Sound Transit has released its Draft 2019 Service Implementation Plan, along with a one-page summary that looks a lot more succinct and useful than the traditional executive summaries. The actual proposals for service changes are just for March 2019. Highlights and lowlights include:

Route 513 will cease serving Evergreen Way, and instead serve the new Seaway Transit Center, near Paine Field.

Click to enlarge.

Route 542 will expand service to evenings and weekends, while routes 545 and 555 will no longer serve Montlake, due to Montlake Freeway Station closing.

Route 550 will move to 2nd and 4th Avenues downtown, and take several minutes longer to cross downtown.

Click to enlarge.

Route 555 will cease serving its long tail between downtown Bellevue and Issaquah. Route 556 will continue to serve this tail in the other direction. The hours saved would be invested into improved reliability for route 554.

Click to enlarge.

Reverse-peak-direction service on route 580 will be eliminated, and various other runs will just go between South Hill and Puyallup Station. Saved hours will be invested in other Pierce County ST Express routes. See page 22 of the Draft SIP for the full list of cuts.

Click to enlarge.

Minor changes, listed on page 24, include:

  • replacing the northbound freeway station stop at 145th with a stop on 5th Ave NE, for route 512. The freeway station is being closed for Link station construction. Non-specified reliability improvements may be rolled out to mitigate the extra travel time.
  • a possible additional stop on route 541 at the southeast corner of the Microsoft campus, to mitigate lack of access to Overlake Transit Center resulting from Link station construction.
  • the discontinuation of the midday run of route 596 from Bonney Lake P&R to Sumner Station, due to having just 2-4 riders.

The Draft SIP is coy on whether the travel time on Link Light Rail will decrease after the buses leave the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for good, or how long it will take to get more peak 3-car trains. The SIP merely states that “reliability” will improve, and offers a transfer to light rail as a way to get across downtown faster (which seems like a dubious plan if average wait time is 3-5 minutes, and getting between the bus stop and train takes multiple minutes, along with the time to exit the destination station, unless they really are planning to reduce cross-downtown travel time, and buses are reduced to a crawl). Siemens light rail vehicles start getting delivered sometime in 2019, and then will need a prep period before any can go into service.

More changes for September 2019 will be proposed in early 2019, with public outreach planned for after Metro makes its decisions on its northeastside restructures.

Public comments on the March 2019 service change proposals are being accepted through November 15.

The SIP also offers a treasure trove of ridership and performance data, as well as scenarios for how ST Express service might look in 2025, which will be covered in a future post.

60 Replies to “2019 ST Draft Service Plan Proposes Significant March ST Express Route Changes”

  1. I thought the 555 was mainly used by buses from route 556 which were deadheading back to Issaquah (and hence some of the later morning 555 runs terminated at Bellevue TC, since those are probably heading to Bellevue Base rather than the 556 starting point in Issaquah).

    Is this wrong? Or is it right, and the 555 buses will still deadhead to Issaquah without being in revenue service?

    1. Not really, because the rush hour isn’t long to run more than a bus or all the way from Issaquah to Northgate, and back again, with two layovers, and still have enough enough rush hour left to make another trip to Northgate. Instead, what’s much more likely happening, buses are deadheading from East Base to Issaquah, then going to Northgate as route 556, then back to Issaquah as route 555, then back to East Base. Downtown Bellevue is not only much closer to the base than Issaquah is, but it’s also where the vast majority of the reverse-direction riders are going. For now, ending the 555 there seems like the right thing to do, as those going to Bellevue College have other options, such as the 240 or 271.

  2. Also regarding the 555, “The hours saved would be invested into improved reliability for route 554.”

    What improvements? Probably schedule padding. Seems like a bone thrown to Issaquah riders to make them not so upset about their service hours going to 542 service on weekends. Anyone who seriously thinks about it would realize that it wouldn’t take cutting 60% of the length of the 555 to pay for unspecified reliability improvements to the 554.

    Add the 550 on 2nd/4th avenues and you’re closer. Good on them for not reducing service on the 550 (AFAIK), because ridership on the 550 is much healthier than the cut portion of the 555, and ridership in the 550 should not be depressed ahead of East Link launch (to the extent possible).

    1. You’re right – it probably is schedule padding. But, think about who is actually affected by the shortening of the 555. Not people who live in Issaquah, since it runs reverse-peak only. There are very few jobs in Issaquah where the 555 actually, and those from Northgate can ride the 41 downtown and switch to the 554, without much difference in travel time. It’s only really those commuting from DT Bellevue to Sweedish Hospital in Issaquah, and work 9-5 hours (e.g. not a nurse, which typically has shifts incompatible with today’s 555, anyway) that are SOL. I’m sure the number of such riders is extremely tiny.

      1. I’m sure the number of such riders [taking the 555 to Issaquah) is extremely tiny.

        Right you are. About 35 people take the bus east of Eastgate. Between the Bellevue TC and Eastgate, there are another 50 people, and 40 of those are folks traveling between Bellevue and Eastgate/Factoria. The vast majority of people just ride it between Northgate and Bellevue.

  3. Considering amount of time it takes to load-and unload a wheelchair on a bus, DSTT trains will definitely move faster. Same for loading time for fare collection. And discussions. And also that following distance between buses puts yards of empty air between vehicles.

    Speed on city streets depends a hundred percent on completely reserved transit lanes with friendly signals. My guess is that for sheer self-interest, business community will insist this happen, since customers stuck in traffic neither buy anything nor come back Downtown to shop.

    Honestly even with bus-lanes at their best, since the DSTT doesn’t have to contend with either street traffic or weather, I can’t see how the streets will ever be faster because of delays in station time.

    With best bus transit in the world, I don’t think I’d leave platform to surface transfer time to less than fifteen minutes. At least ’til we max out the reserved lanes.

