King County Metro RapidRide 2013 New Flyer DE60LFR 6089

The next RapidRide H, which will replace King County Metro route 120 from downtown Seattle to Burien in 2020, could reduce travel times by almost five minutes between Burien and the West Seattle Bridge, assuming the transit agency and its partner DOTs make the recommended upgrades to the route, which is among the 10 busiest in the county.

Seattle DOT has settled on improvements for the Seattle portion, and Metro is consolidating stops and considering moving the route’s tail two blocks south to SW 150th St, closer to the commercial heart of the city while maintaining access to the transit center.

The City of Burien, for its part, is looking at improvements to Ambaum Way, a wide, auto-centric corridor at the southern end of Route 120.  In an effort to provide non-motorized users with safe access to destinations on Ambaum, the city would introduce business-access-and-transit (BAT) lanes on portions of the street, along with improved traffic signals, wider sidewalks, and a potential re-channelization of the street.   Jack Mayne at the B-Town Blog has a good summary of the presentation city staff and Metro recently gave to the city council:

Currently, Andrews said there are 19,000 vehicle trips on Ambaum and 9,200 bus riders on the Ambaum route; “that’s a huge amount of bus riders, and we expect that to only increase,” said Andrews, adding that when Metro has converted other lines, “they’ve seen anywhere from 12 percent on the low end to as much as 50 percent increase when they converted a traditional line to a bus rapid transit line because the speed reliability is that much better and people are more comfortable using those types of systems.”

“We can’t just discount the bus riders on this route,” she said. “If all those people were in cars, Ambaum wouldn’t function well today.” She said that Metro Route 120 “is among he heavier used routes in Metro’s system.”

While the improvements would be a boon to bus riders and pedestrians, the article notes pushback from Burien residents concerned about increased traffic delays for the project. While re-channelization (or “road diet”) projects are somewhat less controversial in Seattle these days, there may be higher levels of resistance outside the Seattle city line.

The Council will take up the issue on May 21.  If you live or work in Burien or take the 120 or if you occasionally ambulate around the city on two legs,  consider emailing or calling them to give your support.

Photo: Zach Heistand, via STB Flickr Pool

24 Replies to “RapidRide H Will Bring Ped and Transit Improvements to Burien”

  1. The current pattern of terminating all buses at the transit center always smelled like a scheme to cut off transit riders from the Burien businesses to keep the “riffraff” out of sight and out of the way.

    Hopefully, in the 21st century, people can acknowledge that transit riders shop at stores just like everybody else, and extend the buses closer to the actual activity center.

    1. I think there are very few places where transit centers make sense. Essentially they are a good idea when a lot of buses encounter the same dead end. When Link gets to Northgate, terminating buses there makes some sense. You can’t keep going west (the freeway is in the way). Buses didn’t come from the east, either (they can’t come down the hill from Maple Leaf). So buses came from the north or the south. It makes sense to through route a handful, but otherwise, there is really no loss in ending them there, especially since that will be the most popular stop.

      This transit center (like most) also has a big parking lot. I’m sure the people in charge assumed that it would drive ridership. I doubt that is the case now. That sort of transition is normal and common. The 41 used to be primarily for serving the two parking lots. Now there is only one, and it represents a small percentage of the riders. Way more people are making a trip from the neighborhoods, or transferring. Unfortunately, once you build a transit center, it is very difficult to get rid of it. We are stuck with the poor placement of a Link station (next to the freeway, with no ability to head west). Likewise, even if a bus does serve the surrounding neighborhood, chances are, it will make a loop around the transit center. That isn’t as bad as the detour to serve the Northgate TC, but it is still bad.

