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Since the introduction of the present timetable in September, Sammamish transit users (residents and workers) have enjoyed an all-day bus service. This has not happened since 2014, when Metro discontinued the 927 Dart van service as part of the service cuts at that time. The 927 was a pretty awful service only transiting the main 228th Street artery north of Pine Lake plaza every 2 hours. On the other hand, the new all-day service extends the hours of the 269 from its previous peak only schedule and now runs to a frequency of 30 minutes during off peak hours. At present the all-day service only runs on weekdays, but a Saturday service is promised after the March timetable changes.

The equipment used on the 269 was also upgraded in September: previously most journeys were serviced by the 1990s era Gillig Phantoms; now the newer New Flyer Xcelsiors are used for five out of the six buses needed during daytime off peak. However, whether transit users appreciate this update is a moot point as the Phantoms definitely have more comfortable seats; although the 30 feet Phantoms (which used to predominate, but are now not usually used) can be uncomfortable on hot summer days as they have no air conditioning. Another point to note is that presumably most drivers are now full time rather than part time Metro employees. Whereas the part timers were usually very welcoming, the full timers tend to be functional rather than friendly (there are some notable exceptions).

In the past the 269 was often threatened with closure, rather than expansion. In 2008 Metro proposed to eliminate the route. The second phase of cuts planned in 2014 was going to cut the peak hour 269 service by over 50%. What has brought about this recent improvement may be a bit of a puzzle, but it may have something to do with an active Transit Committee of Sammamish City Council. In the not too distant past transit to the City Council seemed to mean paving roads which were not in poor condition and widening roads, which were not narrow, for the benefit of the city’s residents, most of whom never leave home except in their own vehicles.

It is not easy to determine what are the medium and long-term plans for transit in Sammamish. The City Council did not support ST3, as this did not seem to propose any decent transit for Sammamish. Metro is pretty good at drawing up plans for the future, but these seem to change long before they are implemented. A couple of years ago a futuristic Metro transit map included a spider’s web of bus routes in Sammamish. Now the latest map just shows an express service duplicating the present 269. Why this is needed is not clear; skipping stops on 228th will not save more than a couple of minutes for most journeys. In fact, the present late night and early morning journeys on the 554 are of little use for those who do not live or park their vehicles near to the few stops serviced. It should be noted that most drivers on the late-night service seem to recognize this and are usually prepared to drop any passengers off at non-express stops, saving long walks in the dark (and in winter cold and rain).

The Transit Committee is also not clear about future requirements. A statement from the Chair that “228th Street is not designed for fast, efficient transit within Sammamish” is very puzzling. 228th is a straight road passing three main commercial areas as well as City Hall and a number of parks and leisure facilities. In what seems to be a contradiction to the statement, the Transit Committee has suggested that the 269 stays on 228th south of South Sammamish Park and Ride to give a much faster trip to Issaquah Transit Center; this would mean a bypass of Issaquah Highlands Park and Ride. According to the Committee, among the benefits of this would be to facilitate Costco members, but this writer cannot imagine many Costco members buying bulk items and then struggling with their packages onto the 269. Another possible contradiction is the desire to reintroduce service to Klahanie, which used to be served by the 927, quite often the lengthy transit of Klahanie did not result in any boardings or alighting. Clearly if the 269 were to serve Klahanie, the journey times to Costco and Issaquah Transit Center would be increased, not reduced. It appears that the Transit Committee is thinking of financially supporting some sort of venture such as the Issaquah Route 200 or the Redmond Loop.

Just how is the new all-day service doing? It was introduced almost as a secret. I did not see it on any Rider Alerts for the September timetable changes, although there was a vague mention on the Metro web site. It is difficult to see how the City Council could have given the change any meaningful publicity; apart from their website (perhaps visited regularly by only a tiny fraction of Sammamish residents and workers?) they don’t really have any outreach capability. The Sammamish Review newspaper, which used to be dumped in everybody’s front yard (and how many took it inside to read?) ceased publication earlier this year.

My observations are that the service is being used, but usually payload is very light. Most journeys through Sammamish have one or two riders, but more than three is quite a crowd. However, there is sometimes moderate ridership between 180th and 188th Ave in Redmond.

The 269 schedule leaflet used to state that the service was supported by Microsoft and the cities of Issaquah, Redmond and Sammamish. In recent years the leaflet has not stated this, but according to the Sammamish Transit Committee minutes there does still seem to be some support from that city at least. With a population of over 60,000 the Council obviously realizes that the city should have more transit than morning and evening peak commuter services to Seattle. Earlier posts on this blog as well as an article in the Issaquah Reporter have highlighted this problem. It is to be hoped that Metro gives its full support and that some way is found to inform potential users that the service does exist.

12 Replies to “Update from Sammamish”

  1. With the 269 including an Overlake tail on every trip, it seems to me that it could be taken off midday to save service hours.

    Turns out that (times for a random midday trip) that if the route was truncated at Bear Creek P&R would save 24 minutes out of 67. After that point, the route (with the exception of a circuitous route within Overlake) duplicates the 545, which has frequent service. Cutting out the Overlake tail alone would save about a third of service hours, potentially allowing use of 4 buses instead of 6. Cutting out Issaquah Highlands P&R off-peak in favor of a straighter route to downtown Issaquah (for connections to 271 and 554) will also save an unclear amount of service hours, maybe enough to use just 3 buses off-peak.