    Mark Dublin

    1. OK, how about this. We both start at 3rd and James, right outside of the Pioneer Square Station. You get on the train, I catch the bus and see who can get to up to 3rd and Olive First. As long as you don’t run through the station, I think I beat you nine times out of ten. Yes, if someone boards with a wheelchair, you have a fighting chance. But most of the time, I am well up the street by the time you are at the platform. By the time the train arrives, I’m already done with my journey, walking around the corner. Google estimates the travel time at about 6 minutes. Link can do that trip in 2 minutes. Even if you get lucky, I don’t think you can get down to the platform and back in 4 minutes.

      Keep in mind, this is right from station to station. The buses serve a lot more of downtown than the train does. If I’m headed up towards South Lake Union or Belltown, it isn’t even close. I might have to wait an extra minute (since I can’t take just any bus) but there are still a bunch of buses that go to both locations, and once I take one, I’m a lot closer to my destination.

      Now I. D., that is different. You might have a fighting chance from down there (assuming you are headed towards Westlake).

      1. If I came in on Link from the airport, would probably stay on board and ride to Westlake. Or, if I was at Third and James and the bus I boarded five minutes, hadn’t yet moved, I’f either take elevator or escalator downstairs.

        And if Link was also welded to the rails, I’d go back upstairs- especially if I had a funny feeling about the elevator, and walk. Number of variables is one reason that I generally leave myself at at least fifteen minutes’ time, the more important the transfer, the longer leeway.

        For all the years I’ve worked in and around the DSTT since first push-pin went into the drafting board, I’ve been onto the system to reactiveate the fortunes in dispatch and signalling we’d designed into the tunnel to keep buses and trains out of each others’ way.

        Though even if had been left on for more than two weeks, still wouldn’t have shortened delay loading wheelchairs. Even if we’d had the two loaders also envisioned. Pretty sure that “Joint Use” period was expected to be much shorter than it has.

        Mindset I wish was variable.


      2. >> If I came in on Link from the airport, would probably stay on board and ride to Westlake.

        Of course. That is a completely different situation. The whole idea is a trip from one of downtown to the other.

        >> Or, if I was at Third and James and the bus I boarded five minutes, hadn’t yet moved, I’f either take elevator or escalator downstairs.

        Or I would wonder if I had entered into the Twilight Zone, and it was 1985 again. Seriously, though, that just doesn’t happen. OK, on rare occasions, a bus will be stuck, dealing with some mess. But a simply pull of the cord, eye contact (through the mirror) to the driver, and you have hopped off the bus. Within seconds (literally) you are on to the next bus.

        The whole point is, more often than not, the bus will be faster. It isn’t even close. Once in a blue moon the train will be faster. But once in a bluer moon (as you said) the train isn’t even running. That really sucks, especially when they don’t tell you, and you eventually figure it out (been there, done that, it sucked).

        I get that the city and ST are freaking out about this self inflicted wound. They shot themselves in the foot, and now they aren’t sure what to do. Encouraging folks to take the train seems like an easy, cheap thing to do (after all, the trains can carry huge number of people) but that doesn’t mean that folks who are in a hurry will be better off if they do that.

  4. The SIP says nothing about the frequency or span of route 542 evening/weekend service. Will it shut down for the night at 10 PM? Will run half hourly when the 255 is hourly with 50-minute wait times required to make connections?

    1. I think the near term 542 boost is meant to mitigate losing the Montlake stop on the 545. When the 542 stops running, you can still take 10 or 15 minute frequency Link to the 545.

      1. Yes, you *can* do that. But, it’s going to take a long time. Starting at the UW Station entrance, let’s add up the numbers. 2 minutes to walk to the platform, 5 minutes to wait for the train, 6 minutes to ride the train, 2 minutes to walk up the escalators to the surface. Now, we’re at 15 minutes to 4th/Pine. The 545, after 10 PM, runs once per hour, but we’ll assume you’re connecting on the proper train so that the actual wait time is only 10 minutes. Now, you’re on the bus. 10 more minutes to get to the I-5/Olive Way entrance ramp (with all the lights and bus stops, that’s just how long it takes), followed by 3 minutes of zero-traffic freeway to ride as far as Montlake/520. When all is said and done, you are cruising by Montlake on the bus 38 minutes after walking down the steps to UW Station – if the bus is on-time. For comparison purposes, this is time-equivalent to a scenario in today’s world where you walk to Montlake Freeway station (9 minutes), then wait a whopping 29 more minutes at Montlake Freeway station for the bus to show up.

        Yes, it’s *possible*, but it’s something that very few people are going to be willing to put with.

  5. How’s this: Frequent express service from UW Station to Bellevue Transit Center? I think it would outrun the 550 from Downtown Seattle.

    Using LINK to do the heavy hauling for an Emergency 550. Though my guess is that passenger loads could require fleet of “artic’s’ at very short headways (it’ll only be a 20′ max ride.)

    I think we should’ve started this service when UW Station opened, and no reason we can’t start service now. With 550 travel time and reliability really compromised with its departure from DSTT, new bus route + Link could quickly become very popular.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark,
      yes, but the agencies did not ask about that option. your suggestion might be termed Route 556W, a frequent freeway based service between BTC and UW Link. Route 550 is slowed in three ways: center roadway construction, D-2 loss, DSTT loss. This is the condition until 2023.

      note that to be improved Route 542 seems to remain weekday only. so, the loss of the Montlake freeway stops will really impact weekend riders between the U District and the Eastside.

      1. Eddie, you’re going to lose your next campaign’s whole public relations staff if anybody heard you give a crap about what any agency didn’t ask about. Maybe they just honestly didn’t think of it. In which case you can let them have credit for discovering it. But just to be on the safe side….TELL ‘EM!

        Of course we’ll give it a different number. Was only ragging on the 550 that for duration of construction, an existing train can help another express route leave it in a cloud of our copper and carbon dust and diesel non-visible-particulates.

        Really think non-stop freeway ride to Bellevue would haul grateful standing loads. Present local bus, the 270-something, makes it in 20 minutes. For Blue Angels and similar, long precedent for shifting I-90 service to SR520.
        Meantime, tell me exact names of the Agencies whose cooperation we need.

