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What is the average percentage of end of journey layovers to total time for King County Metro drivers? This question is prompted by the 269 Saturday schedules. This service was introduced in March 2018 between the park and rides at Bear Creek and Issaquah Highlands, perhaps about half the length of the weekday 269 between Overlake Park and Ride and Issaquah Transit Center.

The first Saturday bus departs Bear Creek at 8.35 am and arrives at Issaquah Highlands at 9.06 am, 31 minutes later. After a 9-minute layover the return journey commences at 9.15 am and reaches Bear Creek at 9.47 am (32 minutes) which allows a 19-minute layover before the next journey at 10.06 am. Thus, three vehicles are required for the approximately headway of 30 minutes between buses. This is just half of the midday six-bus allocation for the longer route of weekday service.

The 10.06 am journey takes 34 minutes to get to Issaquah at 10.40 am; the bus then immediately turns around, leaving at 10.40 am and arriving Bear Creek at 11.13 am (33 minutes) where a 28-minute layover is scheduled. So, after driving for 67 minutes the driver gets a 28-minute rest.

All this seems reasonable and not too onerous on the driver but look what happens after that! The 11.41 am from Bear Creek arrives Issaquah at 12.15 pm, 4 minutes after the 12.11 pm leaves for Bear Creek. The 12.15 pm arrival pauses for 26 minutes before the return to Bear Creek at 12.41 pm arriving at 1.14 pm where a further 27-minute rest is scheduled. So now four buses are required and there are 53 minutes of rest between 67 minutes of driving.

This pattern of about 44% of time resting continues until the 4.08 pm from Bear Creek which arrives Issaquah at 4.42 pm and then returns immediately, without any rest break, arriving back at Bear Creek at 5.15 pm before a 22-minute break. This allows a reversion to three buses only with rests of around 25% of total time.

Is there any good reason to bring on that fourth bus for about 4½ hours? The schedule would only require very minor tweaking to give drivers at least 20 minutes at Bear Creek all through the day, after 1 hour and a few minutes for the return trips. Or if the drivers do need a little more time, minimum rest times of perhaps 25-30 minutes might mean headways drop from around 30 to 35 minutes in the middle of the day.

When introduced in March 2018 the Saturday 269 attracted very few passengers. However, ridership is now marginally higher as people begin to realize that the service exists. In this respect King County Metro could do a bit better. The posted schedules at Bear Creek, Sammamish and Issaquah Park and Rides all state quite clearly, “Monday to Friday only”. The other point on the Saturday route with a posted schedule is at the 228th Ave NE and SE 10th Street stop. Here the northbound stop schedule also states, “Monday to Friday only”, but the southbound stop schedule shows the Saturday schedule in full. How is it that the personnel preparing and posting these at stop schedules don’t notice inconsistences between what is displayed at different stops?

The Redmond Loop is a shuttle service formed by a partnership between the city of Redmond and King County Metro; it is operated by Hopelink. The service was introduced during 2017. I have taken three rides on this service and observed it passing by on perhaps another 20 odd occasions. Other than my three rides only a couple of times have I noted a rider. Perhaps it is no great surprise that the on-line King Metro schedule for Redmond Loop states “Last day of operation is 12-28-18”.

There are probably several reasons for this very sparse ridership. The vehicle used is a four-passenger Dodge sedan car which just doesn’t look like a public transit vehicle even with “Redmond Loop” emblazoned on the side. The Redmond Loop stops are not standard King County with route and destination clearly displayed. Instead there is a tiny easily missed logo. At Bear Creek (and possibly at Redmond Transit Center) no schedule is posted, but all other services at that park and ride are posted.

Then, was any thought given to the possible market? Perhaps one anticipated use was to connect with Sound Transit and other services at Redmond and Bear Creek. But riders alighting from a 545 or Rapid Ride at Redmond may not always find a 45-minute headway a very convenient alternative to a more frequent 221 or a fairly short walk. Consider the individual boarding somewhere in Education Hill headed for one of the business areas en route; for example to the Target, Fred Meyer etc. complex near to Bear Creek or to Redmond Town Center (and the Redmond Loop is the only transit service serving the Town Center almost directly).  Could be quite convenient, but not for the return journey. The Loop is one way only (clockwise); so to return from Target or Town Centre a rider would have to board the Loop and disembark at Redmond Transit Center and then wait 15 minutes before reboarding the next trip.

