Metro and Sound Transit have a new proposal to restructure bus service on the “North Eastside” in order to take advantage of new opportunities arising from University Link and improvements in the SR 520 corridor. Metro abandoned a previous effort to make similar changes right after U-Link opened due to a perceived absence of public comment. Riders interested in increasing the utility of the bus network to get multiple places in a short amount of time should be sure to comment this time.
While University Link was a squandered opportunity, three new stimuli are coming: closure of the Downtown Transit Tunnel to buses in March 2019, closure of the Montlake Flyer stop, also in March 2019, and Northgate Link opening in 2021. Beyond that, East Link and I-405 BRT will provide yet more options. Riders will have to deal with the immediate challenges using the existing network next summer, but in September 2019 there could be a restructure with the following ingredients:
- Redirect Kirkland’s workhorse, the 255, to UW Station to avoid the 520/I-5 mess and Downtown Seattle surface streets, with operating savings going into more frequency.
- Flush most of the network of low-ridership, zigzagging routes that serve Kirkland in favor of somewhat straighter routes.
- Fix the Montlake Triangle bus stops, as advocates have asked Metro, Sound Transit, and UW to do since well before U-Link opened.
- A new ST Express route from Redmond and Kirkland to South Lake Union.
- New, Uber-ish “Community Ride” service in Woodinville (weekend-only) and Kenmore. The vanpool-ish “Community Van” service would extend to Kirkland from its current scope in Bothell, Woodinville, and Kenmore.
Existing freeway peak expresses to Downtown Seattle would not change, so most people still have their rush hour one-seat rides into downtown Seattle. More on the changes below.
The 255 would run from Totem Lake to UW Station, instead of Brickyard P&R to Downtown Seattle. Some peak headways would drop from 30 to 15 minutes. Night frequency would double. Currently atrocious 2 bus/hr weekend frequency would double to 4. The 255 would also run to midnight all weekend, making it a more viable nightlife option.
The new Kirkland transit network is a little hard to get your head around without particular source/destination pairs in mind. It is not really a gridded design, though it’s a bit closer than the current network. Metro took a shot at summarizing the tradeoffs for each neighborhood. Broadly speaking, there are fewer buses crossing I-405 again and again, which should probably help reliability and be more direct.
The 7 routes going away (234, 235, 238, 243, 244, 248, and 277) have 4,700 daily riders combined, or fewer than Route 65. Four have 30 minute headways and three (243, 244, 277) are peak expresses. Five new routes (225, 230, 231, 239, 250) will replace them. The new routes would all run every 30 minutes during the day, except that the 250 (Bellevue-Kirkland-Redmond) would be every 15 minutes, a doubling of current frequency in the 85th corridor. The 930 would move from a peak-only DART route to all day.
The long-overdue Montlake triangle improvements would have many, but not all, routes serve the station and campus sides instead of the hospital side. There would be a dedicated left turn signal to turn onto Pacific Place. The agencies estimate a 6-8 minute walk from train platform to bus stop. Metro intends these improvements to make the transfer to U-Link palatable.
Sound Transit would consolidate the peak-only 540 and 541 — redundant with the new 255 — into the 544, a 12-to-15-minute-headway, peak-only route from Overlake to South Lake Union.
A stop at South Kirkland might be time-consuming for through riders, but it does provide good transfer opportunities.