        Still being Washington State resident, and dealing with a State Highway and nearby university I’ve also got politicians on my payroll with only a lake full of horrible germ-sized snails between my house and their offices. Too bad if somebody walked into Agency offices with water on our boots.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Yes, that is the obvious solution to the impending mess caused by the loss of the Montlake Station. Scrap the wasteful 271 and put the service hours into a fast, frequent connection between the UW and Bellevue TC. Ask riders to transfer from their downtown express to this new bus in the middle of the day (if they want to get to the UW). During rush hour, truncate all the northeast side buses at the UW (when it makes sense for both riders and the system to make the truncation). Not that complicated, really:

      Unfortunately, Metro doesn’t want to mess with the 271, even though it is the obvious solution to this mess. The most frequent bus from the east side to the UW, and it doesn’t connect to anything. No bus stops on Northup, no bus stops on the freeway, nothing. It should be scrapped, and replaced with a much more frequent express from the UW to Bellevue TC.

      1. “Unfortunately, Metro doesn’t want to mess with the 271”

        Metro has proposed moving the 271 to 405. It mainly seems to want to wait for a Link restructure or a shiny new RapidRide (like the Totem Lake – Eastgate one it’s planning) to drown out the criticism of changing somebody’s one-seat ride. the same thing is happening with the 62: Metro has accepted transit fans’ advice to straighten it out but it’s punting it to 2025 plan (i.e., the Northgate Link restructure) rather than doing it now. It got plenty of criticism from the northeast Seattle restructure, but then it had a shiny new Link to dangle in people’s faces and make the deflect the criticism. The 255 change is basically being done out of necessity: downtown traffic will get worse and Metro must do something to conteract that. But the 271 does not go downtown now, and its speed is relatively good now that tolls are deterring the 520 congestion, so from Metro’s perspective a change has mostly downsides: complaints in Medina, the need to backfill the Medina segment with no new service hours, and the difficulty of terminating the Medina service at a 520 station where people could walk to a UW route.

      2. The 255 change is basically being done out of necessity: downtown traffic will get worse and Metro must do something to conteract that.

        The 255 is being changed out of necessity, but downtown crowding has nothing to do with it. The 255 is just one of the many buses that head downtown from 520. During rush hour — when crowding is an issue — it represents about 25% of the buses from 520. That is essentially a drop in the bucket. It also doesn’t explain why the 255 is being changed all day long, when the only issue is during rush hour.

        No, this is being driven by the loss of the Montlake stop. They need to provide service to the UW, which is why the 271 is relevant. The 271 is the most popular bus to serve the UW from 520, by far. It carries well over twice as many riders than the next most popular bus (the 542).

        Yet it is flawed from a system standpoint. It doesn’t connect to other buses. It lacks stops along the freeway, and even manages to avoid Kirkland. To get from various parts of Kirkland to that bus requires going all the way to downtown Bellevue. It would be trivial to connect the essential part of this bus — UW to downtown Bellevue — with freeway buses as well as the 234, 235 and 249. That means all the frequent buses in the area would connect to an express to the UW. All the while, this would be faster for those who are just trying to get from Bellevue to the UW.

        Better yet, have the bus follow the southern end of the 234/235 (the proposed new 250). That means this, more or less: (Google won’t allow me to take the HOV exit at Lake Washington Boulevard, so you have to just imagine the bus doing that). That means that the new 250 doesn’t need that tail — it could just terminate at the transit center, while providing all the connections ( Since the new 250 bus (and the old 234/235) run every 15 minutes between Bellevue and South Kirkland, that is a substantial savings. This new bus from Bellevue TC to the UW runs right by Children’s Bellevue as well other clinics — natural connections to the medical centers in the UW and way more popular than the current 271 stops in Bellevue. That is roughly as fast as the current routing (through the largely uninhabited parts of Bellevue), yet it saves a significant amount in terms of service, and provides much better connections.

        But it does mean a change. I get that, and I understand why Metro doesn’t want to do that. But Metro’s timidity will result in a much worse system. Change is hard. Change is difficult. But without looking at the bigger picture, you end up with a proposal like the current one. Folks on the 255 will have a terrible transfer to downtown, while there is very little added for folks headed to the UW. They are basically being asked to sacrifice — to take one for the team — as Metro has to provide service to the UW. Of course it is better for getting to the UW, but transfers to a 15 minute bus aren’t as good as transfers to an 8 minute bus. When I look at the new proposal, there is very little that looks substantially better. A few nice tweaks, some consolidation — all pretty good. But nothing that looks great. It just looks like you are inconveniencing just as many people as you benefit.

        But if Metro changed the 271, that wouldn’t be the case. You would have a huge group of riders that would have a much faster trip to the UW, while the large number of riders who take express buses to downtown would continue to do so. The only people who would be out of luck are the handful of people who live in Medina, in places with extremely low population density. Those riders will have to deal with a new bus, similar to the 246 (except only going to Bellevue TC). Sorry, but them’s the breaks. There can’t be very many people who ride the bus from there, because there is so few people who live there and the handful of businesses in the area are more appropriate for cars (a big golf course, a nursery, a gas station). The golf course even manages to cut off half of the sprawling, low density area from a bus stop, while typical car-first suburban roads eliminate the rest (this guy can throw a rock at the bus, but it takes him ten minutes to walk to it — Under any reasonable restructure, you wonder if the area should even have coverage service. But if you did run a bus there, you would call it that, and nothing more.

        That is the problem. You have a very low performing coverage route in the middle of one the most frequent, most important routes in the region. This is *the bus* that connects Bellevue with the UW. Yet Metro is afraid to mess with it, for fear of upsetting a handful of people who could survive just fine with service similar to their neighbors (the folks who ride the 246). Yes, it sucks to ride a bus that runs every hour. Somehow I think the riders from Medina (both of them) can deal with it.

      3. We already have a route that stays on the freeway from the U-District to Bellevue, called the 556. At some point, the 556 is going to become an all-day frequent route and the 271 is going to be truncated to Medina (specifically one of the freeway stations) if not split across multiple routes. Slash frequency on the local service (especially north/west of Bellevue, BTC to Bellevue College would still be popular), bump up 556 service (maybe with some trips terminating in the U-District without going to Northgate), and you’re not spending that much in extra service hours. Though of course moving resources from a Metro route to an ST route isn’t that simple.

