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In the first place, I absolutely dislike the through-route system, though I understand Metro uses it to save money. There are three places I see that use the through-route system: Downtown, University of Washington, and Northgate. Here are some of my opinions on the Downtown through-routes.

I think some of the through-routes are a bit mismatched. For example, Route 124 is through-routed with routes 24 and 33 Monday through Saturday, but since Route 124 runs at a lower Sunday frequency than the combined 24 and 33, Route 33 has to be through-routed with a different route on Sundays only. I think it would be simpler if a route would through-route with the same route all 7 days a week.

Sometimes, two routes are coordinated to provide frequent service along a shared corridor. Sometimes it makes sense, as in the case of routes 3 and 4, but I think it does not make sense with routes 26 and 28, now that they run express along the shared corridor (Aurora Ave). Plus, that corridor already has frequent service from Route 5 and RapidRide E Line.

I also think through-routing does not make sense for long routes. Examples include routes 5, 124, 131, 132. These routes should just terminate in Downtown.

Here is my list of revised through routes. The format is: North Route–South Route. I split some routes that already go straight through Downtown, so I have to renumber some of the portions of these routes. For example, Route 2N will become Route 23, and Route 3N/4N will become Route 34.


*Currently, routes 70 and 36 operate at different frequencies. However, due to the increasing popularity of Route 70, a frequency boost would be nice.

22 Replies to “New through-routes for Downtown?”

  1. “The increasing popularity of route 70” is only temporary. When U-District Station opens, the 70’s ridership will return to people whose origin or destination is along Eastlake or Fairview. Right now it’s carrying loads of people who used to ride the 7X expresses.

    1. And also carrying lots of former riders of the 66, a route that should never have gone away….transferring at Campus Parkway is a big time-consuming hassle. Even when Link Roosevelt station opens, it won’t help the many folks living up there who need to go to the South Lake Union area.

    2. I think Metro plans to combine Routes 67 and 70 into a frequent Route 66. The main difference will be that it will run much more frequently than the old Route 66 or the current 67 and 70.

      Route 70 is one of the three ways to get from UW to Downtown, the others being Link and the 49. There is also the 512, but I would not count it because it stops too far away from the campus. I don’t think Northgate Link will help much with this, considering many people transfer to Link at the current Husky Stadium Station. The only difference with Northgate Link is that it will go farther north, and people will transfer at the Northgate, Roosevelt, and Brooklyn stations instead of at Husky Stadium. As @Elbar pointed out, many people use Route 70 to get to South Lake Union, both from UW/Northeast Seattle and from Downtown, so I don’t think ridership will decrease once Northgate Link opens. If anything, ridership would increase.

      1. Have you heard any rumors as to when such 67/70 combination is likely to happen? If it means waiting until 2021 when the Northgate Link portion opens, that is way way too long to wait. Should have happened yesterday.

      2. The U-Link restructure is meant to last until 2021, so sorry. SDOT is working on Roosevelt BRT which is part of the puzzle, and it’s still several years away. If it’s not ready by 2021, Metro may simply put a Frequent route along it. However, there’s a discrepency between Roosevelt BRT and Metro’s LRP that hasn’t been clarified yet. Roosevelt BRT was originally going to go go Northgate but was truncated to 43rd or 65th for budget reasons. They haven’t decided whether it will be a trolley bus, battery bus, or something else. But extending trolley wire to Northgate is not on because SDOT doesn’t have enough money for, and Metro doesn’t have a trolley extension budget either. So if Roosevelt BRT is a trolley bus, the “67” would have to be a separate route. Whereas if Roosevelt is a battery bus, maybe Metro could fund the rest of the cost to extend it to Northgate. (That would require more special buses though, which somebody would have to buy.)

      3. Also note that Roosevelt BRT is not exactly like the 66: it goes on Eastlake-Fairview like the 70, not on Eastlake-Eastlake.

        There’s currently a transit hole on Eastlake between Denny and Mercer every since the 66 and 25 were deleted. It’s a short distance but it does have midrise office buildings. Metro’s 2025 plan addresses it by turning the 2N into an east-west route from 6th Ave W to Mercer, Harrison, Eastlake, Belmont, Aloha, and 23rd to John. That covers part of the Eastlake hole although it leaves me wondering how you’re supposed to get to it from downtown or elsewhere in the region, since Ballard Link is a long ways off, Aloha is six blocks from Capitol Hill Station, and the Madison transfer is a long slow ride from Eastlake. I guess you’d take Roosevelt BRT to Fairfiew & Harrison and walk or transfer there, but that’s the situation now with the 70.

