Metro 255 exits the South Kirkland Park & Ride (Image credit: Shane in the City)

On July 10, the King County Council formally approved March 2020 service changes for Metro. The service change implements the North Eastside Mobility Project with extensive changes to service in the Kirkland area. The service change had passed unanimously out of the Council’s Mobility & Environment Committee on July 2.

Kirkland’s peak commuter services are mostly unchanged, but nearly every all-day route will see changes. The service change adds five new routes, deletes eight, and changes two others. Nearly 20,000 riders a day are on existing routes affected by the changes.

The network map in this area has seen few changes in two decades. Recent ridership declines on many routes, despite significant growth, suggest a revitalization of the network was overdue. The restructure comes after several earlier efforts fell through. In 2015, Metro developed a plan to restructure service around the opening of UW and Capitol Hill rail stations, but the SR 520 portion of that plan was withdrawn early in the process. In 2017, the expected closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit tunnel (DSTT) to buses prompted another look at SR 520 service. Redmond, perhaps looking to another restructure after Redmond Link opens, balked and the scope was narrowed to include only Kirkland.

The latest effort is a far more thorough rethinking of service within Kirkland than the SR 520 focused efforts. Kirkland transit riders have experienced delays and less reliable service since buses finally left the DSTT in March. Peak hour trips have seen an average travel time increase of 6 minutes inbound and 11 ½ to 15 minutes outbound, with decreased reliability as some trips take much longer than those averages. The recent closure of the Montlake freeway stop has also inconvenienced riders.

The pivotal element of the service change, of course, is the truncation of Metro 255 at University of Washington station. That route is simplified too in its Kirkland operations. Today, Metro operates 255 in three flavors, an every-day service to Brickyard, a Monday-Friday service to Kingsgate, and a peak-only service between Seattle and downtown Kirkland. Buses will depart every 15 minutes all day to 10pm including weekends, with even more frequent operations at peak.

Planned improvements at the Montlake Triangle will place Metro 255 stops directly in front of the rail station. (image: Metro)

New route 250 stitches together elements of Metro 234, 235, and 248 to connect Redmond to Bellevue via downtown Kirkland. This is a promising new route which dramatically improves service on the NE 85th corridor in particular, and will likely be the main feeder route to the BRT at NE 85th St in 2024. It will operate at 15 minute headways (30 late evening and weekend), which is a major upgrade in service on Rose Hill and likely to be popular in South Kirkland too for its direct and more frequent access to Redmond. It could become the preferred routing for the future Kirkland-Bellevue-Eastgate RapidRide (Metro and Kirkland are debating the preferred northern terminus).

Other new routes improve or create new services between Kirkland and other neighboring centers with half-hourly service. New route 225 connects Kenmore to Overlake via Totem Lake. New route 230 connects Bothell to Kirkland. New route 231 serves Kirkland-Woodinville riders. The latter two traverse Juanita delivering more frequent service in that area.

With the approval of the Metro changes, Sound Transit is expected to make complementary changes in their service, adding a new ST Express route 544 serving Overlake, South Kirkland and South Lake Union during peak hours. This replaces existing routes 540 (U-District to Kirkland) and 541 (U-District to Overlake).

Although more trips include transfers, travel times via transit are reduced across Kirkland and neighboring cities (image: Metro)

Detractors of the service change mostly point to the ‘forced’ transfers to reach Seattle or, in some cases, Bellevue. This is offset by greater frequency which was preferred by most commuters in repeated public outreach. The loudest critics are in parts of north Kirkland where a one-seat ride to Seattle becomes three-seat for some commuters. On the other hand, the elimination of milk-run routes like 236 and 238 has gone virtually unnoticed, reflecting both very low ridership and the more direct connections to Woodinville and Bothell on corresponding new routes.

The restructure is bolstered by a large investment in added service hours. 8,700 service hours were added in March 2019 just to accommodate delays as Metro 255 slogs through downtown traffic. With the redirection to UW station, those hours and more can be reinvested into improving the 255 and other routes in Kirkland. The restructure is boosted further by another 11,600 service hours to be added in 2020.

New route 225, like current 234, deviates away from Bastyr University and Finn Hill neighborhood center at Juanita and NE 141st in Kirkland to serve Inglemoor High School on NE 155th in Kenmore (image source: Metro)

An earlier draft of the proposal would have had new route 225 serve the Finn Hill neighborhood center and Bastyr College (and a hotel development at Saint Edward State Park).  Under pressure from the City of Kenmore, the enacted map instead favors service to Inglewood High School. It’s a peculiar decision on the merits, as only a handful of students appear to use current route 234 and the originally proposed routing on Juanita Drive would have attracted more riders. Council member Rod Dembowski characterized the result as “a transit desert from the QFC south to Juanita”. Kirkland Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold reiterated that Kirkland had advocated for service to the neighborhood center and that creating future service in that area remains a Kirkland priority.