      4. The proposal of linking the southern part of the 234/235 with the Bellevue->U-district corridor is interesting, and has pluses and minuses. The pluses included avoiding the extra transfer to reach Overlake Hospital (and nearby businesses) from Seattle.

        The minuses are several, but to put it bluntly, it places an enormous privilege, bestowing Kirkland->downtown riders with a one-seat ride at the expense of everything else. Not only does it require a bus->bus transfer for U-district->Kirkland riders, but it also severs the much shorter Kirkland->Bellevue corridor, requiring those riders to also transfer at South Kirkland. And, it’s also a huge step backward for the Bellevue->U-district corridor. Today, you can ride the bus directly from Bellevue Square to the U-district. Under your proposal, you have to first walk to the transit center to get service (8-10 minutes), then ride a longer route, going east, north, and back west again. And, if this route is going to provide all those connections you’re referring to, it will need a detour into and out of South Kirkland P&R, which adds several additional minutes, not accounted for in your map.

        In general, I feel your service proposals have been making three repeated mistakes:
        1) You significantly over-estimate schedule reliability of a bus passing through downtown during the off-peak hours. Over the years, I have occasionally caught buses like the 255/545 east at Montlake Freeway Station, or the 512 north at I-5/45th St. Station. Even on a weekend, or 10 PM on a weeknight, these buses have wildly varying rates of punctuality, ranging from a couple minutes early to 10+ minutes late. This is the case even when car drivers face no discernible congestion, since the delays happen largely at bus stops and traffic signals, not in traffic jams.

        2) You assume that the wait times for making connections are simply a function of service frequency, but, in practice, mode makes a huge difference. For example, let’s imagine two connection scenarios. A) Link (every 10 minutes) => bus (every 30 minutes) and B) bus (every 10 minutes) => bus (every 30 minutes). It may appear like the wait times for both scenarios are the same, but, they’re not because Link, with its level boarding, off-board fare payment, and completely exclusive ROW, is reliable in the way a bus will never be. For instance, if you take a Link train that will get you to the bus stop 3-5 minutes before the bus comes (after accounting for time to walk up the escalators), you can be assured, with reasonable certainty, that you will actually make that bus. Bus, if you’re taking a bus to a bus, a 3-5 minute connecting window is cutting it too close, so you have to leave one bus earlier, and sit at the bus stop for 13-15 minutes in order to avoid the risk of being stuck for half an hour even on a normal day, when everything is running on-time.

        Similarly, going the other way, bus->train (every 10 minutes), your wait time is 10 minutes – max – guaranteed. bus->bus (every 10 minute), your wait time will often exceed 10 minutes because buses get bunched.

        This is why I view transfers so much more favorably when it’s bus->Link vs. bus->bus, even with the extra overhead of going up and down the escalators between the platform and the surface. Because, when at least one of the two legs can be depended upon to show up on schedule (reliability will increase further, once buses are removed for good from the downtown tunnel), there’s a whole lot less that can go wrong, therefore, a whole lot less padding that needs to be added to the schedule of every single trip, even when nothing goes wrong.

        3) In general, whenever you travel, the longer your trip, the more delays you are willing to tolerate, be it transfers, passenger loading, or detours in/out of park and rides. Obviously, it is not possible to have a one-seat ride from everywhere to everywhere, but, all other things equal, it generally a good thing to prioritize a one-seat ride more for shorter trips than for longer trips, unless there’s compelling ridership case to justify otherwise.

        Overall, Metro’s actual proposal is just better. It gives the transfers to the trips that are longer in length, and have Link service for one end, while avoiding the need for any new, much less reliable, bus->bus transfers (except for those going all the way to Kingsgate/Brickyard, but the bus is already so slow for them, that they’re all driving, anyway).
        It also puts the transfers in highly-visible locations, where everyone headed to/from NE Seattle will also be transferring, achieving a safety-in-numbers effect that will make people relatively comfortable waiting for their bus after dark, in a way that Yarrow and Evergreen Point freeway stations will never do.

        It gives the Kirkland->Seattle service a huge frequency boost, plus runs buses later in the evening – so will now be practical for a resident of Kirkland to spend an evening in Capital Hill, and actually ride the bus back, without a horrific trip home. And, many of the people headed to non-downtown destinations won’t actually need any additional connections, anyway. Those from pretty much anywhere north of the ship canal, they can just take a different bus to the U-district, and avoid downtown altogether. Those from anywhere along the Link corridor, be it Capital Hill, Ranier Valley or SeaTac airport, can just stay on the train to the UW, rather than getting off at Westlake to make the bus transfer, like they would, today. Those coming from the southern part of downtown will make back most of the transfer overhead by getting through and out of downtown so much more quickly. Especially, after Mariners/Seahawks games, when there’s going to be so much more traffic on the road.

        In the future, as Link expands onward, the set of destinations you can get to quickly from UW station will only increase, while the one-seat destinations from the 520 freeway stations – or South Kirkland P&R – will not. Further increasing the case for the U-district being the main eastside transfer point.

        Eventually, a similar restructure should probably happen with the 545, but I totally understand Sound Transit’s desire not to bite more than it can chew right now, and risk scuttling the Kirkland restructure with inevitable complaints from Redmond. In just 5 years, East Link will open, providing a one-seat Redmond->downtown Seattle ride – without the 545 – and, at that time, a full-out replacement of 545 service with 542 service will be much easier to push through, and should meet much less resistance. Kirkland, on the other hand, isn’t getting light rail, nor is it starting with 540 service that runs anywhere near as much as the 541/542 on the Redmond side. With the combination of Montlake Freeway Station and the DT bus tunnel closing, simultaneously, there is no better time to do the 255 service restructure than now.

