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This is the third (and probably last) version of a proposed restructure of bus routes following the completion of Northgate Link. This builds on the other two posts. As with the other two maps, this focuses on all-day service. I still expect some express buses to provide additional connections or coverage.

Design Goals

There are several, conflicting goals I’ve followed for designing this. Some are specific to this area, while others are important for any network:

  1. Make the buses faster by avoiding turns, or congested areas.
  2. Enable straightforward trips from anywhere to anywhere.
  3. Provide fast trips to a nearby Link station.
  4. Make it easy for people to get to the UW.
  5. Match service with demand. This applies not only to individual routes, but corridors that share sections with multiple routes.
  6. Favor more densely populated areas over less densely populated ones.

The first two goals are achieved best by building a grid with frequent service. Not only is this difficult for this part of town (because there aren’t many east-west arterials) but it conflicts with some of the other goals. Link stations don’t always fit nicely on a grid. To get to Northgate Station, for example, you need to make several turns (from any direction). UW Station is particularly difficult to get to. But the UW is a major destination in its own right, and should have direct service from nearby areas. This is why I’ve tried to give apartment dwellers in the area both a one seat ride to the UW as well as a fast, direct bus to a Link station.

Specific Routes and Options

65/66 — The Wedgwood/Ravenna area is one of the bigger sticking points. At first glance, simply running the existing 65 and 62 should be adequate. The problem I have with this is that riders on 35th NE — or at least those not close to NE 65th Street — would continue to endure a time-consuming trip to Link. I also don’t like the northern tail of the 71/76. It is obviously designed for coverage, but it serves low density areas before high density ones.

Variation 1 — I address both these issues with this proposal. The bulk of the apartments along 35th are north of 65th. Those riders would have a fast connection to Link, as well as good connections to additional bus service. For example, a trip from Wedgwood to Greenwood would involve a two seat ride through Roosevelt (instead of through the UW or Northgate). The 66 helps fill the gap left by the change. It provides for a good network in the area, as well as direct service to the UW. The tail of the 66 is messy and similar to the tail of the 71/76. But it is actually significantly shorter than the existing 71/76, while providing almost as much coverage. The layover area is part of the existing one way loop, saving some time. The best part about the new loop is that low density areas are closer to the tail. In that regard, it is similar to the all day 24 (which serves low density West Magnolia last). Thus coverage riders at the end of the line may be costing Metro some service time, but they aren’t delaying other riders. This particular combination also has the tail going to a different location than service along 65th, thus picking up more riders. If you are at View Ridge Park (equidistant to the 65 or 66) you would walk to the 66 if you are headed to Children’s or the the UW. From a service standpoint, I think the 65 would run more often than the 66 in this variation (as more people are headed to Link instead of the UW or Children’s).

Variation 2 — This is more closely aligned with current routing. The 65 is unchanged. The 66 has the new tail but is otherwise similar to the 71/76. This is a reasonable trade-off that keeps most of the existing network, while allowing a lot of the people on 35th to have a fast ride to Roosevelt. Frequency becomes a bit more challenging. With this combination, I think the 66 would be more popular and thus run more often (since it provides for a faster connection with Link). This would have the downside of running the tail of the 66 quite often, unless they ran a truncated version of it (like the 3 to Madrona). It also means that the current 65 is running way to often for what it provides (a connection to the UW and Children’s).

Variation 3 — This is a very lean and fast routing. The tail is gone, and people in that area simply have to walk a bit farther. The 65 would provide a connection to Children’s and the U-District. Thus the connection to Link may not be as fast as if the bus went to Roosevelt, but it is still a lot faster than today. You also double up service between Children’s and the U-District (and thus the fast connection between Children’s and Link). You lose some of the service between Children’s and the south end of campus, which is a natural connection between the two medical areas (and largely the justification for the existing 78).