A detailed map of the new network is here, and the corresponding current map is here. An easier to read conceptual map that highlights the main features of the restructure and the route frequencies is here. Changes will take effect in March 2020.

59 Replies to “North Eastside buses will be restructured in March 2020”

  1. The truncation of all day route 255 at UW will create negative consequences and reduced reliability for Kirkland riders and S. Kirkland P&R users. Especially on evenings and weekends. It also reduces convenient access to SLU. During off peak, when there is little I-5 congestion, the route 255 direct downtown is much faster than the transfer via Link. We have yet to know what will happen during Husky stadium and Hec Ed events, bridge maintenance events, races, boating day, etc. At a minimum service will be complex. At worst metro will do something crazy.

    It would have made much more sense to truncate the rush hour routes at UW and keep the 255 going downtown, certainly evenings and weekends.

    1. Will SLU access really be that bad? Today, when I travel from Kirkland to SLU, I typically get off the 255 at 9th/Stewart and walk from there. After the change, I will probably get off Link at Westlake Station and walk from there. Maybe, door to door, it will take a couple minutes longer if there’s no traffic, but I’ll also get a bus that runs every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes, a tradeoff that I generally consider worth it.

      For parts of SLU that are far enough north to warrant a ride on the 70 (e.g. Fred Hutch), you can just ride the 70 the other direction to the U-district, and it will still be a two-seat ride to/from Kirkland, just like it is today.

      Another important point that cannot be overstated is that, with Montlake Freeway Station closed, the current routing completely screws over those headed to the U-district – as well as any section of north Seattle that is easier to get to by bus from the U-district than from downtown (e.g. Green Lake, Wedgwood, Lake City, and others). The weekend connection to or from the 542 at Yarrow Point is timed in the worst possible way, with a 29 minute wait 80% of the time and a 1-minute wait 20% of the time – and that’s both directions.

      Even as far northwest as Crown Hill, the 45 to the U-district takes about the same amount of time as the D-line to downtown, so a bus to Kirkland from the U-district that runs every 15 minutes is a clear improvement over a bus to Kirkland from downtown that runs every 30 minutes.

      And, if you do take a bus from northwest Seattle to downtown to catch the 255, you will probably find the transfer environment pretty bad, with a walk of several blocks required, with a stoplight on every block. 6th Ave. to Olive Way just doesn’t connect to the 3rd Ave. bus spine very well. In the U-district, the routes will be much closer together.

    2. It will be interesting to see what happen to the #255 when there are events at Husky Stadium or on the opening day of boating season when the Montlake Bridge is closed to traffic.

      I remember asking Metro planners about that when the restructure was proposed for NE Seattle and was told it was not going to be an issue. Well as turned out it is.

      When there are events at Husky Stadium the #372 which is the route I use to connect to Light Rail doesn’t even come close to the UW station as instead it only goes as far south on 25th Ave NE to NE 55th where it turns right and then follows the #74 route to the U District. On the NB trip it does the same thing from Campus Parkway and joins its regular route on 25th Ave NE at NE 55th.

      Metro does run a shuttle bus from Campus Parkway to the UW station on those days but it is not much use. So instead of connecting to the Light Rail you have to take either the #49 or #70 to go further south and the downtown area.

      I am going to guess that on those days Metro will have the #255 continue on 520 and have it terminate on Campus Parkway where those riders can join those from the #372, #65 and #75 with the latter two also routed away and transfer to the #49 or #70 to continue their journey.

      Of course you ride the shuttle to the UW Station but good luck with that as you join the thousands of fans going to the game or on graduation day in the spring the graduates and their families heading to and into the stadium.

  2. One interesting thing about the network is that it is forward thinking, but maybe a little too forward thinking. For example, the northern parts of the 234 and 235 that have a one-seat ride to Bellevue lose that, but now (or already had) a transfer opportunity at Totem Lake Freeway station. In fact, many routes from many places now have a nice A to A+ transfer to the Totem Lake Freeway Station. This is very good for connecting to I-405 Stride, and it works well for the 535 as well… if timed right. At peak this is no problem, since the 532, 535, 237, and 342 all converge here (lots of fast Seattle routes as well). But off-peak, the 535 runs every half hour, and there is the possibility that these transfers will be timed horribly.