      5. @asdf2 — So many comments, I’ll see if I can get to them:

        Not only does it require a bus->bus transfer for U-district->Kirkland riders

        Yes, but that is the plan for the vast majority of Kirkland riders, regardless as to whether we make the proposed change or stick with what we have. At least with my plan, you have a far more frequent transfer. If I’m along Lakeview, then it is the same type of transfer, just to a more frequent bus.

        And, it’s also a huge step backward for the Bellevue->U-district corridor.

        Seriously? Right now the 271 serves Medina. I’m sure it picks up a few riders before it heads out that way, but within minutes, it is basically running down abandoned streets. I find it amazing that folks are OK with just telling a few dozen riders at the tail of the 513 that they will have to find a different way downtown, yet we don’t want to possibly alter the scenic route of the 271, which probably carries a lot fewer through Medina.

        Under your proposal, you have to first walk to the transit center to get service (8-10 minutes),

        What? It is about a five minute walk, give or take, to the transit center. If you are to the east, close to the QFC (at around 102nd) then you lose out. But if you are north of 8th then you are better off. Most everyone is about the same, really, before you even bother crossing the freeway. The only people that have a significantly farther walk are folks close to the QFC, and there just aren’t that many people there. The number of riders around there is dwarfed by the riders on 116th.

        then ride a longer route, going east, north, and back west again.

        According to Google, it takes the same amount of time. Wandering through Medina takes a while.

        And, if this route is going to provide all those connections you’re referring to, it will need a detour into and out of South Kirkland P&R

        Now you’re thinking like Metro. (Sorry for any Metro folks who read that — I couldn’t help it). No, you don’t have to detour to the park and ride. The transfers take place at Northup Way. The 249 already serves Northup (at the same spot). I already explained how a new truncated 250 would swing around at Northup ( You would probably add a stop on 112th, to minimize the walk ( There already is a stop in the other direction. This means a two or three minute transfer walk. It would be about a five minute walk from the park and ride. Not ideal, obviously, but the type of walk people make all the time (and way faster than the Link to bus walk you seem to favor). Again, these are folks heading to the UW, or 116th — those headed to downtown Bellevue could take the 249 into Bellevue, thus avoiding any walking at all. So that means that folks from Kirkland headed to the UW have a longer transfer walk than what Metro proposed. But with Metro’s proposal, folks from Kirkland headed to downtown have an even longer transfer walk.

        All of this misses the point. The whole point being that the existing 271 is a wasted opportunity, because it is so frequent, yet manages to go out of its way to avoid connections and destinations.

        But I am not wedded to the idea of mucking with the new 250. I just think it is worth considering and studying (details like the transfer have to be worked out). If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Then you are back to my original proposal, which still means that trip from Bellevue to the UW is much faster than today, a lot more frequent, and connects well everything else.

        1) So what if the buses to downtown are unreliable. The buses to the UW can be unreliable as well (as I pointed out earlier). The whole point of changing the 271 is get headways so that transfers aren’t that big of a deal. Bunching sucks, but if it effectively gives you 16 minute headways (e. g. when the bridge is up for a while) that is still about as good as what the new 255 is supposed to give you. No one is going to come up with a set of buses to the UW that serve everyone. It just isn’t going to happen. It certainly isn’t part of the plan by Metro. For a lot of riders — probably the vast majority — to get from the East Side *to the UW* will require a transfer (and make another transfer to get downtown). Under my original proposal you transfer as well, but to a bus that runs more frequently.

        2) You assume that the wait times for making connections are simply a function of service frequency…

        Will you please stop building strawmen? I never said it is was the only issue, but I am trying to simplify things, just as I did with the secondary proposal (so as not to get lost in the weeds).

        You seem to be ignoring the fact that with Metro’s proposal, you still have to make a bus to bus transfer! All this writing about how horrible it is take two buses, and the typical trip will involve two bus rides *and* a transfer to Link. Under the Metro proposal, lots of folks will transfer from new 250, the old 245 and 249. Some will even transfer from the 239. In all those cases, they will have a two seat ride *to the UW* and a three seat ride to downtown. The vast majority of riders will have to transfer somewhere, just to get to the UW. But by changing the 271 you have fewer transfers, and they are less painful.

        3) it generally a good thing to prioritize a one-seat ride more for shorter trips than for longer trips, unless there’s compelling ridership case to justify otherwise.

        Which is precisely the case here. Way more people are headed to downtown than are headed to the UW. Sorry. The UW is a major destination, I’m just saying that downtown is a bigger one (especially from the suburbs). Partly it is because there is more there, but it is also because it is, in effect, the biggest transit center in the state. It was common, back in the day, to have to go all way downtown, and then all the way back for a typical trip. Even now, that is the case. A trip from Northgate to Capitol Hill involves this. These are two of the biggest destinations, and yet taking an express to downtown, then Link back north is the fastest, most frequent option.

        Overall, Metro’s actual proposal is just better. It gives the transfers to the trips that are longer in length, and have Link service for one end, while avoiding the need for any new, much less reliable, bus->bus transfers

        Except for those who ride the new 250, the old 245 and 249, or have to make a transfer to get to the 271 (which for all practical purposes has to take place in downtown Bellevue). So yeah, a small group of people along one corridor in Kirkland will have a nice ride to the UW, while everyone else makes transfers.

        As I said before, I think Metro’s proposal is OK, just not great. At rush hour, it is a giant cop out. For the folks who take the express buses to downtown, it is no better. Getting to the UW is a little better (they can transfer to the new 255), but that’s it. There express service will not be more frequent, nor will they be new express buses.

        But outside of rush hour, you are just robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is better to the UW, but worse to downtown. And it isn’t even great to the UW. As I said before, it is hard for me to see that many people getting excited about this (while many will hate it).

        In contrast, by replacing the 271 with a more functional Bellevue to U-District bus route, you can create something exciting. It means very frequent service, well into the night. Keep in mind, for many people, that is exactly the same bus they take now. You take the 271 from the U-District, then transfer to a bus in downtown Bellevue. But with my proposal, the 271 would be much faster, and you wouldn’t necessarily have to transfer in downtown Bellevue.