      The other advantage of a transit center is that you don’t have to worry about parking the bus. I have no idea the politics involved with layovers, but I would imagine they aren’t trivial. I agree that I think it doesn’t make sense for this bus to end at the transit center. It should keep going on 4th, where the F currently goes. That would mean that you could reuse a couple RapidRide bus stops. Instead of turning at 156th (like the F), I would keep going on 4th, and simply end at Highline Medical Center (currently only served by a half hour shuttle). You wouldn’t have to add any new bus stops, but only an off board reader there (if you wanted it). You would need some place to park, but since this would be the terminus, I see no reason why it couldn’t park inside the hospital. That would be a lot more convenient to people going from, say, White Center to the Burien business district (one less transfer) while being much better for folks headed to the hospital. That would cost extra money (and I don’t see an easy way to get it back — you still want the rest of the 631 shuttle) but it would add a lot of value.

    2. My experience with transit centers is the Bellevue one, so I’ve always thought of a transit center as a place fro timed transfers and layovers; replacing a spaghetti of random crossings that’s hard to remember and inconvenient for transfers. Bellevue TC doesn’t have a park n ride; “its” park & ride is in South Belleuve. That’s the best situation I think. Because bus riders are transfering from everywhere to everywhere, and are also going downtown, and can do something in the station area while they wait for their next bus. P&Rs are disruptive, and they don’t have to be downtown because drivers can drive to them wherever they are, and drivers are only interested in one trunk/high-capacity route: they aren’t going to drive to a P&R to take the 240 to Newport Hills. So we should locate transit centers and P&Rs with these patterns in mind. The only way to reconcile all these demands is to have two separate stations, one downtown for pedestrians and transfers, and another in an out-of-the-way place for the P&R.

      With Renton TC, I believe the city paid for part of the garage as downtown parking. That may be the case for the Burien P&R too.

      1. Yeah, Bellevue is exceptional because there is no parking there. But my guess is there was a lot of free parking back in the day, when they built it. More to the point, it really isn’t necessary. There are plenty of places in the city (downtown, U-District) where there are massive numbers of transfers without a transit center, and people figure it out. For the most part, people would just use 8th, which is the main transit cross street. In general you would have a lot fewer turns by buses, which would be a good thing. You might have to have some live loops, or end at the outskirt of downtown (as Seattle downtown buses do) but overall, I think it would be better.

        The one argument for that TC, like the Lynnwood one, is that it connects really well to the HOV ramps. If most of your buses are just connecting to the freeway, then you might as well end there. In other words, something is bound to give — either buses on 8th cut over onto sixth, or you send a bunch of buses up to 8th. But even in that case, I’m not sure if we are really coming out ahead. The 535 doesn’t just end at the TC after getting off the freeway, it cuts north, and serves the neighborhood. That means that the transfer advantage of both the B and 535 going to the transit center is negated. For that transfer at least, it would be simpler if the B just kept going on 8th. That is only one bus (or set of buses) but I have a feeling Bellevue would do just fine without a transit center.

        Likewise, even Lynnwood TC (which is heavily depended on freeway buses and park and ride users ) is finding issues with their arrangement. Either frequent buses (future Swift routes) make a detour to serve the TC, or folks have to walk a few blocks. Eventually this is to serve Link, but it really the tail wagging the dog. It is very easy (politically) to think in terms of transit centers, and put a station there, instead of a couple blocks away, where it would save everyone (and the bus system) a lot of time.

        You see that sort of thinking even where there is no transit center, like at 145th. Even Mount Baker seems to be driven by that sort of thinking. Put the station off to the side, and carve out space for a transit center instead of building the station just north of the intersection of MLK and Rainier (in between them). In other words, the transit center is where the station should be, and there should be no transit center there.

        I’m sure agencies save a little money by truncating buses early, but they also spend a lot extra having them go out of there way to serve an arbitrary location. Worse yet, riders suffer as well. Not a huge time hit, but still something.

      2. Bellevue TC works well because it’s less a transit center and more of a 1-block transit mall with really nice bus shelters.

        The 550 doesn’t even layover at the TC, but a few blocks north. 550E stops on 108th, rather than “inside” the TC, to have a more logical turn around pattern.