As with all of the maps, I prefer the first option. Variation 3 saves service hours, but I don’t think it is worth it. I believe the first variation allows for a very good matching of demand to service. The new 65 doubles up service along the densely populated part of 65th, while giving the vast majority of people along the 35th corridor a fast ride to Link. A bus like that would be popular, and thus frequent. Service along the southern part of 65th is less important, but still strong enough — and short enough — to justify 15 or 20 minute frequency. You still have coverage for View Ridge, but it doesn’t cost you that much, because the bus doesn’t run that often. It also serves a different area, which means that it may attract those who are willing to walk a little further for a one seat ride.

346 — This change follows the move of the 26 to 5th Avenue Northeast in the previous map. While that provides good coverage and a faster connection to Northgate, it breaks the connection between the North Seattle College area and Green Lake (or the area and the 45). This puts it back. But there is a cost, as now service from Northgate to North Seattle College (and the surrounding area) is less frequent. I believe the combination of the new pedestrian bridge, the existing 345 and the new 40 (serving Northgate Way) is adequate to serve this connection. If not — if this is simply too much walking — then the 40 could follow its current route. I’ve kept the 345 going to Northgate because it provides front door service to Northwest Hospital. This means that folks who don’t (or can’t) walk that far still have existing service.

You do lose the frequent connection between other parts of Meridian and Northgate. But in return, you get a connection from Meridian to Roosevelt. This means that getting to Northwest hospital (or anywhere along Meridian) is a lot easier for a lot of riders (in Roosevelt, Sand Point, Greenwood, etc.). The variations all deal with the southern tail.

Variation 1 — This follows the 45 to Roosevelt. The only reason I prefer this is because of congestion along 80th, close to the freeway. It is not clear where this bus would layover (it is possible it could tie into some of the 65 buses coming from the east).

Variation 2 — This follows part of a route proposed in Metro’s Long Range Plan. This covers all the bus stops from the old 26. I don’t think the coverage is that important, but it is nice to have the bus loop around and layover under the freeway.

Variation 3 — This is a combination of the above two concepts. It avoids the traffic on 80th, but has a nice layover.

Other Considerations

The 522 should have more bus stops along Lake City Way. The stop on 20th/85th is the second most popular bus stop on this route, north of downtown (exceeded only by the stop at 125th and Lake City Way). Riders along the corridor aren’t just going downtown, either. About 10% of the riders on the 522 are going from Lake City Way (within the city) to places north. As the population increases, so will rides of that nature.

It would behoove Sound Transit to add more stops along Lake City Way. At a minimum, the route needs a stop at 80th and 15th. Likewise, I consider 95th essential, as the 372 does not serve that area, making some otherwise close walks to the bus stop cumbersome.  I would consider 98th optional but would definitely add a stop at 110th. 115th and 120th are optional, as those riders could take a frequent bus to Northgate (even if it is a bit slower). Metro (and Seattle) might have to negotiate with Sound Transit to add as many stops as possible. Adding three stops (80th, 95th and 110th) would still have wide stop spacing, while providing Seattle riders with a good connection to Link as well as the areas along State Route 522.

I used this map to figure out where the apartments are, and where they are likely to be built in the future. It isn’t perfect, but I’ve found it to be the easiest way to get an idea of where the density is.

13 Replies to “North Seattle Bus Routes After Northgate Link (Third Version)”

  1. Mostly looks good. With respect to the 522, adding a couple more stops on Lake City may be appropriate, but it does need to stay on Lake City – meandering through the neighborhood on 80th/20th just slows down what is already a long commute on an already-full bus, and if it happens in only one direction, the extra coverage it’s getting isn’t even all that useful.

    I think the sweet spot is to add stops at 15th and 95th, while keeping the bus on Lake City Way; even then, I think you’d still need some rush-hour overlay routes that bypassed these stops.

    One minor quibble with the presentation – the description of route 75 as unchanged is not correct. Your map has the 75 and 41 swapping routes between Lake City and Northgate.