        2040 adds a second similar route from Magnolia.

      4. The Madison BRT is supposed to take six years from planning until scheduled completion. If the Roosevelt HCT* project takes the same amount of time, it should be done right around when Northgate Link is complete.

        In one of the handouts they specify money for each segment, and include “Catenary”, which I assume is running wire. Mike is right — it won’t go to Northgate. It will either go to 45th or 65th. If I had to guess, I would say they only go to 45th. I think the corridor is nice, but not as important as the other corridors, so I don’t see them spending more money than they have to.

        More to the point, I could see several buses converge onto 65th, and keep going to the U-District. The 45 and 67 do that right now. That gives that section (65th to 45th) good frequency (and it would be even better if the buses ran on the same street).

        I would love to see the numbers on the 67. I wonder how many people get on the bus on 5th, ride the bus as it makes the button hook on Roosevelt, and then get off before 65th. If only a handful of people do that (as I suspect) I think you can make a good case for straightening out the line, and having the 67 replace the 73. That combines two existing bus routes, while making for faster, straighter bus service, like so:

        I could also see a split. One bus route like that (going on Roosevelt/15th to the city border) and another bus like this: This second route is the route that the Roosevelt HCT would take if it went all the way to Northgate. This gives SDOT a chance to try out the route (or at least part of it). That might be overkill — we might not be able to give all those routes decent service. But if you could manage 15 minute service, it would mean that someone could take either bus route from 75th to 45th on Roosevelt (as well as the 45 which at least travels along Roosevelt part of the way). This would mean really good service from the Roosevelt Station to spots in between there and the U-District station, which would ease the pain of not having the Roosevelt HCT extend that far (for now).

        * They don’t bother to call the Roosevelt project “BRT” anymore, but still call the Madison project “BRT”.

      5. Not to detract from your point or anything, but the 45 and 67 currently arrive at 65th/Roosevelt within a minute or two of each other (or at least they’re scheduled to), so frequency between 65th and the U District/UW station is still roughly every 10/15 minutes and there’s no real frequency gain from having two bus routes running in that corridor. I don’t understand why they don’t just stagger the schedules for all-day 5/7.5 minute headways. Seems like a real missed opportunity.

      6. They aren’t the same corridor, they just overlap at two convenient points. The 67 runs on Roosevelt and the 45 runs on University Way where it supplements the frequency on the 71 and 73. I have benefited from the 45/71/73 overlap on the Ave, the 45/67 overlap at 65th & Roosevelt, and the 71/73 at 65th & 15th. They’re only a few blocks apart but it’s such a dense area that it makes sense. Metro originally to run the 45 and 67 at 10-minute frequencies and have only a daytime 73 and no 71, but the public feedback was to keep service on 15th, and the hours were taken out of the 45 and 67.

      7. I think Pat has a good point. In an ideal world, those two bus routes would be synchronized, at least in the south bound direction. They only overlap for a few blocks, but there are a fair number of people in that area. Of course there may be other synchronization, which gets to Mike’s point. For example, the 75, 67, 347/348 all go from the Northgate Transit Center to Northgate Way and Roosevelt. It is possible that those are designed to leave at roughly equal times. It is also possible that Metro isn’t concerned about it, or has other issues to deal with.

        In any event, I think it is way more likely that the two bus routes I mentioned could and would be designed to overlap with better headways. The two routes would be fairly close together, and the most important segment they serve would be from 65th to 45th. Unfortunately, during heavy traffic times, it might be challenging to time those two routes very well, even though they would be similar. Traffic around Northgate, for example, might be much heavier than that around Roosevelt (or vice versa).

  2. I used to hate through-routing because delays on either half accumulate through the whole line, and it never made sense to give one-seat rides to arbitrary places as if the residents in one half are more likely to go to the other half rather than somewhere else. But over the years I’ve grown to appreciate even the arbitrary pairs, because if I’m in north Seattle going to Cosco it’s just as easy to go to Fremont and transfer there rather than going downtown and transferring. And sometimes transferring outside downtown is more pleasant, especially to avoid the 3rd & Union bus stop or downtown crowding. And when the 14 went to Summit I took it from 8th & Jackson & Summit, and when the 7/49 were through-routed I did the same thing. And when the 11/125 were through-routed it was a one-seat ride to the library.