        I suppose you could extend the RR-B to loop around Bellevue Way, but the walk from the Bellevue TC to the mall is pretty easy along a pedestrian mall, so you’re burning a lot of platform hours for a small improvement in the route. Turning around at the TC allows the B to serve the vast majority of downtown Bellevue while minimizing the time in spends in downtown congestion. There’s a reason there is zero bus service on Bellevue Wy between 8th & 4th, instead focuses north/south bus movement on 108 & 112. The business district, rather than the mall, is a better anchor for bus ridership, IMO.

        The direct access ramps both work and don’t work. They are great for getting quickly to/from the TC and Freeway by avoiding all the SOVs traffic at 4th & 8th, but for 405 buses that end at Bellevue the turnaround back to 405 is challenging. This challenge will be more problematic with 405 BRT.

      3. “There are plenty of places in the city (downtown, U-District) where there are massive numbers of transfers without a transit center, and people figure it out.”

        Well, those are more frequent than every 30-60 minutes and tend to have buses going to the same place at the same stops. It’s different when the buses are hourly and the buses to the same place stop a block or two parallel from each other, because you wouldn’t want them to detour to a common stop now would you?

      4. The 550’s northern terminus also serves the library and the north part of the business district.

      5. I think layover spaces are mostly about real estate. Cities would rather have them consolidated in one out-of-the-way place. Seattle has been eliminating them from downtown, and maybe other cities are starting to follow suit, and have the routes go through downtown to a layover on the other side.

      6. AJ, i agree that the lack of a turn-around is the major deficiency of the Bellevue TC.

        I’m not sure if that can be remedied or not. I guess it might be possible if one end of center island and the nearby lanes are revised to allow for U-turns (maybe with a signal holding traffic on 108th) to let a bus turn around.

        The creative solver in me wonders if a giant rotating bus wheel at one end may enable a turn-around there — like a train roundhouse or the SF cable car turnaround. It would seem cheaper and faster than other options — but there could be risks involved.

    3. I can see the benefit of having a centralized break location for drivers. A transit center can provide that.

      However, the design of a transit center can really matter! It can mean that buses have to make lots of turns. That can make a rider like me a little dizzy and nauseous! Transit centers that minimize bus turns are the best.

      The more successful ones like Bellevue have a “transit mall” feel that tied in with a grid street’s pedestrian orientation and storefront access. In contrast, Butien’s isn’t like that, squeezed behind buildings with no building fronts and no attractiveness for pedestrians to walk through. Had Bellevue’s been built like Burien’s, it would be awful too.

    4. As a transit rider, I tend to see most transit centers as delay centers, which slow things down and make people on the bus wish they were in cars. Part of it is the turns, loops, and waits at stoplights to get into and out of the transit center. Part of it is the potential for buses to get stuck behind other buses on the transit center access road. Part of it is the unpredictable dwell times at the transit center bus stop itself (Will the bus driver decide to take a break, or get replaced by another driver? Will the bus driver wait or not wait if the bus is early, due to an excessively padded schedule?) And then there’s the fact that transit centers tend to suck buses in like gravity, so you can’t ride any bus within a mile of a transit center without detouring through it.

      In some limited cases, they make sense, particularly for buses that end there. But, in the case, Burien, it’s not a logical place to end the route, with the downtown Burien business district just a few blocks beyond it, and if the route isn’t going to *end* there, there’s no reason to have it go through the bus bays either – just keep it on the street.

      1. Exactly — well put. It makes sense in rare cases, where buses end there (and it makes sense for them to end there). I don’t see that very often, and I certainly don’t see it in Burien.

    5. Putting the bus down 150th is a vast improvement on this issue from the car sewer of 148th. Gets you nice and close to the actual walkable retail on 152nd without having to deal with the delays of actually running on 152nd.

      I predict ridership going all the way to the transit center will fall off dramatically and be replaced by people using stops on 150th.

    1. I suppose that because this is Seattle, they gotta cheap out somewhere. They also cheaped out on the southbound only BAT lane. I think a better idea for a single lane solution would have been a center running bus lane that changes direction based on the peak direction, and run reverse peak in the drive lane.

