point at that leve. Also, the 67, (I think), is pretty essential — the north U-District and Roosevelt generate decent ridership any time.

        We won’t have a good read on ridership on the new network until sometime in 2017, but anecdotally it seems that ridership on the 65 is way up since the restructuring, possibly the most of all of the big NE Seattle routes.

    2. Metro seems to believe the 65 has the highest ridership potential. It covers the high-volume area from Campus Parkway to Childrens, the apartments on 35th, Lake City, and Jackson Park. The size of Metro’s investment in it is seen in the fact that it’s 15 minutes full time and is now proposed for night owl. I don’t know whether Metro is right in betting on it more than the 75 and 372 but that’s what it’s doing.

      Arguments against the 75 might include the fact that the houses are larger, the multifamily areas are smaller, there’s less retail to draw people, it has a small walkshed because of the lake and the hillside, and the road is curved so less direct.

      Roosevelt is a heavily growing area so it makes sense to run the 67 night owl, and it makes up for the cut on the 83 north of 50th. So having the 67/65 do its established U-shape route may be arguably good coverage for northeast Seattle. And the overwhelming origins/destinations at night are the U-District, downtown, and the 45th corridor from Ballard, not going from Lake City to Northgate directly.

      I do wonder how people will feel taking the 44 east and transferring to the 65. Will they find it rather backtracking and overhead? But c’est la vie until RapidRide 44 gets to Children’s.

  5. The only way “timed transfers” can work with infrequent headways is if both routes layover in the same location. Is that what they mean by “timed transfers”.

    If you time it to have very short waits in one direction, that will mean very long waits in the other direction unless both buses are stopped and waiting for people to go either way.

    1. You usually don’t need that long a layover for timer transfers to work. Island Transit – Skagit Transit at March’s point used to work very well back when Island Transit operated the core route in the area from Mt Vernon to Oak Harbor.

      You schedule both routes to be there at the same time, and make sure it is a time point where the buses wait for each other if one gets ahead or behind schedule.

      At that late hour, delays shouldnt be too bad most of the time.

    2. As I remember, back in the Dark Ages (around 1980), Metro did “semi-timed transfers” with a bunch of relatively low-frequency (30 or 60 minute) routes downtown at low-frequency times like 9PM Sunday. All the buses arrived at the same time in various stops on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th near Union (as I remember) and departed 5/10 minutes later. It worked fairly well about 2/3 of the time, but of course if you were on a late-arriving bus, you were out of luck.

      It would seem that Metro could do the same thing again in the wee hours (and not necessarily just downtown), but with a guarantee (delays should not be too frequent then, as Glenn points out). Guarantee meaning that your transfer will be waiting > 95% of the time – the only exceptions being things like a bus breakdown out in the sticks somewhere.

      1. He also says pulses work better in small towns. It’s one thing for one bus to arrive in Mt Vernon and other buses to immediately leave to Bellingham and Anacortes. It’s another thing to try to do that in Seattle with buses and traffic and travelers going every which way and the expectations of more lines going more directions with more frequency. Where it’s most prominently used in Seattle is when routes are split, such as when the predecessors of the 347 and 348 that used to go downtown were split into a frequent trunk (the 41) and infrequent tails (which now include the 345, 346, 347, and 348).

        And in Kent where the 150 arrives and the 164, 166, 168, 169, and 180 leave. Oh wait, they don’t. They’re uncoordinated so you often have to wait 10-20 minutes at Kent Station. But they COULD be, theoretically.

        Something like the 44 or 48 absolutely can’t be coordinated with all the dozen routes they cross, because the ones that come from downtown have their own regular schedules and differing travel times in between, and they may be coordinated with other routes elsewhere. At most each route can only be coordinated at one or two points that are considered the most important.

