Eastside mayors want Metro and Sound Transit to relocate bus stops to improve bus-rail transfers before implementing service changes. The proposed restructuring would funnel Eastside bus commuters heading downtown to light rail at the University of Washington Station. That transfer requires riders to cross the busy streets of Montlake Boulevard and/or Pacific Street or use an out of the way walkway to switch between modes of transportation.
“Increasing commute times by 20 minutes while creating more mobility downtown will only incentivize single occupancy vehicles to drive to downtown Seattle rather than stick with public transportation,” wrote the seven Eastside Mayors in a letter to Metro and Sound Transit.
The Mayors want bus stops relocated to be adjacent to the light rail station and mobility improvements through the Montlake Hub. STB’s own Adam Parast showed one way to accomplish this in 2015 (pictured below).
“Sound Transit is supportive of improvements to the transfer environment at UW. King County Metro owns the bus shelters, and they are in active conversations about this with the City of Seattle and UW,” wrote Rachelle Cunningham, a spokesperson for Sound Transit in an email.
Metro estimates transfers currently take anywhere from 6-11 minutes, depending on direction and time of travel.
“The service concepts we’ve introduced would increase frequency on many Eastside routes, which would help reduce the time that riders would have to wait at the stop,” wrote Scott Gutierrez, a spokesperson for Metro in an email.
He said Metro is considering a range of changes, including relocation of stops, extending bus shelters, providing off-board payment and improving signage.
The restructure is partially intended to prepare for the closure of the Downtown Transit Tunnel to buses, now scheduled for sometime in 2019. The current proposed service change includes requiring downtown-bound Eastside bus riders to transfer to light rail at the UW Station, which would then free up buses allowing for expanded services to new areas and an increase the frequency of buses.
Disagreement on the public benefits package has delayed construction on the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center Addition project. This allows buses to continue using the Downtown Transit Tunnel a little longer, giving the advisory group, One Center City, more time to development and implement short term projects to improve mobility downtown during the period of “maximum constraint.”
Several participating advisory group members echoed the Eastside Mayors’ concern with the proposed restructuring urging Metro and Sound Transit to use the additional time to improve the transfer experience.
During the July 13 meeting of the One Center City advisory group, the Seattle Department of Transportation told participants more work is needed on the near-term strategies to deal with congestion and mobility as a multitude of redevelopment and transit projects begin.
“This work that is underway now, taking some feedback from the advisory group and elsewhere, really looking at if are there additional transit speed and reliability interventions, that we looked at earlier and want to bring back on the table. Maybe some things we haven’t yet looked at,” said Tom Brennan of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.
He said the goal is to have concrete near-term recommendations by the end of August, but the city did present a list of near-term pedestrian improvements, which the Seattle Department of Transportation said can be implemented in the next six years.
Susan McLaughlin, an Urban Design Manager with the Seattle Department of Transportation, said the agency looked at planned capital projects and channeling existing funding to projects in the center city.
Projects include reducing pedestrian crossing distances at angled intersection along Denny Way, improving the pedestrian experience at mobility hubs, developing an age-friendly toolkit and enhancing wayfinding in the center city.
Senior Transportation Planner Eric Tweit said one goal is to have a protected bike lane couplet using paint and posts, along Pike and Pine between First Street and 8th Street, done this year. The bike lane would extend on to Capitol Hill in the next few years.
The next One Center City meeting is scheduled for September.