  6. How can ST claim Issaquah to Bellevue needs a light rail line at the same time they’re cancelling that part of the route 555 for being too inefficient?

    1. They’re not cancelling service in the other direction, people in Issaquah commuting to Bellevue. Also, there is supposed to be significant upzones in Issaquah around the station area. The light rail is to serve the Issaquah of 2050, not the Issaquah of today.

      1. The population of Issaquah is currently 37,000. Its annual growth rate is 0.68. That means in the year 2050 its population will be 45,000. Something is not adding up. Why is an agency that needs to cut bus service from Bellevue to Issaquah due to lack of ridership going to need to build a train to it when there’s 8000 more people living there in 31 years?

      2. It’s all new development that’s in the city’s master plan, but doesn’t exist yet. This is not captured in the city’s past annual growth rate statistics.

      3. Referencing the 0.68% growth rate for Issaquah is misleading. Yes, that was their 2017 number, but their average growth over the past 5 years has been closer to 2.99%. And this doesn’t account for the extensive area that attracts park-and-riders to Issaquah routes (just to name a few examples: Sammamish 1.5% average growth over 5 years, Snoqualmie 3.2%, North Bend 2.5%)

    2. There’s no question that the reverse commute that the 555 serves isn’t much of a market. However, the routes that go into Bellevue and Seattle in the morning (212, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219, 554 and 556) have pretty good ridership at peak. The carpool lanes seems to be serving just fine for the stretch of I-90 to Bellevue though, which is all that will remain once East Link opens anyway.

      With the way that ST3 costs are escalating, I won’t be at all surprised if light rail to Issaquah is significantly delayed anyway.

  7. So Route 513 is going to move to Seaway TC, but there’s no indication that they plan to add any reverse-peak trips. I could be wrong, but I feel like more people are going to be traveling *to* Seaway than *from* it.

    1. Reverse peak is in the long term plan with Lynnwood Link. I think this change is only about moving the Evergreen Way stop, and maximizing on Seattle-bound transfers from buses that will soon converge on Seaway TC (like Swift II).

      Reverse peak is something that should probably happen sooner rather than later though, especially for the really early Boeing shifts. The way it stands now, if you have a 6am shift at Boeing in Everett, you can take the bus to work from Auburn (via the 952) but not from Seattle.

  8. Regarding 555, my wife will start work at Bellevue College in 2019 and we live near North Seattle, so the Eastgate Park and Ride stop made this a perfect option. This is rather disappointing, and we figured this route was supporting a large BC commuter group. Time to find a less efficient transit option or resort to driving instead.

    1. Actually that’s not as bad as it sounds. You can still take the 555 to Bellevue, then switch to the 271 to Bellevue College. The 271 runs every 8 to 10 minutes at peak, and goes directly to Bellevue College.

      It looks like transferring to the 217 may even be faster on average than just taking the 555 because the 555 takes 20 minutes to get from BTC to Eastgate park and ride, then you have to walk to BC, whereas the 271 takes 15 minutes to get to BC with no extra walking.

      1. Or, the 41 to downtown and the 554 to Eastgate. It’ll be slower but you’ll get better frequency and span of service than the 555, I believe.

      2. That might be a good option to have in case you miss the last 555. She could also take the 67 to UW, then switch to 271, and ride all the way to BC.

        But I usually find it not too difficult to plan ahead and line up my departure time with the schedule of a bus, even if it’s every half hour. I did this with the 555 back when I lived in Seattle.

        Where lower frequency is a bigger problem is transfers. If you transfer to an infrequent bus, then the first bus being late can cost you 30 minutes. Fortunately in this case, if she is coming home from BC, then she can switch to the 555 if the timing is good, or stay on the 271 and switch to the 67 if she just missed the 555.

  9. Regarding the 580, I am sure they’ve already decided where to reallocate those hours, but the idea of having ST lease one of the numerous gargantuan parking lots along Meridian, and route a tail of the route into South Hill to a short term park & ride would be amazing. It would help normalize transit use among a population that doesn’t even consider it an option, but is within the voting population of both Sound Transit and Pierce Transit. It could be done without even building anything. I am thinking a limited hour parking lease at a church or movie theater, and only the portion of parking stalls furthest from the building.

    I am thinking similar thoughts for the 596 to Bonney Lake. The Catholic Church and Mormon Church in Sumner would both be great candidates for park and ride lots to add to the route that serves almost exclusively to Sumner station which has very limited parking. Nothing to build and I can attest that the parking at at least one of those churches sits empty over 95 percent of the time.

  10. I really don’t get the 513 change. I know they want to sync it up with the Swift Green Line, but it’s a peak direction only express commuter bus that will now terminate at the Seaway Transit Center, which is not in a residential area.

    If they want to keep it as a peak direction (to Seattle in AM, to Everett in PM) bus, they should keep the old routing, as well.

    If they want to make it an all day bus, or add a few reverse peak trips in, this change makes a lot more sense.

    1. 513’s primary purpose is to serve Eastmont P&R, but it also provides extra capacity from Mountlake Terrace (which sometimes gets skipped by full buses in the AM peak, being the last stop and all). The old Evergreen Way stop was just a stub of the former routing up to Everett Station (via Evergreen) and wasn’t really useful to anyone (but somehow it had a few dozen riders per day). The Seaway change could make it a decent commuting option for nearby residents who can connect via Everett Transit and not have to deal with an extra transfer or two to reach South Everett or Mariner.

      1. The only reason for Eastmont P&R to even exist is that the parking lots at the higher-volume transit centers are all filled up. It’s a classic case where the need for parking forces the agency to divide up its service into a bunch of different routes, rather than fewer frequent routes.

        Or, put different, in a world where access is dependent on parking, that means you can never run a commuter route with decent frequency without also building a giant parking garage, with enough stalls to equal the combined capacity of the buses.