    Through-routing isn’t just to save Metro money, it’s also to minimize bus layovers downtown. Bus layovers are essentially bus parking spaces, and when two separate routes go through downtown they use twice as much road space as one through-routed bus. The city has asked Metro to minimize layovers downtown as much as possible, which is why an increasing number of routes are through-routed or go all the way through downtown to a terminus in SLU or Pioneer Square or First Hill.

    A lot of things will change with One Center City, RapidRide+ and Metro’s LRP, so these are probably just a holding pattern. The city and Metro’s goal is to get at least three more RapidRide lines on 3rd Avenue and cut down on the number of non-RapidRide buses on 3rd. Some RapidRide lines will replace existing routes (the 7 and 40). Other riders will shift to Link. Other riders will transfer outside downtown to Link, RapidRide, Frequent, or Express routes to get downtown. The mass of other routes downtown will greatly diminish.

    The 3/4 is ridiculous now that 2/3 of the route is identical. But again it’s just a holding pattern. It will be gone by the time East Link opens, which is just six years away. And people on Queen Anne are used to “the 3 goes to the eastern CD, the 4 goes to the southern CD”.

    1. Yeah, the other thing that through routes do is reduce bus congestion. Since we are struggling with buses slowing down buses (as more of them get shoved out of the tunnel) it makes sense to have some through routes, even though it can really mess up the schedule.

  3. We are slowly moving away from having lots of riders on many longer-distance bus routes in Downtown to using light rail. We’ll have light rail extending in three directions by 2023. It will grow to 4 in 2030 with West Seattle, and 5 with SLU/LQA/Ballard in 2035. Every new corridor won’t have the speed constraints of the first Rainier Valley segment either; Riders in Wallingford could easily want to shift to using rail after 2021, for example. I can’t imagine why anyone in Shoreline would choose to ride RapidRide E all the way to Downtown IF there is a new RapidRide route that turns and goes to Northgate station after 2021. The new ST rail system creates corridors that will allow for almost anyone near a City of Seattle rail station to get to Downtown within 15-20 minutes to be Downtown. In contrast, it can take longer than that to ride a bus through the core of Downtown from more than 2 miles away today.

    It’s entirely possible that riders more than 2-4 miles away from Downtown will be prefer a faster feeder bus and light rail trip (with better connectivity like better escalators, elevators and transfer points). It will be a major cultural shift from the way that it is today, but it’s very likely to happen. Even riders from areas like Queen Anne and the CD could choose to shift to bus-rail trip-making once the larger system begins to operate.

    With that in mind, I think crosstown interlining could be a more viable way to structure the rail system rather than have interlined routes go completely through Downtown.

    The remaining routes that serve close-in areas (say less than 2-3 miles) as well as RapidRide routes can still be interlined through Downtown. It may be best to keep them short and have both ends at a rail or planned rail station. Then, they can be operated with almost continuous buses that would be so frequent that schedule adherence would not be as important.

    For comparison, take a look at how many bus routes travel through Downtown Portland! Sure there are a few major bus routes operating, but frankly there aren’t many. It’s hard to find a stop that has more than three bus routes. I can’t find a single stop with more than five. I think that’s the direction that we are headed.

    1. Metro is keeping one-seat rides parallel to the train lines but moving them further away to support the next neighborhood over rather than competing directly with the rail line. So in West Seattle RapidRide will shift to the 120 rather than the C, and it will be truncated at Intl Dist. The C routing is replaced by an Express route from Fauntleroy to the Junction and SLU (in the DBT, so no downtown stops). Some people will probably take it to SLU and transfer back to downtown on another RapidRide. There will be a RapidRide on California Ave but it will go from Alki to Burien.

      Likewise for Ballard-downtown, RapidRide will shift to the 40. There will be a RapidRide on 15th but it will be a Ballard – Lake City line (Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer).

