Northgate Link is about four years away from opening. The light rail extension will have a major impact on transit in the region, especially in Northeast Seattle. By then the Roosevelt HCT will also be operating. Here is a proposal for a bus restructure to take advantage of both projects.
I’ve tried to design a system that enables fast, frequent service to the UW and Link stations. As always, a balance is made between the desire for coverage (minimal walking) versus speed and frequency. I’ve focused my efforts on the clusters of apartments that exist in the area, while still retaining a reasonable walking distance for everyone. As part of this restructure, I’ve tried to remove turns, which slow down buses. Effort has been made to consolidate routes and provide more of a grid, but given the geography of the area, it remains a challenge.
I haven’t drawn every bus route (obviously) but have focused only on those north of the ship canal, east of I-5, and south of 145th NE. Many of the routes are unchanged (26, 347, 348 and 372). Here is a description of the rest, in numerical order:
Roosevelt HCT — I assume this ends at 65th NE.
41 — This bus starts in Lake City at the old location, and ends in Northgate. It has been moved from 125th to Northgate Way, following the old route of the 75. I believe this is the fastest way to get to Link from Lake City, although going to Roosevelt is close.
44 — This is the tentative routing for the RapidRide+ route that will replace the 44.
45 — This has been modified to provide an east-west connection in the area. The western part is the same, while the eastern part replaces the eastern part of the 62.
48 — Essentially the same, but moved to serve The Ave (University Way). This is a minor change, but it consolidates service on the Ave. Since there are far fewer buses running in the U-District, this provides a nice way to move people through the main commercial corridor in the area (and a block closer to Link).
61 — This is a new route from Lake City to the Roosevelt Link Station. It avoids the congestion close to the freeway by using 20th NE. I consider the route optional (discussed in more detail below). It would end at the Green Lake Park and Ride or tie into the 62.
62 — This is the western part of the old 62, and it remains unchanged. It would tie into the 61 or 65.
63 — Another bus route that I consider optional, this provides coverage along 5th NE and Banner Way NE.
65 — This connects Wedgewood to Roosevelt Link Station. The northern section remains the same, but instead of serving the UW, it travels on 65th towards Roosevelt. It would tie into the 62 or end at the Green Lake Park and Ride.
66 — This provides direct service between Wedgewood and the UW.
67 — This replaces the 67 and 73. I essentially straighten out the 67, and have it continue on the main corridor of the area: Roosevelt/Pinehurst/15th.
74 — This is a combination of the 74 and 78, designed primarily to provide coverage.
75 — The southern section of the 75 is unchanged, but at Lake City the bus would go straight on 125th, following the old route of the 41. This eliminates turns for both buses.
I created layers containing a couple of the bus routes as well as a variation on 65. This should make it easier to see how the system would look without the bus routes (or variation) that I don’t consider essential.
61 — The 61 provides a fast connection between Lake City Way and the Roosevelt Link Station. With other service to Link from Lake City, this route is debatable. It is only when you look at the specifics that this starts to make sense. There is a cluster of apartments on Lake City Way, south of where the 372 splits off. For the people in those apartments, the 372 is a surprisingly long walk. For example, from 89th and Lake City Way, it is about a ten minute walk to a southbound stop. Theoretically the city could make crossing Lake City Way easier (and legal) at 89th, but it would still take about five minutes. For a lot of places to the south, it would be an extra five minute walk to a bus stop. Worse yet, the bus would not quickly connect to Link, but follow the existing route, which goes to the UW. This adds another five minutes of walking (to the station).
63 — The 63 plugs a similar hole. This would provide a one seat ride to various parts of the corridor (NE 5th and 85th NE to 55th and the Ave.). There are a couple clusters of apartments along the way; on Banner and on 5th NE. In both cases it is about a five minute walk to another bus. For folks on Banner, the walk would be to the new 45 and you can make a strong case for very frequent service on the 45. It also isn’t that far to simply walk to Link or the very frequent Roosevelt HCT.