    1. I just updated the description on the 75. Its strange, because I initially copied the map, and on the previous version it said “Modified to cover part of the 41 (from Lake City to Northgate).” So I don’t know how it lost that description.

      The turns for the 522 are to make it faster, not to add coverage. This avoids the congestion on Lake City Way close to the freeway. I go into more detail at the end of the previous post (https://seattletransitblog.com/2019/04/06/north-seattle-bus-routes-after-northgate-link-updated/).

      As I mentioned before, the map doesn’t get into rush hour service. I expect additional buses here and there (for example, I expect a truncated version of the 77 serving 15th). As to whether you would have additional express overlays for the 522 corridor, that is hard to say. It would benefit some riders, but it wouldn’t be as efficient. Keep in mind that the 522 is not dominated by rides from downtown to Lake Forest Park/Kenmore/Bothell. Quite the opposite. Take away rides from Lake City Way, and you would have a bus that carries only about 1,500 people a day. I’m not saying it wouldn’t make sense to have an overlay, but you would want to be careful about watering down the system. Frequency is often more important than the speed gained by skipping a few stops. I think you could make a much stronger case for adding an express overlay on the E, for example. Yet Metro (probably for the same general reasons) hasn’t done that. Once you add it up, you find that it is becomes expensive, and you have better values elsewhere.

  2. I think the sweet spot is to add stops at 15th and 95th

    I assume you would include 85th (AKA 20th). 85th is the second most popular stop outside of downtown (exceeded only by 125th and Lake City Way). That is really what I’m getting at with that paragraph. It is easy to assume that the 522 is all about service to Bothell or Kenmore. But it isn’t. Lots of people use the Lake City stops, even though there aren’t enough of them. The fact that the 85th stop performs so well *before* the recent construction shows that if we want to focus on ridership — and especially ridership per dollar spent — it behooves us to add a few more stops along Lake City Way. All five stops on Lake City Way (i. e. every stop in Seattle) has over 100 riders per stop. My guess is 110th would as well. In contrast, 153rd has 45 riders a day (on or off); 165th has 30, and Ballinger Way has 25.

    1. The 522 is an express for East King and Lake Forest Park to get to downtown, and East King is paying for all of it. If north Seattle needs more service, that’s Metro’s responsibility. You can’t just look at the number of people in north Seattle, you also have to look at what the route is intended for and who’s paying for it. In any case, the 522 will go away with Lynnwood Link and Stride, so it will only be able to make those stops for three years before it’s gone.

      1. As I said up above, Metro (and Seattle) might have to negotiate with Sound Transit to add as many stops as possible. East King doesn’t pay for all of it. Every rider pays a fare, and many of those riders board in Seattle. Additional stops along Lake City Way would help Sound Transit pay for more bus service (something it has been struggling with lately) even before Metro or Seattle kicked in extra money. I’m not saying it would be easy, but I am saying it would be best for everyone (including riders outside Seattle) if the two agencies cooperated.

        In any case, the 522 will go away with Lynnwood Link and Stride, so it will only be able to make those stops for three years before it’s gone.

        I disagree. I would retain that route, but truncate it at 145th (or better yet, truncate the 372 at 145th, and extend this bus to Kenmore). Again, the 20th street stop has about 10% of the riders for the entire 522. That will likely increase in a year or two (as the new apartments get residents). When the line gets truncated in Roosevelt, the line becomes remarkably cost effective (a much better value than the 73, for example). Roosevelt would remain the fastest way to Link for many of the riders:

        1) Between 130th and 110th, a rider can go to Northgate, but it would still be slower.
        2) South of 110th, a rider can go to the UW, but that is a lot slower. Many of those riders would be forced to walk a long ways to any bus service if you eliminate service south of Ravenna Avenue.