    2. The 513 is the lowest-ridership 5xx route, so it won’t affect that many people. But terminating at transfer points is generally a good thing to do because it may help somebody we don’t expect (e.g., coming from 128th or the Bothell-Everett Highway to downtown), which is better than terminating at a little-used P&R that you can only drive to. And it prebuilds ridership for ST3 Link and gets people accustomed to transferring/parking at Seaway. I don’t know the area so I don’t know how many practical trips it will enable or if its benefits are mostly theoretical. But it’s the kind of thing we generally want transit agencies to do, so it’s good in that sense.

      1. Is Seaway a Park & Ride? I don’t see any parking on the rendering:

        So basically everyone who uses this already needs to transfer from another bus, since there’s no residential in the area (eliminating walking), and the bike infrastructure in this area is laughable. For most people approaching this P&R from Bothell/Everett Hwy, with the intent of heading to Seattle, they’ll already have passed the Mariner P&R, where they can catch the 410 to get to Seattle faster, and most people off 128th will be better served taking the Green Line SB, to hit Mariner. I don’t have a population density map handy, but the section of the Green Line near Paine Field I don’t believe is very dense. One side of Airport Road is the airport itself, and the other is mostly businesses, with a little bit of residential south of 100th St.

        I still see the main benefit of this proposed routing to be for people whom Paine Field or Boeing is a destination. That would suggest that this would be best primarily as a reverse peak bus.

      2. Yeah, there are a fair number of bus routes that serve that transit center, but most are coming from far north (Marysville, Arlington, etc.). I doubt they would benefit from this.

        Everett Transit does provide some connecting service, though. The 3, 8 and 70 serve it. The 70 serves Mukilteo, where again there are better options. The northern part of the 8 seems very low density (until you get to the point where other options seem better). That basically leaves the 3, along with the part of the 8 that is similar. Essentially, it means the Casino Road area between the airport and SR 99, which actually is one of the more densely populated parts of Snohomish County ( From what I can tell, that is the only significant connection.

        In that case, they should just change the route, to include Casino Road. Get off the freeway at Evergreen Way, make a stop along the highway (thus connecting to Swift, in case someone lives down the road a little ways) and then make a handful of stops along Casino Road. It would take longer, but provide a lot more benefit.

        To be clear, I understand why ST is a bit gun-shy about serving the neighborhood. Ridership at the tail end of this was poor (only 34 people a day). But 79th was a lousy stop. It was a long distance to the nearest Swift bus stop ( There were other connecting buses, but those don’t run as often. The 3 (which could get you to Casino Road) runs very infrequently. The 7 is much better, so you would have a good connection to other places on Evergreen Way, but that is about it. Meanwhile, there aren’t any apartments or even houses nearby. There is a big shopping center, along with a couple schools — good destinations, but terrible for a commuter run.

        I’m with you, Jeremy, I don’t see this change really working out. Some folks will undoubtedly transfer to this bus, but probably as many as used the old tail (around 30 a day). This bus is not a great bus by any means. More people take it from Mountlake Terrace than Eastmont. But Eastmont is way better than the tail. I think they should just extend the tail into the neighborhoods, or just end it at Eastmont.

  11. I imagine that swarms of Route 550 riders will be clogging the already-overburdened stops on 2nd Avenue, so perhaps CT should move a few of its routes onto 4th (which is crowded, but not to the extent that 2nd usually is) or 6th. Nothing worse than trying to squeeze through a crowd only to see your bus pull away.

    1. I expect route 550 riders will be a little more clever than that. They will wait closer to the north end of the line to increase the odds of getting a seat and not being passed up due to the bus being full.

      Others will take Link + 556.

      Some have already shifted to parking at Eastgate and taking the 554, since S Bellevue P&R closed.

      Some have shifted to parking at Mercer Island and taking whichever bus comes first.

  12. Minor changes, listed on page 24, include replacing the northbound freeway station stop at 145th with a stop on 5th Ave NE, for route 512.

    What a terrible idea. I have used that stop several times, and it is just a waste. It serves very few people, but takes a long time. With this change, it will be worse. There are alternatives, too — folks can catch other buses.

    Let me just do some math to show how bad this is:

    The 512 carries about 4,000 people a day (2,000 heading north, 2,000 heading south). This station picks up about 35 northbound, and 35 southbound. These riders would have to take the 347, both directions. Northbound, they could connect to this exact bus (at Mountlake Terrace). Southbound, they would connect to the 41 (which goes to downtown). The 347 is neither fast nor frequent. It runs every half hour (both directions) which means an average wait time of 15 minutes. It takes about 25 minutes to get up to Mountlake Terrace. So that means 35 * 40 minutes for the northbound trip. It takes about ten minutes to get to Northgate. So that means 35 * 25. Overall, that means 2100 minutes. I’ll be generous, and round up to 3000 minutes. That means this detour would have to be less than 90 seconds (2,000 * 1.5 minutes) for this to be worth it. Just getting out of the HOV lanes and into the far right lane takes longer than that. The bus will spend way more time getting off the freeway, across 145th, then back onto the freeway than it will save those riders (and that doesn’t count the time spent actually picking up the riders). It is a terrible waste of resources. I have no idea why they are doing it — perhaps as a symbolic gesture (someday, this will be a train station!). No matter what, this is a silly exercise, and Sound Transit should use this excuse to kill the stop.

    1. I think you’re exaggerating the time penalty of the current stop a bit. If it’s not rush hour, all the lanes are usually free flowing, so getting over to the right is fast. Rush, the 512 isn’t even running to begin with, and the 510/511 do, indeed, skip the 145th stop.

      The change does make things worse (I assume the driving reason is to make room for Link construction), but I can understand the desire not to tell people who are living in the area and depend on that bus, that they suddenly don’t have a bus anymore – even if it’s not that many. In any case, this is just a temporary configuration for a few years until Link opens.

    2. Oops, I did the math wrong. The stop would have to be done in about 35 second to make it neutral. Do you really think you can make that stop in 35 seconds?

      It is also fairly common to have traffic problems in the middle of the day. Southbound (in reverse peak direction) it is very common. The 512 does run during this time (it just doesn’t run in peak direction). Thus a southbound bus, carrying riders from Everett and Lynnwood to Seattle, has to put up with this very time consuming detour. Traffic is routinely terrible right about where the bus is being asked to leave the HOV lane, from about 3:00 PM until around 7:00 PM. It is quite often much worse headed south at that hour then headed north.