65 Variation — If the 65 took a zigzag route from 35th over to 15th, it would add coverage. Unfortunately it would also slow down the bus, as it would require a couple extra turns (that lack turn signals). The people who would benefit the most from this change would be people who live close to this variation, and there aren’t many that do.
I don’t have access to sophisticated tools, so when it comes to estimating the new headways, everything here is a rough approximation. I start with the idea of simply trading service, then go from there. With that in mind, here are some areas where I think things would be approximately the same:
The 372, 347, 348 are unchanged, while the tail of the 75 and 41 just get swapped.
The 67 just gets moved a bit (straightened out), but travel time should be about the same. All those twists and turns add up.
The 65 is shortened, but not dramatically. The 66 replaces the 71 and the 61 replaces the 73. These are half hour buses.
The 45 and 62 can be thought as four pieces, all meeting at 65th and Roosevelt. Three of the four pieces remain unchanged in terms of frequency, while the southern tail of the old 45 (service from 65th and Roosevelt to the UW) goes away. This is a net savings (mentioned below).
The new 74 replaces the old 74 and the 78. That should yield enough for half hour service all day long on the new 74.
Replacing the 76, 77 and the old 63 with the new 63 should yield half hour service.
Thus the starting point — before service is shifted from truncated runs — is for every bus in the region to run every 15 minutes, with the exception of the 61, 66, 74 and 63 (which run every half hour).
Shifting the Service
There are significant savings that will occur as part of these changes. I focus on all day service, just because it is simpler.
As mentioned, the tail of the old 45 (from 65th and Roosevelt to the U-District) is gone with my proposal. This has 15 minute headways, or four trips per hour. I would put that service into the new 41 (from Lake City to Northgate via Northgate Way). It is roughly the same distance, so theoretically that would be 8 runs an hour. That is probably a stretch (and probably not required), but 6 trips an hour (or 10 minute frequency) seems quite likely. Since this is the fastest way to a Link station for folks in Lake City, I think it is worth it.
The 41 from Northgate to downtown is gone. That is a huge savings, as it is a 15 minute all day run from Lake City to downtown. The old run takes about as long as the new 45 will take. The new 45 is very important (as a major east-west connector) so I would give it an extra two runs each hour, for ten minute headways.
So that leaves a couple of the old 41 runs (if not more) to spread around to the half hour buses (63, 74 and 66) or bump up the frequency on other buses in the system. I think better service on the 61 is justified, and that wouldn’t cost much (bringing it up from 30 minutes to 15). The 74 would be my second choice, as extra service on The Ave is always welcome.
While it would be great to have extra service on a lot of the other runs in this region, I don’t see it as being essential. As long as you have 15 minute service on all the runs, and much better service on the key routes (the new 41 and 45) I think it is fine. I would put the extra service into bus routes in other parts of town. Of course if some of the half hour bus routes were eliminated, it could mean better than 15 minute service on several runs. For example, the 63 service could be shifted to the 67, yielding 10 minute all day frequency, making the change more palatable.
Items not Covered
To simplify things, I didn’t mention the 522. It is likely that the 522 would follow the new 41 routing to Northgate Link. I don’t think it makes sense to follow the 372 routing (for reasons mentioned) but I could see running towards the Roosevelt Station. Either way you have the possibility of some service savings (that could be put anywhere) if you timed it right. Otherwise, you simply add service along that corridor (which is not a bad thing, as Lake City has enough density to justify it).
I also didn’t mention the 145th station, nor the 522 BRT (which ends there). Surprisingly enough, I don’t see any major changes as a result. Some of the buses (the 65 and 67) simply get extended a few blocks to 145th.
The bigger change would occur with the NE 130th station, but I leave that topic for another day. It would be great to have a nice east-west bus route on 125th/130th before then, but I think it would be hard to justify. Such a bus route needs high frequency to work well (since transfers provide a big part of the added value) but that costs a bunch. I just don’t see adding a route that goes from Bitter Lake to Lake City until that station is built.