[Note: Not an April Fools’ post.]
As part of the One Center City process, Metro and Sound Transit are currently seeking feedback and convening a Sounding Board for proposals to restructure SR 520 service to UW Station, with survey submissions due Sunday, April 2.
The SR 520 process is farther along because it already had a trial run during the initial ULink Connections outreach process in 2015. But though the near-term pain is far more acute in the I-90 corridor, outreach there has been far less extensive. Sometime this year, South Bellevue Park and Ride will close for 5 years. Just 2 months from now, unless Mercer Island successfully delays it through litigation, the express lanes will close for East Link construction and I-90 bus service will use the general roadway (albeit in new HOV lanes) for the next 6 years.
We’ve heard that the current proposal for I-90 – proposing to truncate Route 550 at International District Station while leaving other I-90 services relatively untouched – has been unpopular. So here’s a proposal: kill the 550, or reroute it over SR 520.
[Action Alert: regardless of what you think of the following proposal, if you want to see I-90 service considered as part of the SR 520 restructure process, get your comments in TODAY, and/or send your comments to King County Councilmember, Sound Transit Boardmember, and Bellevue Resident Claudia Balducci.]
Route 550 is a short, simple, high-performing route (page 170). It boasts 11,000 weekday boardings, with 4,700 on Saturdays and 3,000 on Sundays. It serves the core markets of Downtown Bellevue and Downtown Seattle, with just two intermediate markets, South Bellevue and Mercer Island. In the peak direction, with service every 5 minutes and roughly 90 boardings per trip, the route carries 1,100 people per hour to/from Seattle. All-day, bi-directional demand is strong.
But since its intermediate markets – South Bellevue and Mercer Island – are being so disrupted by East Link construction, the route will become much more about its endpoints. Once you’re talking about the best way to service the Downtown Bellevue-Downtown Seattle markets, SR 520 becomes a much more attractive option.
3 Reasons to Consider Restructuring Route 550
Pathway Length: all 3 possible pathways are equivalent in length, so we’re not talking about anyone detouring out of their way. Bellevue Transit Center to Westlake is 11.4 miles via SR 520, 11.5 via SR 520 and Link, and 11.7 via I-90.
Endpoint Ridership: 76% of Route 550’s ridership comes from Downtown Bellevue stops (28%) and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (49%). I-90/Rainier accounts for 3%, Mercer Island is 11%, and South Bellevue stops account for 10%.
Transit Priority: Third, SR 520 has superior transit priority, with HOV-3, bus-only sections, and inline freeway stations. I-90 already performs poorly in the reverse-peak direction, and peak performance will suffer beginning in June.
Options for a 550 Restructure
- Send it over SR 520 into Downtown. If Metro or Sound Transit want to restructure most services away from Downtown but still keep a route or two serving both 520 and Downtown, Route 550 could be the one to do it. If the Stewart pathway into Downtown is untenable during Convention Center construction, the route could use a number of other pathways, including Union-University, James-Cherry, etc.
- Cancel the 550 entirely. Under this option most of Route 550’s hours could go into creating a high frequency, all-day Route 556. Downtown Bellevue to Downtown Seattle riders would use 556 or 271+Link. Mercer Island to Bellevue service could come either from extending Route 249 to Mercer Island, or extending Route 204 to Bellevue Transit Center. All-day service from Mercer Island to Seattle would continue to be provided by Route 554, boosted during peak by Route 216. If this proved inadequate, you could resurrect Route 202, or add a stop on Routes 111, 114, 212, 214, and 217.
- Create a new Bellevue-SLU peak route. The 550’s service hours could also be redeployed to serve SR 520, Link, and South Lake Union via the I-5 express lanes. Similar to the binned proposal for Route 311 in the original Link connections proposal, “Route 551” could travel via I-405, SR 520, UW Station, Pacific Street, Campus Parkway, NE 42nd Street, I-5 Express Lanes, and Mercer Street. The route could end in Queen Anne, or preferably Interbay once Expedia moves in. Transit advocates everywhere should salivate at the idea of getting some transit right-of-way on Mercer Street.
What do you think?