      Even in the middle of the day, it is a silly detour. It is the same old, “who cares, they aren’t 9-5 commuters” attitude that ignores the importance of speed within a transit system. They have built a very effective all day express service, but it gets watered down when it is treated like a milk run. It is crazy to make a very time consuming detour to serve so few people. This isn’t like a typical stop diet. If you have a stop that very few riders use, then it really doesn’t hurt anyone (the bus just doesn’t stop there). In this case, it is quite common for the bus to not pick up anyone (or drop anyone off) but it still has to make the detour. The vast majority of riders are hurt way more than the small number who benefit.

    1. If you are headed to downtown Seattle, wouldn’t you just take the 417 or Sounder? I suppose this would improve the connections between Mukilteo and Boeing, but my guess is there is a reason the 70 doesn’t run that often (there just aren’t that many people going that way).

      1. RossB,

        The problem is the Route 70 is a commuter route and outside of the Everett Transit district. Part of the Everett Transit-Community Transit SWIFT agreement – I have a copy.

        Sound Transit I don’t think does enough for Mukilteo. Plus Seaway Transit Center is a hub for transit north, south and east – just not west.



  13. I can understand the desire not to tell people who are living in the area and depend on that bus …

    No one depends on this bus. There are other ways for those riders to get to their destination. In both directions, they simply take the 347, which serves *the exact same spot*. My guess is some took the 347 just to get to the stop (it is a very low density area, and the 347 is one of the few buses serving the stop). That means that for many, they will simply stay on the 347 until a later stop.

    It is simply faster for those riders to catch the 512 right there. But it is also slower for everyone else. That is a common trade-off, but in this case, the stop serves so few, and the detour is so time consuming that it doesn’t make sense to have a stop there.

    1. I have mixed feelings about this. The number of affected people might be relatively small, but if they’re stop goes away they get hurt *a lot*. It’s easy to say “just take the 41 and the 347”, but you’re basically asking them to replace a 15-minute straight-shot down I-5 with an hour-long ordeal. The 347 is not frequent, the 41 is not super-reliable getting out of downtown, so you need lots of padding time to make that connection (see my earlier comment), and when the 347 finally comes, its path is anything but direct.

      For these reasons, even a walk to the 512 as much as a mile still saves considerable time over the other bus options (especially if you live north or west of I-5/145th, where the 347 doesn’t even go, anyway).

      Maybe reverse-peak, traffic can be a problem there. I haven’t ridden it during that time. But, I have ridden it Saturday afternoons, and, at that time, traffic doesn’t usually start backing up until around Northgate – the jog to the right lane to serve the 145th St. bus stop is wide open.

      The much bigger problem with the 512, IMHO, is that it spends far too much time traversing downtown Seattle, in large part because the route is full of Orca’less change fumblers, who take forever to board.

      Once, when riding from Jackson St. to I-5/45th after a Mariners game, I was bracing myself for 45-minute bus ride to go 5 miles, with several minutes of “please move to the back” at every single bus stop downtown. But, by shear luck, the farebox was broken, so the driver was not only letting everyone on for free, but also letting people on through the back door. Even though the bus was packed that day, we ended up breezing through downtown in record time.

      1. Seriously? Holy cow, man, with that attitude, we wouldn’t make any changes, including other ones proposed here. Take the 513. The people who have that express to downtown from the tail end of that run are just out of luck. Their commute went from to good, to absolutely terrible. You want to fight for that stop? Please, be my guest — they have a much stronger argument than this stop.

        What about other parts of town? There are places that are way more densely populated than this, that simply don’t have any service most of the day. If you are close to 32nd, in Ballard, you are in an area several times the density of 145th. Yet most of the day, you have an extremely long trip to downtown. You have to walk 15 minutes to the nearest bus stop, then watch as it diddles around in Fremont (better hope the bridge isn’t up) before it even gets close to downtown.

        In contrast, the folks at the stop in 145th don’t have to do anything!. They just take a different bus. It is literally the exact same bus stop. I’m sure some of them are riding the exact same bus, which means they just sit on that bus a while longer. Yes, that bus is not that frequent, or that fast. So what! Should we make the D deviate to pick up those folks over at 32nd? There will be more of them (I guarantee). Of course not. There is a reason why the 41 gets on the freeway, and then doesn’t exit until it goes downtown. It is fast. (I have no idea why you think the 41 is not super-reliable, as someone who rides it a lot, I can tell you that it just flies. Oh, and it is also more frequent than the 512 in the middle of the day now).

        The point is, we all want our super express personal bus that goes to downtown, but we can’t have it. This area *actually has coverage*, even though you can make a very strong argument that it shouldn’t. Seriously — there is a reason why this express carries so few people from there — very few people live there! It is literally right next to the freeway, and happens to have a large park on one side, a large campus on the other, and very, very low density housing on the remaining two corners. You can see that in the remarkably low census numbers ( or just by looking at the area on a map ( If anything, the numbers are surprisingly high. My guess is many of the riders simply prefer driving to that park and ride, to which I say: Boo, Hoo. You will have to drive to another park and ride. I can think of dozens of better uses of system time better than this stupid detour.

        Further more, it isn’t just system time! This isn’t like the 513, which doesn’t cost any other rider anything. That change is brutal, and not a single existing rider will benefit. In this case, about 90% of the riders board before 145th, and exit after. All of those riders — every single one — has to wait while this bus diddles around, picking up riders here. Or not! Half the time it doesn’t pick up anyone! Sometimes folks here want buses like the E to have a stop diet, while ignoring the fact that if no one is really there, it doesn’t stop. But in this case, the big time penalty occurs whether someone is there or not. It is that bad.

        There are so few riders that the actual time saved per rider — even when allowing for untimed transfers — favors this stop diet. You can do the math again (be my guest) but this stop doesn’t make sense.

Comments are closed.