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.