Although the planners for this service did not successfully analyze the transit needs correctly, kudos to Redmond City for trying to encourage transit. Can the same be said for Sammamish City? The greatly improved 269 over the last couple of years does not seem to be the result of any interest by the City Council, but to the recognition by King County Metro that a city with a population of 65,000 ought to have rather more than just peak hour commuter services.

6 Replies to “Layover times and Redmond Loop”

  1. That does seem excessive. My guess is that Metro is focused on rounding up the schedules, so that the bus runs every half hour, instead of running more frequently. This makes it easy to remember. You get to know your bus stop (e. g. 15 and 45 minutes after the hour). But I don’t think that sort of regularity is worth it. I would rather give each driver a reasonable amount of rest time (whatever that is) and have an irregular schedule, rather than one I can remember.

    1. Of course there is also wear and tear on the buses. I also don’t know if bus drivers get paid more for a route that involves more driving, and less waiting. If they don’t, then routes like this could be popular for some drivers, thus creating an incentive to keep it as is.

      Part of the problem is that the 269 performs really poorly. It is one of the worst of the suburban buses, which are much worse than the urban buses. Off peak it is especially bad, at only about 7 rides per hour. In contrast, the 330, that only runs every hour, and also does not go to downtown, carries about 33 riders per hour. With those kind of numbers, it may be hard for Metro to justify more frequency, even if all it costs is a little more wear and tear on the buses and some grumbling by a few drivers.

      One possibility would be to try and straighten it out. From the looks of things, it has a lot of twists and turns. This takes extra time for through riders, and means serving the area is more time consuming. A more straightforward route along with a bit more frequency might not cost much at all, and get more riders.

      1. Maybe the problem is that Metro is more concerned about giving operators more rest time after it was found that Metro was severely overworking drivers and they had to take extraordinary measures like peeing in bottles.

        It seems to me like there may be enough extra time to either extend the Saturday trips to the full Issaquah route to Issaquah TC, or connect the north end to Redmond TC. Seems like it might as well be done if it can be done for nearly free.

      2. I agree the weekday 269 can really do with some straightening out around Overlake. The Saturday route is already pretty straight, though – I’d rather extend it to Issaquah TC or Redmond TC.

      3. What it looks to me is like if you look at route 193, which is an express to First Hill. But because fewer people go to FH than downtown, it makes a bunch of freeway stops and then has a large coverage area in First Hill with a big loop in the middle of First Hill, then a tail, to go close to every place in First Hill. It works great if you work at Virginia Mason, but not so much if you’re going to Seattle U.

        The weekday 269 through Overlake looks kinda like that, where it wants to get people really close to both Microsoft buildings, except it’s not peak-only (though weekday only).

        I think a better arrangement would be to make a shorter route (call it the 267 maybe) that goes from Issaquah TC – Bear Creek P&R – Redmond TC, running every half hour 6 days/week, then a peak-only hourly 269 that goes to Microsoft. That way, there’s two numbers for the two modes of the route, no empty buses drive around Microsoft needlessly in the middle of the day, and Sammamish is better connected to downtown Redmond and bus connections.

  2. The layover times do seem a bit excessive, but rather than improving frequency, I would prefer to spend those hours extending the route to terminate at Redmond Transit Center, rather than Bear Creek P&R, so it is at least possible to get somewhere useful on the bus, without having to transfer to another bus (which may be part of why the ridership is so terrible). It will also make the 542 a connection option, in addition to the 545, which, starting next week, will be running on Saturdays, also.

    The problem with extending the frequency from, say, every 30 minute to every 25 minutes, is that the Saturday route, as is, requires nearly every rider to make a connection to another 30-minute-frequency-bus, in order to get anywhere useful, and a bus that runs every 25 minute connection to a bus that runs every 30 minutes creates a “phase” problem, where you have just one opportunity every 3 hours to make the connection without a long wait. Because of the “phasing” issue for connections, I would argue that keeping the current route, while slightly improving the frequency, would actually make the experience for most riders worse.

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