        There’s a perfect opportunity for this, in the U-District night owls that have been proposed. The 44, 49, 65, 67, and 70 will all overlap in the U-District. Furthermore, the 49 and 70 will be the only way for 65 and 67 riders to get to downtown. So hopefully they will all be timed together in the U-District, or at least the 65/67 with the 70. If the 49 and 70 are pulsed in the U-District, then they’ll be slightly out of sync downtown, but not wildly so. And Metro is abandoning the downtown pulse at 2:15 and 3:30AM. Hopefully that won’t make it lose interest in all pulses, especially this opportune and critical U-District one.

    3. Having night owl at all means paying drivers for a few hours at a night shift premium. I hope Metro doesn’t try to quibble it down to 2 hours instead of 3 or 4 hours to put short layovers ahead of timed transfers. Timed transfers are most critical when frequency is low, and especially when it’s dark and cold and people are worried about late-night safety.

  6. Love this proposal. Well done SDOT and Metro. The all-day (and all-night) bus network is increasingly unrecogniziable from when I moved to Seattle in 2010, and that’s a great thing. (Anyone remember the bizarre old 280, driving circles around Lake Washington in the middle of the night?)

    I would echo Zach and David’s comments that the 40 and 62 being next in line. To that list I would append the 41. Downtown to Northgate or Lake City via arterial streets, plus a transfer, would be a really long trip, and I don’t think this network effectively connects those areas to downtown. Nonetheless this is a long overdue and laudable improvement.

    1. Hell, if the 41 just went from Northgate to Downtown and back, they could get away with just using a single bus. Two buses if they want good frequency like you find in other city’s Owl/late-night networks (though it will probably be a few years before Seattle has any overnight routes with decent frequency throughout the night).

      1. There is a reason 41 service dwindles early while local service takes over. People aren’t just riding between downtown and a park&ride. They are riding between UW and lots of apartments in the Roosevelt corridor.

    2. You can’t cover everything at 3 in the morning, as it would take too many resources away from the rest of the day. Roosevelt BRT, once it begins service, would make a good night-owl candidate, but, for the time being, I’m fine with what Metro proposed. The main thing is to have late-night trips on the regular routes people ride all day, rather than special-routes for people to remember that run only in the middle of the night. I think Metro understands just how important this is for a bus network to be comprehensible.

  7. I like the suggestion of the 65 because as a NE coverage route, it covers all the way to the city limit like the D covers the NW.

  8. So we have our heaviest transit route with 65,000 riders a day — and no owl service! Sure there are pieces of connectivity between many of the stations but no route to tie them together. Some stations are notably without owl service unless someone walks a few blocks, such as Columbia City or Rainier Beach where a rider has to walk over to Rainier to get an owl bus.

    It is good to see Seattle stepping up the owl service, but this service planning is circa 2000 and not 2017. It’s either that, or we are living with two parallel universes — one with Link and one with Metro. It shows an amazing level of stupidity from SDOT to ignore this basic reality.

    While I’m on the topic, I would also suggest that we need to direct riders on the Link platform where the nearest owl stop is so that they can continue their trip.

    1. SDOT is the agency funding most of the progress toward night owl Link shadow service. Route 67 is the future shadow of U-District to Roosevelt to Northgate. I hoped route 49 could move up to hourly or better, but this round of improvements is the beginning, not the end.

      City Councilmember and ST Board Member Rob Johnson has also been taking up the cause of ST funding some more night owl service.

      Route 574 from Lakewood to the airport goes from no service from 11 pm to suddenly providing service every 15 minutes starting at 2:13 am. Due to the long round trip, and how the southbound trips complement the northbound trips, there is no night owl service the other way. That is the entirety of ST’s night owl service.

    2. The issue that I have is that we don’t have a primary route called Link-Owl that stops at almost every single station in Seattle. The city’s Owl map looks like Link never existed, but the travel usage is so predominant on user minds for transit that they expect that the corridor would also have direct owl service between stations. The funding pays for part of it as you say, but the numeration and complexity of figuring out how to use multiple routes at 3 AM — on top of the uncertainty of transfer route frequencies — is really stupid.

      Look closer at that map in the presentation! There is not even reference to Link stations on the map prepared by SDOT staff! The entire presentation appears to ignore the very reality of Link! Does SDOT even care that we have Link?