        Then you have riders who have no interest in Link, but are simply trying to get a few miles up the road on Lake City Way. There are quite a few riders who board in Lake City Way, headed north. The stop at 20th has 73 riders that board the northbound bus at 20th. There are 8 stops on the 522 that lack that in terms of combined ridership. If you add Roosevelt to the mix, the numbers are likely to go up quite a bit. There are people who just want to get from Roosevelt to Lake City. They could take Link, but for such a short distance, it makes more sense to take a direct bus. When you consider that some of those riders would transfer at Roosevelt, you are talking about a two seat ride instead of a three seat one.

        This bus would be a very good value (it would pick up plenty of riders per hour) long after Link gets to Lynnwood and the 522 heads to 145th.

      2. Conceivably, if the route is important for intra-Seattle mobility, maybe some negotiation could be worked out, where instead of East King paying 100% of the cost, East King pays 70% and North King pays 30%. The bigger issue is not slowing down the 522 such much that you end up with a bus that is slower than riding a bicycle on the parallel Burke-Gilman trail. However you slice and dice it, stopping every 1/4 mile, all the way out to Bothell, adds a lot of travel time.

        The extra turns you added around 80th may make sense during rush if traffic on the direct route is bad enough, but I don’t like the idea of slowing down the all-day route for the sake of avoiding traffic congestion that is really only an issue during rush hour. If there are no bus stops on this detour, maybe drivers could choose to either take it or not take it, depending on real-time traffic conditions.

        Of course, there’s also the broader issue that anytime we feel a temptation to “detour” a bus to avoid a traffic jam, one has to ask whether we should be dealing with the problem by installing a bus lane. A detour route, by itself, may not help all the much, if Waze directs car after car onto that same detour route, until it becomes just as clogged as the main route.

      3. However you slice and dice it, stopping every 1/4 mile, all the way out to Bothell, adds a lot of travel time.

        Of course it does, but that is the price you pay if you live in a low density, distant location. If you want to see the 522 go on a road diet, that’s fine. But if the road diet consists of eliminating your most productive stops, you quickly go down the vicious cycle of infrequent service. Eventually it becomes difficult to justify all but commuter service to a place like Bothell, while Metro poaches your best stops, all of which are in Seattle. Is that really better? Personally I would rather have a bus that runs more often, rather than an express that runs rarely. The only reason that the bus runs as often as it does is because there is decent farebox recovery. The only reason that the 522 has decent farebox recovery is because of all those riders in Seattle.

        If that sounds like hyperbole, here is a quick summary of ridership outside of downtown Seattle:

        1223 — Seattle (along Lake City Way), 5 stops
        221 — Lake Forest Park, 4 stops
        688 — Kenmore, 4 stops
        590 — Bothell, 4 stops
        268 — Woodinville, 4 stops

        The stops along Lake City Way have way more riders, and way more riders per stop. Every stop has over 150 riders. The worst stop on Lake City Way has more riders than the best stops in Woodinville and Lake Forest Park. There is a stop in Lake Forest Park that has only 30 riders, and another with only 25. If you want to put the line on a diet, then those are the stops that should be removed.

        In contrast, adding a couple stops along Lake City Way would probably give you just as high a ridership (around 150 or more a stop). That, in turn, could justify more frequency. Instead of running the bus every half hour (which is the case right now) you run it every 20 minutes, or maybe even 15. Otherwise, Metro should just run the 312 (with all the good stops) all day long. Keep in mind, not only do the Seattle stops have more riders, they are also a lot cheaper to serve. A bus that just went from Roosevelt to 145th would be especially cost effective, even it would be a bit short.

      4. The extra turns you added around 80th may make sense during rush if traffic on the direct route is bad enough, but I don’t like the idea of slowing down the all-day route for the sake of avoiding traffic congestion that is really only an issue during rush hour.