      And for north Seattle Link stations to downtown there will be things like Roosevelt BRT and 62 RapidRide,

      Breaking up the E would sever the Aurora corridor. I’m already worried about that with the plans to split the 7 and Roosevelt BRT. A lot of people go from Aurora to Aurora for shopping and other events, or to transfer to the 44 or 45. Breaking up an urban corridor is what you don’t want to do. There’s a need to get from Shoreline and Butter Lake to Link, but that’s what east-west feeders are for. 185th will have Swift. Metro will have Frequent routes on 185th, 175th, 155th, 145th, and 130th. If somebody is between those, they’ll be a maximum 10 blocks from a route.

    2. Oh, you may be thinking about the gap between North Link and Lynnwood Link, when the stations north of Northgate will not exist. But that’s just a two-year gap. (Unless the federal grant evaporates.) Metro won’t restructure for just two years. It will restructure Northgate south in 2021, and Shoreline in 2023. Some of the northern routes may be “pre-structured” in 2021, but that would more likely affect routes that already go to Northgate, not the E which has a major parallel responsibility.

      1. Yes, I agree that some Shoreline transit riders will prefer to use 145th or 185th before Northgate once Lynnwood Link opens.

        I’m not impressed with how the Metro LRP currently handles this, as they continue to show long routes with way too many that extend all the way into Downtown Seattle, especially when they are not RapidRide routes. Instead, I think there is a better market for things like an overlay C-shaped bus route that serves the entire Aurora commercial district that connects to 185th as well as connects to Link somewhere further south like Northgate or Roosevelt stations (maybe even going in front of Northwest Hospital).

        Still, my bigger point about Northgate Link opening is more conceptual: I believe that many northwest and north central Seattle riders will — some quickly and some after a few years — shift from buses that go to and through Downtown Seattle to buses that will get them to a rail station in North Seattle. (It’s only going to be about a reliable 15-minute ride from Northgate to Westlake, compared to about a 25-minute ride from 105th to Westlake on RapidRide E!) After 2035, northwest Seattle residents will adopt the same mindset. We simply won’t need lots of through routes into and out of Downtown that extend more than 3 or 4 miles because many riders will prefer to get to the nearest rail station instead. That will impact RapidRide E ridership a bit, but probably will affect other, slower north Seattle routes even more. I expect that after 2035, Metro won’t see as many riders on the Downtown segments of its north Seattle buses if they keep the ones in the current LRP, and instead will see high transfer activities at outlying rail stations. I even think Metro staff knows this will happen, but won’t include it in the current LRP because it will outrage too many non-visionary bus riders.

        Back to the original post, I think that we will end up with fewer local bus routes to interline than the post suggests. The local (non-RapidRide) buses that will be productive and thus remain will be the ones that do not extend too far, so that interlining the remaining ones will be easier and appropriate.

      2. Which specific routes do you consider too downtown-centric in a Linkified future? The 5, 40, or 62? The E you mentioned. The “522” Express we can consider an extra and backup insurance. Roosevelt RR everyone thinks is worthwhile, the only complaints are that it’s not more extensive. What other routes go from north of 45th to downtown?

        Some streets have multiple simultaneous transit markets. The E should go from at least 185th to 46th. (And ideally to 35th if we ever get that Fremont elevator.) Once it reaches 46th it’s cumbersome to turn around so it might as well continue to SLU, and once it gets to SLU it might as well go downtown. It’s only one route.

        There may be a few excessively centrist routes but overall I think Metro has done a pretty good job of reorienting the one-seat rides to start from the next neighborhood further away from the Link station and/or to skirt downtown and end at an adjacent neighborhood (First Hill, SODO, SLU, CD). That is a promising innovation. Jarrett Walker has written about how lots of people travel to downtown-adjacent neighborhoods but their transit networks force them to transfer downtown. This reverses the situation, and will reveal how many people are really going to the adjacent neighborhoods. (And how many will forego Link to get there.)

      3. Having the E go downtown also meets Seattle’s goal of having RapidRide absorb most of the downtown bus passengers and shrinking the number of non-RapidRide routes downtown. Some of those trips are intra-downtown circulation. If the E doesn’t go downtown it can’t contribute to it.

    3. Bus routes will certainly be modified and truncated as Link expands. Bus routes that are express in nature, as well as those that pass close to a Link station are likely to change dramatically. The best example is the 41 (a major bus route) that will be truncated for sure.