      It’s just silly to have a “transit spine” for 22 hours a day, but not have anything explicit for 4?

      If ST won’t fully pay for it, SDOT should chip in. If SDOT is funding service via Metro, they could easily force this issue by offering to pay for part of a Link-Owl service. Most Link trips are within the City of Seattle anyway.

      This glaring outdated relic of route planning needs to be brought into the modern era.

      One easy way to do this would be to completely revise the 48 proposal. Extend it down MLK to Rainier Beach. Turn it at 23rd/Jackson Street to head to Third Street, and then attach it to a 43-owl (basically John and 23rd Ave/24th Ave/Montlake) for the rest of the overnight trip. That would hit every station in Seattle but Beacon Hill and two SODO stations, which could then be picked up by an the 124-owl service adjusted to go by those stations.

    3. We need to start from a people perspective, not shoehorn it into a network that looks good on paper. Night owl is intrinsically coverage service: it’s more important to get the most people’s homes than to run express. The most people’s homes are centered on Rainier, not MLK. Link was put on MLK not because it’s more populous but because Rainier was judged too narrow and congested for a surface train. Link is limited-stop; it famously doesn’t stop at Graham. At night a bus can go down the whole valley in twenty minutes because no cars are in the way and only a few bus stops are used. That should also apply to going to Northgate as Bruce is concerned about. In the daytime Eastlake and Roosevelt bog down, but not at night. I’ve seen a dramatic example on the 75: going between the Raineir Vista station and Magnuson Park takes 20-25 minutes in the daytime but speeds up to a whopping 10 minutes after 7:30pm.

      Eventually we should have full Link shadow service, whatever that means. But first let’s worry about boosting the frequency on the 7 and 36 which go to more people’s homes. Metro has positioned the 49 as the primary route on Capitol Hill; that’s why it’s the night owl route. We can argue about whether one alignment or another is slightly better, but I don’t think it’s right to call Metro’s/SDOT’s proposal “silly” or that a Link shadow network is obviously vastly superior.

      When Link gets more built out and ST chips in for regional destinations outside Seattle (e.g., from Rainier Valley to SeaTac airport and getting closer to the night industrial jobs in Tukwila/Kent), then proper Link shadows will make more sense, because then Link shadow routes will more closely align with people’s trip pairs.

      1. A simple route modification to 7-Owl could accomplish both coverage and station access as an incremental strategy. (Owl networks in other cities do follow light rail lines, but often have the option of stopping at interim bus stops along the way.) The segment between Mt Baker Station and Alaska Street could be routed on MLK and Alaska (nothing that the MLK/Walden stops are quite close to Rainier anyway). That owl-route could be on Rainier between Alaska and Othello, where it could again jog to MLK between Othello and Henderson, ending/beginning at its normal Rainier Beach terminus.

        The bigger point is just that stations themselves are important transit centers and owl service should be available at them. Imagine having a Bellevue owl system that crossed all over town but didn’t stop at the Bellevue Transit Center as an analogy to the problem here.

        It’s pretty narrow-minded to think that owl service is just people going home from a club or restaurant just a mile or two away, and that residential coverage is most important. Most overnight trips are not those people. Those people are already using Uber or a taxi anyway.

        Most owl bus riders are going to or from work and home. Those are longer trip distances, and coverage is not as critical. You may not be an unskilled worker on an overnight shift doing what you can to get by, but many overnight riders are. You have to see things from their travel needs, as you say. After all, they pay the same fare as you do. I would bet if you ask them, they would happily tell you that they would happily walk another 1/4 to 1/2 mile for a single-seat ride from one side of town to the other, or to the airport, than have a shorter walk to somewhere where they have to transfer at 2:30 AM after waiting awhile.

        SDOT has not presented how long the owl trip makers are traveling with existing data here. We’re left making speculative assumptions about markets. Still, the lack of thinking about owl service around Link lines as a primary objective is stupid. It is our transit system orientation from now into the future. This proposed SDOT scheme is carrying on a legacy of a pre-Link transit system that is now obsolete..