    2. It’s a one-way street out of the city, to maybe some other place that cares about people on bikes.

    3. Don’t hold your breath: south King County is far behind Seattle in practically every way when it comes to non-car modes and land use. Most of it feels like it’s stuck in the 1970s. The only movement is very tiny urban villages in downtowns and Tukwila’s Baker Street (since it doesn’t have a downtown, unless Southcenter is it). And Kent has a bit more density and forward-thinking than the others.

    4. In segment “D” of the one-side-bike-lane area, there’s a long slope. Northbound is downhill, southbound is uphill.
      On the long downhill slope, northbound riders can merge into the bus lane (not the general purpose lane) with relative safety. Southbound riders need a safe place out of traffic to climb the hill.

      On segments C and E… it’s kind of ugly for the northbound bikes. The parking lane provides a kind of half-assed bike lane in the door zone.

      As for the one-side-only BAT lane in this area, it’s because the southbound BAT lane is functionally a queue jump approaching Orchard (where rush-hour traffic backs up for blocks). Headed northbound, once the bus crosses Orchard, traffic moves at the speed limit, even during peak, until you get to Alaska..

  2. Is there a reason they want to move away from 15th AVE SW/Roxbury stop and re-align the route to 17th AVE SW?

    That stop was gutted when the C line took accompanying routes with it to Westwood Village, leaving only the 120 and 560. The 560 moved to 17th AVE SW not too long after.

    Not happy with the proposed change in White Center.

    1. It would be great if the H-Line re-aligned to 17th Ave SW and 16th Ave SW from 15th Ave SW. That few blocks on 15th Ave SW, with it’s tight turns at SW Roxbury St and SW 107th St, and many 4-way stops on 15th Ave SW make that routing slow. Following the route 560 routing on 17th Ave SW, White Center Cutoff, and 16th Ave SW from SW Roxbury St to SW 107th St would be great for speed and reliability.

    2. Lots of small reasons. For example:
      The right turn from 15th to Roxbury is all but impossible for 60′ buses. They drive on the sidewalk to make it.
      The few blocks of Roxbury between 17th and 15th often takes as long to traverse as the entire stretch from 26th to 17th, largely because of the ugly 5-way intersection at 16th.
      A 16th & 98th stop would be right in the heart of White Center’s densest retail area.

  3. Burien/Metro have the right idea bringing buses closer to Real Burien, instead of the place used to wall of passengers from surrounding businesses. But I say take it further. Don’t even go into Burien TC. Head east to SeaTac Airport Station, and all the jobs there. RapidRide H is a blue-collar bus that should connect to blue-collar $15+ per hour jobs.

    What Burien has to offer, job-wise, is much less significant. Buses stop there not because Burien is a destination in its own right, but because there is a transit center and a parking garage there. It is its own self-imposed dead-end, and not designed for timed transfers. Heck, the routes don’t even make sense yet.

    Some here may disagree, but the airport really is a major destination, especially for workers. It is a much more ideal terminus for the H Line. I get it that that won’t happen soon, but I’d love to see it happen after Delridge Station opens.

    1. I suggested that RapidRide H replace RapidRide F between TIBS and Burien the last time this topic was posted.

      Some pointed out that ST’s 560 is the overlay service and it was an illogical idea.

      I still think it makes sense to switch the RapidRide bus on this segment — as rail stations generally make the best termini to connect our extensive and fast future light rail system. Rather then ask why a route should end at a rail station, we should ask why not if any terminus is only 1-2 miles away.

      I also think that an extended RapidRide H would be a great alternative when Link trains get in accidents on MLK and service gets interrupted.

    2. A lot of us along the multifamily residential portions of Ambaum would prefer it pass through the TC and terminate at one of the Link stops, either TIB or Seatac. It’s already a long route prone to bunching, but I doubt a few minutes on the highway would make it worse.

      Definitely something worth revisiting when Federal Way Link comes online.

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