      But the E is not like that. It doesn’t come close to any Link station, nor is it an express. The only part of it that is close to being an express is too far south to work well with Link. When a Ballard to UW line is built, then I could easily see the E being truncated close to the zoo (by a station). You would save a bunch of money by truncating there. There are a handful of stops south of the Aurora bridge, but the 5 could serve those. The E does not go to Belltown, and there are no plans to go to Belltown (with a tunnel of any sort) so that is a problem (unless the WSTT plans get resurrected). But the savings from a truncated E would be huge, not unlike the savings when the 71/72/73 were truncated. Many riders had a slower ride to downtown, but the region overall came out ahead because of more efficient service (which lead to much better headways).

      On the other hand, Northgate Link does not offer that kind of savings. If you are at 105th an Aurora, and want to drive to Belltown, you keep going on Aurora. More to the point, the Northgate Station is hard to get to. Unlike the freeway ramp, it isn’t even on Northgate Way. By the time you get to Northgate Station, the existing E is very close to where Aurora becomes a freeway. It is hard to say when (or if) Link ever catches up. My guess is that it is a wash — Link will get you to Westlake around the time the E gets you to South Lake Union.

      Of course making that sort of connection would make the connection to the UW (and Capitol Hill) much faster. But it wouldn’t be cheap. Unlike with a Ballard to UW subway truncation, it would actually cost money. It isn’t cheap to send a bus over to Northgate TC. The Aurora corridor, from 105th to 45th, is only covered by the E. So now you are running two buses — one that cuts over at Northgate, and another one that just goes north to 105th. You’ve added extra service on Northgate Way — an area that already has good service (and will soon have RapidRide+ style service). The split costs money; the extra (some would say redundant) coverage costs money, and all you’ve really done is provide a one seat ride from the north end of Aurora to Northgate for those unwilling to transfer between two very frequent bus routes.

      Meanwhile, you’ve made it tougher for folks who just want to travel the Aurora corridor. You’ve basically traded one set of one seat rides for another. A trip from 85th and Aurora to 130th and Aurora is now a two seat ride.

      The only place where you would consider such a turn would be north of Northgate, at 130th or 145th. The latter would probably make the most sense, since the 145th station is being set up as a bus terminus, not a bus through route (i. e. getting from 145th and Aurora to 145th and Lake City Way is designed now to be a two seat ride). So making an ‘L” shaped route for the north end of the ‘E’ has some merit. Start at the same spot (Aurora Village) then head south on Aurora and then cut over to Link at 145h. A series of similar ‘L’ shaped runs (perhaps slightly overlapping) might make sense.

      But again, that costs extra money. Meanwhile, going a few miles up the road on SR 99 becomes a lot harder. That might not matter (you may be better off making the transfers) but I can imagine a lot of cases where you would be better off with what we have now. In general, I don’t see it. I think it is far more likely we emphasize more of a grid, even though the city has physical challenges doing that (because there are big sections where you can’t go east-west).

      1. Many mature limited stop routes around the US (like RapidRide) operate along with a parallel local route. By having this partly parallel local route, Metro could make RapidRide E go faster by dropping some stops.

        The route I’m suggesting could be modified to end at Roosevelt Link . That would serve the entire section of Aurora with businesses.

        Finally, it would make a great deal of sense to extend RapidRide E less than a mile to 185th Link station. That would not only add riders to the empty north end of the route and give Aurora travelers a Link connection, but it would also give drivers a decent spot (with restrooms) for their breaks.

      2. Metro chose the opposite for RapidRide. Swift is limited-stop and has shadow routes, but RapidRide replaces the existing routes in the corridor. Link is the limited-stop parallel service in areas where it exists.

        In some cases RapidRide approaches limited-stop like between West Seattle Junction and south Fauntleroy Way, and on Aurora, but those are exceptions and they’re still pretty close (close enough to get from one to another in ten minutes).

  4. I’ve always appreciated the 2 being through-routed: coupled with the 8, it provided some redundancy to getting to the Pike-Pine corridor from Queen Anne / Belltown.

    Until Ballard Link is build to Harrison (?) and there’s a hyper-frequent shuttle / revived counterbalance from QA Hill, this is something I would like to keep (but I might be blinded by status quotitis).

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