        We need one through route that goes from Rainier Beach to UW, and maybe to Northgate in preparation for 2021 called Link-Owl. We could even call it the L-Owl if we wanted to appreciate the pun on a certain international airline company! :)

      2. Coverage is really important for night-owl networks, it’s just a coarser coverage than what we try to get when chasing midday and peak-hour ridership. I could imagine a reasonable Bellevue Owl network that didn’t stop at Bellevue T.C. bays, but instead on regular streets nearby, just as Owl routes in downtown Seattle don’t stop in the DSTT, but on the surface nearby.

        Owl routes don’t always stop at rail stops, nor do they always follow the most popular daytime routes. The city I’m most familiar with here is Chicago. The two most popular L lines (the Red and Blue Lines) run 24-hours (with some disruptions). The next most important daytime transit routes are (mostly) the other L lines (plus a few really popular bus routes — IIRC the 63rd Street bus has total ridership that rivals the L lines), but the night-owl network is made up of straightforward local bus routes that blanket the city in a loose coverage network but don’t go out of their way to serve closed train stations. There are several examples broadly similar to the Link vs. 7 situation, and they basically work fine:

        – Most Pink Line stations aren’t served, but the 60 (Blue Island/26th) does something similar, a few blocks away.
        – Most Orange Line stations aren’t served, but the 62 (Archer) does something similar, a few blocks away.
        – Most Green Line stops aren’t served, but the Red Line and 4 (Cottage Grove) are in the area on the south side, and the 20 (Madison) covers it on the west side.
        – Most Metra Electric and South Shore Line stations aren’t served, but the areas are covered by the 4, 34 (South Michigan), and N5 (a nighttime Red Line-to-South Shore loop/shuttle, made of segments of various daytime local routes).
        – Most Brown Line stations aren’t served, and there’s no nighttime equivalent to the whole route, but you’re never that far from the Red Line, Blue Line, or crosstown routes on Belmont, Western, or Lawrence.

        Some of the Owl routes in Chicago aren’t even particularly popular during the day — the L lines are faster and have been around influencing travel and development patterns for a long time (with the exception of the newer Orange Line and freeway lines). In Seattle the 7 is still a very popular route, as MLK is still catching up to Rainier as a central street in the Rainier Valley.

      3. Sure, a compromise 7N may be reasonable. And Metro has long planned to reroute the 7 to Rainier Beach station eventually in some form. And when the RapidRide+ lines are implemented, lower Rainier will be severed from upper Rainier and connected to 23rd, and what will that mean for night owl?

        “Owl networks in other cities do follow light rail lines”

        Rail lines in other cities go more to all the neighborhood centers which would be the natural places for night owl anyway, And they don’t have as many natural barriers like Beacon Ridge or waterways that underground trains can go through quickly but buses can’t. There’s no way a 43 could ever approach Link’s speed, or that a strict Link shadow taking in all of CH-UW-UD and ID-Stadium-SODO-BH-RV would be the fastest and serve more people than a Broadway route, a Beacon route, and a valley route, especially with nighttime travel patterns.

        “It’s pretty narrow-minded to think that owl service is just people going home from a club or restaurant just a mile or two away, and that residential coverage is most important. Most overnight trips are not those people. Those people are already using Uber or a taxi anyway.
        Most owl bus riders are going to or from work and home. Those are longer trip distances,”

        The nightlife percentage is higher than that, and it’s just a fraction of its potential. Several European cities have half-hourly night owls across most of their service area, at least Friday and Saturday, and people use them. When I was in Bristol it wasn’t exactly night owl but the bars closed at 11:30pm and the buses were still running, and my friend who drove a truck for work and his car most of the time would take a bus to the bar in the evening so he wouldn’t have to drive home. His American counterpart wouldn’t do that due to gaps in transit service and cultural differences. If the gaps were filled, more and more people would gradually start taking transit to nightlife.