        It is an issue much of the day. It is a problem in the morning rush hour, until about 10:00 AM. Then things are more or less OK until about 3:00 PM. Then things are bad both directions until about 7:00 PM. Traffic on the freeway is a problem, but that isn’t the big issue. The problem is that SDOT changes the traffic signals in the afternoon. To prevent big backups on Lake City Way northbound, the left turn arrows kick in (for drivers heading northbound on Roosevelt or 15th). This means that drivers heading south (towards the freeway or Roosevelt) have to endure very long light cycles. You can see big traffic backups southbound in the afternoon just about every day. So the basic argument can be reversed — it doesn’t make sense to slow down an all day route so that it will be especially fast only a few hours out of the day.

        If there are no bus stops on this detour, maybe drivers could choose to either take it or not take it, depending on real-time traffic conditions.

        Yeah, I thought about that. This would make sense if Metro and Sound Transit decide to ignore the majority of potential riders in the region. If they “play it safe” and fail to add a stop at 15th, then this is the way to go. It would mean that riders at 15th and Lake City Way would have to endure a ridiculous 73 that is hard to justify (and never get the obvious connection to Lake City) while a handful of people in Lake Forest Park get the express bus they so desire. Inertia is hard to overcome.

        But it is important to note that I specifically call out the turn on 20th. I think it makes sense for SDOT to work with Metro, and add a left turn arrow (hopefully triggered by a bus) to make that turn easier. Since the crosswalk is on the south side of the street (https://goo.gl/maps/tW9f1Kh5DmJEryUu9) the crosswalk signal and left turn arrow could occur at the same time. This would slow down northbound traffic, but no more than someone crossing the street. The point is, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to improve that turn if Metro may or may not use it.

        It is worth noting that it is reasonably fast to go the route I recommend. There are turns, which are generally a bad idea. But those streets are very quiet, and very fast. As I’m writing this (4:00 PM) Google says that my route is faster. At noon, it appears to be largely a wash, with the biggest difference being that initial turn. The point is, sometimes consistency is more important than overall speed, and making that turn is bound to be reasonably fast and consistent, even if using Lake City Way and Roosevelt is sometimes faster by a few seconds.

        Of course, there’s also the broader issue that anytime we feel a temptation to “detour” a bus to avoid a traffic jam, one has to ask whether we should be dealing with the problem by installing a bus lane. A detour route, by itself, may not help all the much, if Waze directs car after car onto that same detour route, until it becomes just as clogged as the main route.

        It would be highly unlikely that we will add a bus lane on that part of Lake City Way. There are no parking spots to take. That means that if you did take a lane, it would likely back up traffic all the way to Lake City, which in turn would push traffic to 130th/125th, which is a three lane road. Besides, it really isn’t a problem. The bus is going where the cars are not. Most of the southbound cars on Lake City Way are not headed to Roosevelt. They are headed to the freeway. 20th as a bypass would be used by only a handful of drivers. If they started at Lake City, and are headed to that part of town (or the U-District) they are way more likely to use Ravenna/25th. It makes sense for a bus to do this because the bus is covering a specific area, and wants to do so as efficiently as possible. If we do add bus lanes, it makes sense to add them on 65th, close to the station, and both this bus as well as the 62 could use them.

        All that being said, it is quite likely that Sound Transit will simply send the bus to Roosevelt, with the exact same stops. It will be up to Metro, at some point (likely after Lynnwood Link) to fix things, and add a stop at 15th, along with the appropriate bypass.

      5. Conceivably, if the route is important for intra-Seattle mobility, maybe some negotiation could be worked out, where instead of East King paying 100% of the cost, East King pays 70% and North King pays 30%.

        Yes, that is the idea. But again, East King does not pay 100% of the cost. Some of the cost is paid for by riders, and Seattle riders pay a very large portion of those fares.

      6. “Of course it does, but that is the price you pay if you live in a low density, distant location.”

        That contradicts the priorities and target transit market of the 522. It exists to serve that “low density, distant location” as you put it. It’s an ST Express,

        “Eventually it becomes difficult to justify all but commuter service to a place like Bothell”

        That’s contradicted by Stride. ST is about to install full-time frequent service in Bothell.

