With no plans to add any new service in 2018, it’s back to maintenance mode for Sound Transit. Instead, the agency will concentrate on two large-scale Eastside bus restructures to be implemented in 2018 and 2019, according to the recently released draft of 2018 Sound Transit’s Service Implementation Plan. The plan combines five-year service planning with in-depth route and corridor performance data.
In 2017, the agency added two new Sounder round trips and invested 15,000 annual bus hours into ST Express.
Highlights from the proposed 2018 SIP:
Eastside bus restructuring
Construction will start next year on Judkins Park Station, closing the Rainier Freeway Station and D-2 Roadway, and requiring changes to bus routes that cross I-90. Sound Transit anticipates the board will consider service changes in early 2018 with implementation later that year. According to a spokesperson for Sound Transit, plans for I-90 bus route changes are not yet final but could be released as early as January.
Changes are also coming to buses that cross SR 520, but not until 2019. Next year, Sound Transit plans to continue public outreach on restructuring proposals for SR 520 buses. Preparing for increased congestion on Seattle’s streets on top of the closure of the Downtown Transit Tunnel to buses, King County Metro and Sound Transit want to funnel downtown-bound Eastside bus riders to the Link at the UW Station. Earlier this year, the agency presented two possible service options changes including re-directing most or some buses coming from the Eastside to the UW light rail station and expanding service to South Lake Union and Children’s Hospital.
No New Long-Term Investments in ST Express
Next year ST Express service hours and miles will continue to rise, as the 15,000 hours added in 2017 operate for a full year. But beyond 2018, no new investments in ST Express are expected.
More trains will be added to the system over the next five years. In 2016 the board approved the purchase of 122 additional light rail vehicles from Siemens Industry, Inc. The new trains are expected to begin trickling in starting in 2019. An additional 30 were ordered in 2017 and are scheduled to arrive within 18 months after final delivery of the previous order. The additional railcars should alleviate crowding on many Link trips.
Sound Transit expects Link ridership to continue growing, with annual ridership growing 7.6% over 2017, exceeding 25 million by the end of 2018. New Sounder trains added in 2017 are expected to push up ridership 8 percent over the last year. Meanwhile modest ridership growth is anticipated on ST Express buses and Tacoma Link — two percent growth is projected for ST Express with Tacoma Link ridership remaining flat.
By 2023 Sound Transit predicts system ridership will jump 62 percent, with much of that increase coming from new Link stations, spurring a 115% rise in boardings.