        And nightlife trips aren’t “just a mile”; for that you don’t even need transit, or at least society doesn’t have to prioritize paying for it. The main nightlife clusters are in a few spots: Center City, the U-District, Ballard, and people come from all over the city and even the suburbs to them. Raineir Valley to the U-District, the U-District to Ballard, Lake City to Ballard, Bellevue to Capitol Hill. When a band plays in a city, it play in only one bar or venue, and all its fans have to go there to hear it.

        I also don’t mean “coverage” to every low-density house. That’s what was wrong with the 8x routes, they looped around to reach all the houses of the day routes, but that aggravated the majority of people who were going between neighborhood centers and multifamily areas and had to curlicue all around or walk a long way from a bus stop. But definitely it has to serve the in-between stops and surrounding neighborhood centers that Link doesn’t. In some cases that role is fulled by a frequent bus instead of Link in the daytime, but that need doesn’t go away at night just because it’s not a Link corridor.

      4. “Most overnight trips are not those people. Those people are already using Uber or a taxi anyway.”

        Uber and taxis cost much more than transit. It adds up if you do it more than occasionally. And the fact that people have to use Uber because transit doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean that transit is unnecessary. It means they’re coping with a substandard situation. A situation that would be unheard of in Europe or Canada, where both the government and the people and the businesses put a high value on comprehensive transit and locating businesses near frequent transit.

        Vancouver had a bus strike a while back, and the only thing running for months was Skytrain. And it was free because the TVM servicers were in the bus union and the operation staff were in a different union. Skytrain stops running at 1am. It hit the bars really hard economically because a lot of people would stay out just until the last train, and the shops where Skytrain doesn’t go (like Lonsdale Quay) lost a lot of daytime customers too. That tells you that a high percentage of Vancouverites take transit to nightlife and they won’t drive to it if the transit isn’t there. In the US it’s different because the transit hasn’t been there for two generations, businesses and residents locate anywhere regardless of where transit is, and real men drive cars. But it shows what would happen if transit were more comprehensive. And expecting people to take Uber is like expecting people to drive to Mt Vernon because there aren’t any buses, or to fly to another city because there aren’t any national trains besides Amtrak’s skeletal slow service. It costs a lot more to drive or take a plane, and people are right to expect a better public baseline alternative.

      5. About that Skytrain being free. It actually didn’t increase net expenses for the agency, it decreased them. Because the agency saved more money not running the buses than it lost not collecting Skytrain fares.

      6. Al D., the CTA ridership report is here:

        Their data is rather convoluted as the Loop portions of the trips are aggregated for all lines running on it.

        Because the Blue and Red Lines are carrying the bulk of the weekday riders for CTA — at least 150K to 200K for each line — they are well justified as 24-hour lines.

        Three lines that you mention — Pink, Green and Orange — appear to have weekday ridership averages much lower than Link does today (noting that the loop interpretation isn’t included). That’s not really a valid comparison to our Link system today. The Brown Line is about what Link ridership is — however about half of the Brown Line ridership is in the same corridor as the Red Line. Since the Loop has four to five lines on it and has 80K total, 20K could be added to the line daily ridership — but even doing that wouldn’t have these lines approach what we get on Link in Seattle today.

        Today Link is well-used, to ST’s credit. That success should be more than enough justification for a Link-Owl service. Ideally, it would be one train every 30-minutes. That lower frequency would allow for doing single-track operations for the segments getting maintenance each night with minimal disruption to operations.

        Still, without a train running 24-hours, owl replacement service should be a top priority in this SDOT budget!

      7. The Green and Orange lines may have made more sense a hundred years ago than they do now. If the network was built now maybe they’d be somewhere else. They certainly wouldn’t peter out at 63rd street, which is like our our night owls go to 85th and no further. The Pink line used to be a daytime branch of the Blue line; I suppose the pinkifying of it was to give it some full-time service even though it was weak because the track was there and we might as well make the most of it.