        “Metro (and Seattle) might have to negotiate with Sound Transit to add as many stops as possible.”

        I see the need for service in the gap, but you’re trying to turn the 522 into something it isn’t. The 372 is what fills in for the 522. Make the 372 more frequent and maybe extend it to Kenmore on weekends; that would serve the people going north that you were talking about. If the 372 is too far east at 80th, then another route could conceivably do it. In any case, something else will be needed in 2024 when ST stops serving south of 145th. Metro has talked about making the 309 or 312 all-day so that’s another possibility.

      7. What I’m saying is, Mike, if you are going to put the 522 on a road diet, then it makes sense to eliminate the stops that are used by only 30 people a day, instead of the stops used by five times as many. Speaking of which, this really isn’t much of an “express” if it stops at places like that.

        I’m not trying to turn this into something it isn’t. It already serves Lake City, and it is a good thing it does. Otherwise, it wouldn’t run as often as it does. But it still isn’t frequent. It only runs every half hour in the middle of the day. With a few extra stops, this thing could run every fifteen minutes. Don’t you think someone in Kenmore (or Bothell) who wants to get downtown, would prefer that?

        The 372 already runs every fifteen minutes. It doesn’t serve the stop at 20th. If the stop is skipped, then folks there have to walk an extra six minutes to catch a bus that doesn’t even go downtown. They have to make the worst Link transfer in our entire system (the one at the UW) just to continue on their journey. What is true of 20th is true of 95th and 105th. When Link gets to Roosevelt, it is crazy that those riders basically have nothing but a bus that goes to the UW, when Roosevelt Station sits so close. This bus would save those riders a good 15 minutes, and connect to more places along the way. It seems crazy to ignore those riders.

        The alternative is for Metro to run the 312 all day. That would basically mean that Metro and ST are running the same basic route, except that the 312 has a few extra (highly performing) stops. It would mean that many of the really low performing stops have half hour service, while several of the high performing stops run every fifteen minutes. That is assuming that Metro and ST cooperate, and time things accordingly. After all of that, ridership on both lines would suffer, and so would farebox recovery. That just seems silly, when it all it would take is a little bit of cooperation between the two agencies and you would have a system that is better for everyone.

        The only time it makes sense to run a long distance express is when you have very high frequency (caused by high ridership). Typically that only occurs during rush hour. A good example of that is the 5 express, which skips over Fremont to serve Phinney Ridge and Greenwood. Or the 355 which skips over Phinney Ridge to serve Greenwood. Those only run during rush hour, and they only run when the base route (the 5) runs very frequently (ten minutes or less). Something like that would be fine for this route during peak times. I could see a real express skip all of Lake City Way, as well as most of Lake Forest Park. But I would still keep the main route (with the various stops along Lake City Way and even the really poor performing ones to the north) all day long.

  3. I like this with the 65/55 variation 1. I wouldn’t object to variation 2. It depends on how important University Village is as a destination from upper 35th. That area is all residential so they need access to a supermarket and drugstore and everyday things. Right now they have access to Lake City and U Village. This change would substitute Roosevelt for U Village. That seems all right: I like Roosevelt and it has a good variety of things, and I assume a mainstream supermarket will return when construction is done for those who don’t want to go to Whole Paycheck. But U Village also has a lot of specialty shops, some of which azren’t available elsewhere in Seattle. That could be a significant number of riders.

    1. Some people would lose their direct ride to the U-Village, as well as Children’s. But not that many. From Lake City you can take the 75 or the 372. There is a pretty good overlap, so much of Wedgwood remains the same. It is only a small section (north Wedgwood and along 145th) that lose that direct connection. I think the trade-off is worth it, but would understand if Metro went with alternative 2, just because very few people come out worse off. Those that like the current 65 still have it, while folks in Wedgwood would have a better 71 (renamed on my map as the 66).

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