    So the route (let’s call it route 267) would start at Issaquah TC, go to SE 56th, turn left at E Lake Sammamish Pkwy, Turn right onto SE 43rd way which turns into 228th, then continues as the 269 and terminates at bear creek. 269 could run at peak and 267 could run at both peak and off-peak (both every 30 minutes). Midday service to the area between Issaquah Highlands P&R and the 267 route has service on route 200. If 267 could run with 3 buses at best (or conservatively 4 buses), that should be enough to pay for Saturday AND Sunday service (every 30 minutes even!), and service later into the night. Seems like a no-brainer.

    1. Certainly a good idea. It seems to be a bit baffling why Metro would want to put as many as six buses on this service at midday. And this plan would preserve the 30 minute service. Main drawback: the 269 is much quicker than the 545 between Bear Creek and NE51st Street. Seattle bound passengers staying on the 269 at Bear Creek before transfer often catch a 545 which left Bear Creek before the 269 arrived. There are other useful connections at 51st Street to University District and Rapid Ride. Perhaps the 267 could terminate at 51st Street; not a good place for a layover, but layover times at Issaquah Transit Centre could be increased?

    2. I definitely support the idea of straightening out the 269 in Issaquah. Besides quicker access to the shopping center, it’s also about quicker access to Seattle, via a transfer to the 554. Also worth noting that serving the shopping centers is not just about people carrying large groceries home. It’s also about getting the retail workers between their homes and their jobs. And, being forced to slog through an Issaquah Highlands P&R detour twice a day, every single day, just to get to work and back, is a great way to get people to abandon the transit experiment really fast.

      On the Redmond end, it would be nice if the bus could get at least to Redmond Transit Center, without requiring another connection, since Redmond Transit Center at least has some real stuff to do around there, while Bear Creek P&R is just a deserted parking lot, completely useless to anyone who didn’t park a car there. In fact, I would argue for having the 269 skip Bear Creek P&R altogether, and just go straight to Redmond Transit Center. Serving the P&R adds lots of extra turns and stoplights, for very little marginal benefit, since there’s nothing there except buses, and all the bus routes you could transfer to, you could transfer to at Redmond Transit Center, anyway, and probably get where you’re going faster. In theory, I suppose, some people could drive to the P&R to ride the 269 to Microsoft, but that seems very unlikely, in practice – the distance is short enough and the parking is free, so people already in their cars are just going to keep driving.

      In fact, I would argue against having any buses serve Bear Creek P&R, except for the 268 and 545, and those routes, only because they terminate there, and serve a destination (Seattle) that is actually worth the trouble of somebody already in their car to park and hop on a bus.

      1. I realize this should go without saying, but the schedules really need to be coordinated to minimize wait times for the 554 and 545 at each end – especially the 554, since it’s the less frequent of the two. All the straightening in the world doesn’t amount to much if you still have to sit at the transit center for 25 minutes in order to make a connection.

      2. asdf2 re your point about connections with the 554. Under the present schedules the 269s which arrive at Issaquah Highlands at 23 or 22 mins past the hour miss the 554 by 3 or 2 mins. Usually you can see the 554 driving out as the 269 drives in. Staying on the 269 until the Issaquah Transit Center sometimes works; as the 269 arrives the 554 may also be arriving and a fast alight and quick dash may allow a connection. If not its a 20 minute wait.

      3. Yup, the classic example of a pointless deviation for an imaginary connection. Without the detour, the time saved would make for a reliable connection to that same 554 at Issaquah Transit Center. While the detour that ostensibly enables the connection actually prevents it (at least without a 20 minute wait).

        My guess is that Metro has no idea why they’re doing it; that the 269 does its detour for no other reason than that that’s what it did for the past 20 years (or however long it’s been since the route existed).

  2. There’s a lot of zigzags in Overlake. Is this justified?

    “this writer cannot imagine many Costco members buying bulk items and then struggling with their packages onto the 269.”

    I go to the SODO Costco every week or two for groceries. I take Link to SODO and the 131/132 the rest of the way or walk 20 minutes, or I take the 131/132 from downtown. I’ve also gone to the Aurora Village Costco on the E when I’m in north Seattle. I take two canvas bags and my Swiss Gear backback, which is enough for regular shopping. Once or twice a year we get a Zipcar for large/heavy things. (PS. It saves around $10 per trip compared to supermarkets.)

    1. No the Zipcar costs around $40. We take stuff to Goodwill and the dump at the same time and do any other car errands. The $10 doesn’t fully compensate for for my time going to Costco without a car, but I hate being ripped off at supermarkets and drugstores or the environmental waste of small packaged things, plus Costco treats its employees well.

    2. The time would be shorter if the 131/132 were reliable. And it’s a classic last-mile problem because the Link station is a mile away, and I live halfway between two Link stations on the other end. If that Georgetown bypass is ever built, it will have a stop at Spokane Street, which would halve the distance.

  3. Im curious to see if Sammamish interests are thinking ahead to a post- Eastlink life.

    – by 2023, with frequent rail service to Redmond, a midday round-trip bus is much more doable.

    – by 2025 hopefully, the SE Redmond Station will be close to the Sammamish border. Lower-speed driverless shuttle technology is advancing fast enough to be viable by then. Another option is demand-responsive coordination with a company like Uber or Lyft. Regardless, SE Redmond Station design is currently happening and Sammamish should weigh in.

    I would actually suggest that Sammamish “work backwards” from the post SE Redmond Station opening year to enable an interim bus operation with they eye to a longer-term outcome.

    PS. I’m amazed that Sammamish didn’t try to get the City name added to SE Redmond Station (SE Redmond/Sammamish Station).

    1. By 2025 I will be entering my 8th decade and I just hope that I will still be active enough to enjoy Eastlink (assuming that it opens as scheduled)

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