        I have also noticed that the Red Line looks surprisingly empty in the evening, sometimes just a few people per car. In contrast, the DC Metro is hopping busy at 10pm: it really feels like a lot of people are lively and taking transit until late in the evening. Part if it may be an illusion because the El trains are so long and people get diluted among the cars. But it certainly seems like the DC Metro is busier in the evenings than the El or the NYC subway or MUNI or BART. And PATH is also quite busy at night. But I’m not sure how much apparently-full trains means high ridership vs just that they’re closer to their relative capacity.

      8. I’d be all for 24-hour Link operation. If ST won’t do that, I’m just not sure a Link shadow operated with buses makes a lot of sense. Whether it just makes the Link stops or makes some intermediate ones, it would make for a really long and indirect route with a lot of gaps that had to be served by a lot of the same routes Metro is planning to run.

        OTOH, more knowledgeable people than me have argued that segments that look crazy to me (e.g. SODO-Beacon Hill-Mount Baker by surface streets) would be OK off-peak, and perfectly fine overnight…

        Personally if I was drawing a Seattle night-owl network I wouldn’t start with Link, and in some parts of town I wouldn’t start with the RR routes or even the most important daytime routes… I’d take advantage of light overnight traffic to run long local-corridor routes that would be impractical to run during the day because of traffic. Maybe the same light traffic that makes these practical also makes a Link shadow practical.

      9. That was part of the logic for the old 80-series night owl routes to begin with – that a route that gets as much coverage as absolutely possible with just one bus, at 3 in the morning, may not be a route that is practical to run during the daytime.

        The counter-argument (which I have grown to support over the years), is that the transit users are humans, not robots, and having a separate route network to remember for only late-night trips is quite confusing, compared to simply running late-night trips on the same route people are used to riding during the daytime.

        Half the bus stops served by the 82/83 didn’t even bother list the night-owl routes on the bus stop sign, which leads to a lot of anxiety when riding the route for the first time, wondering if you’re waiting in the right place.

        Simply running owl trips on regular daytime routes, like the 7, 44, and RapidRide routes (albeit, with much less frequency than during the daytime) seems to be good enough on efficiency, and the least confusing to riders.

      10. Chicago L stuff:

        – The Green Line, as it is today, indeed uses some of the oldest tracks in the system, both to the west and south. Today’s Green and Red Lines are the result of swapping through-route pairs, shortly before the color-coded names really took over, for the purpose of demand-matching. Lines in the medians of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Dan Ryan Expressways, though they’re pretty miserable to wait at, are faster (with wider stop-spacing), have P&R capacity, and extend farther out, matching today’s more sprawled-out city (though, of course, they go nowhere near the urban extent).

        – The Orange Line is actually one of the newest L Lines… I think it opened in the ’90s. It was built largely on freight embankments on the southwest side, taking advantage of Chicago’s wealth of already-existing grade-separated rail ROW to cover a gap in the L network and serve Midway Airport… so though it’s new, it looks a lot like an older line in a lot of ways. There have been ideas about extending it, but they’ve never quite happened (plans for one additional stop were serious enough that “Ford City” was included as a terminal on roll signs, but never actually used). Past Ford City any extension would be in the suburbs, and suburban extensions have often been fraught for the CTA.

        – The other thing with the Pink Line (Douglas Branch) was that once it was separated from the rest of the Blue Line (they rehabbed the Paulina Connector to get it to the Loop via Lake Street) they didn’t have to run the more popular Congress Branch at half-frequency during peak hours. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Pink Line… I’d much rather wait for the train with a view of the rooftops and steeples than huddle in the freeway median breathing that garbage air. Any future where rapid transit is more like the Congress than the Douglas Branch is at least a bit of a dystopia in my book — I don’t believe the Congress Branch’s virtues (speed, reach, and, to some extent, P&R capacity) are incompatible with the Douglas Branch’s virtues (great walk-up station access, freedom from freeway noise and pollution), as the Red Line on the north side shows.

      11. @asdf2: I understand the problems with going away from the major lines at night, and of course Seattle’s old Owl network has been outdated for a long time, but… it is at least a little crazy to run two different routes over the Aurora Bridge before running one over the Fremont Bridge, when the only reason to run over the Aurora Bridge in the first place is speed. A Dexter-ized 5 would make a way better night-owl route than the actual 5, and a glib summary of why is also that transit riders are human, and not many humans want to catch the 5 between Denny Way and 39th. If we didn’t have the money to run both the 5 and the E Line I’d suggest one route along Dexter, Fremont, Phinney, and Greenwood to 85th, then over to Aurora north of there — following places where people are most likely to want to catch the bus at night. Having the money saves us from that, which would slow down longer trips to North Seattle significantly.

      12. Another solution to hitting Link stations: If the route was willing to skip Beacon Hill and Mt. Baker, a rerouted 124 could run next to the Link stations from Downtown, SODO and Stadium down to Spokane Street, then cross over on Columbian Way and use the 50 alignment to get to MLK, continue along MLK to BAR and then return to the current 124 alignment to Tukwila and Seatac. That deviation appears to only take a few minutes extra time from the current alignment in the middle of the night so the service hour difference appears minimal. That would then leave Mt. Baker, Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill and UW stations in Seattle unserved by this one route! If Route 48 was extended to Alaskan Way, and the 36-owl was resurrected from the original Metro proposal as far north as Capitol Hill (a U-shaped route like the 65/67), then every station would be pretty much covered except Angle Lake. Timed transfers could happen at Columbia City and Link markets would be covered.

        Speaking of coverage, funny how no one seems to complain that the 36-owl drops out of the SDOT proposal… SDOT is taking service from SE Seattle with this proposed revision.

        I agree with asdf2 that owl route numbering should have at least some similarity to daytime routes, especially if that daytime route is carrying 70K passengers every day! Actually, that’s one good thing about the SDOT work — it’s trying to use existing route numbers!

      13. I didn’t notice the 36 was dropped. Well, maybe Beacon Hill ridership was less than the others, or considered too close to Rainier.

        To me the least justified route is the 5, which is even closer to Aurora. The one place that would most justify it, Fremont and Dexter, isn’t getting it. So something should be looked at there.

      14. Another part of the proposed network that’s similar to the E/5 issue is West Seattle: overnight C-Line trips will use the freeway to skip over Pioneer Square and SODO (areas with nightlife, entertainment, industrial, and security jobs!), and so will additional late-night trips on the 120. In the daytime network the local corridor to West Seattle through SODO is covered by less popular routes like the 21 and 50 so the C Line and 120 can take fast routes to Alaska Junction and Delridge, respectively. Overnight, maybe the local corridor deserves coverage before the express corridor!

        Particularly in this case, since the C Line and 120 make no stops between downtown and West Seattle, late-night/overnight variants that take the local corridor instead of the freeway wouldn’t be so confusing… it would be like the nighttime extension of the 124 to Sea-Tac, except in the middle of the route.

      15. This is where the need for coverage and the simplicity of the RapidRide brand collide. It would be easy enough for the C to skip 99 because there are no stops there, but it would be harder for the E to move off Aurora because there are stops there.

        Maybe we should give up on the purity of no special night routes. The most important thing is to get rid of the minor-street loop detours, not abolish all special routes. A 5N-Dexter should probably get a different number if Metro is not willing to give it an “N” suffix on the signs or something like the the “Night/Sunday Route” destination like the 4 has. And deviations from RapidRide should also probably get different numbers, because how are you going to explain that a non-RapidRide stop is a RapidRide stop and it’s skipping another RapidRide stop, or that the bright C-in-a-circle on a bus stop sign is only late night? People will inevitably be confused and it will dilute the RapidRide band. A Link shadow bus that makes extra stops is not as much an issue because it’s obviously not a train.

      16. “if Metro is not willing to give it an “N” suffix on the signs”

        I mean, on the route number.

  9. Just thought of another consideration – does all-night service on the 44 mean the elimination of late-night trips on the 43 (with the #44 buses no remaining in service, rather than deadheading back to the base)?

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