    Same theme with running the 250 every 15 minutes on auto-dominated NE 85th street. Again, ideal for 405 Stride, but not now, when the BRT stop doesn’t even exist yet, and current major attractions include Costco and car dealerships. It’s not really a problem if it’s out of abundance, but it makes less sense when service is being cut on NE 116th street. For these riders, it’s annoying enough that the nearest bus is 8 blocks farther away now, but the screwed up geography of Kirkland may mean walking more than a mile to the nearest bus stop.

  3. Excellent work, Dan. I appreciate the details, especially about the 225. It is interesting that the area that loses out is mostly in Kirkland, while the area that benefits is mostly in Kenmore. It looks like Kirkland got screwed again. I hope that they add service along Juanita Drive, since it has the biggest cluster of apartments in the area (around the QFC).

    1. I should have said “I hope they add *rush hour* service to the QFC area apartments”. It doubt they will add all day service to that corridor anytime soon.

      1. There used to be the 935 on Juanita Drive before deviating into Finn Hill, and the 260 Finn Hill-Downtown Express. Both got axed due to low ridership (I was regularly one of at most three people on the 935 and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone on the 260 north of Houghton); why do people think that moving service from 84th to Juanita would be a good thing (anecdotally, the 234’s routing in Finn Hill, which is different than the 935’s, has reasonable ridership, with a constant flow of people using it to get to 100th)?

  4. ST 544 is awful.
    It should not divert to S Kirkland p&r.

    The map unhelpfully does not say which routes will stay on current routing at NE Pacific.
    All the redmond bound buses need to switch.

    1. Does it divert though? Why think of this as an Overlake bus diverting to South Kirkland? It’s as much a Kirkland bus with an extension to Redmond. The reorganized service hours are coming out of 540 as well as 541.

      1. Dan,
        For kirkland -> redmond riders, it will still be faster to get on frequent westbound 255, then transfer at yarrow bay to any frequent route to redmond.
        There is no HOV infra going east – partly because wsdot reneged on continuing the center HOV.

        The extremely slow diversion to one of the worst p&r structures around is bad for everyone.

      2. Yeah, but do you really need an express from Kirkland Park and Ride to Overlake? You already have the 249. You also have lots of peak hour buses headed from Overlake to Seattle via SR 520. Those riders can simply catch the first bus, then backtrack to Kirkland at a freeway station.

        It seems like they couldn’t make up their mind, and now lots of rush-hour service time will be wasted on a connection that isn’t used the much. If they skipped South Kirkland, then riders from the 255 would still be able to catch that bus (transferring at a freeway station instead of at the park and ride). That is likely to be the bulk of the riders from that station, since the only other bus is the 250. Doing so would have made it tougher for folks who walk (or drive) to the park and ride (and those on the 250) but it would make life a lot easier for those in Overlake, while saving a considerable amount of service time.

        If they simply truncated the bus in Kirkland, then it would save a lot more time and money. Folks from Overlake would have to transfer at a freeway station, or downtown. Big deal. Chances are, a savvy rider may catch one of those buses, transfer at Evergreen Point, and get on the same bus that left Overlake a while ago.

        This is a bad splitting of the difference, as buses will spend a considerable amount of time getting from Overlake to South Kirkland, a trip that simply isn’t that popular (if it was they would run the 249 more often than once an hour).

        It also shows no confidence in a commuter run. This is during peak hour. During that time, every bus worth its weight is either filled to the gills, or covering some remote place that needs covering. Yet this bus is moseying along, exiting the freeway, just so that it can pick up more riders. If we really need to directly serve both places, then serve it with two express buses. Both should be full — or neither make sense. This is a rush-hour only bus. Frequency is nice, but not critical. Run a couple express buses, and if you think that one or the other can’t make it on its own, then chances are, the Frankenstein mess you’ve created will fail even worse.

      3. Yeah, the 544 is bad in so many ways. As mentioned, there is hardly any reason to travel from South Kirkland P&R to Overlake. Maybe a few residents of the apartments next to the P&R work at Microsoft, but that’s basically it.

        Redmond->SLU, the time it takes the 544 to get in and out of South Kirkland P&R will exceed the entire peak-hour headway on the 545. Which means (assuming buses run on schedule) that is *guaranteed* that anybody riding the 544 out of Redmond will be able to leave home later, get on a 545, and end up in South Lake Union at the same time, on the same #544 bus. And, of course, in many cases, simply staying on the 545 and walking to the SLU office from 9th and Stewart is likely to be even faster.

        There is, of course, one good reason for riding the 544 all the way through. The 545 buses are packed to the gills, whereas, getting on a 544 bus back at Overlake, you will be virtually assured of getting a seat, likely a whole row to yourself for at least the first part of the trip. There are definitely people out there who will accept the extra 10 minutes to their commute for the sake of getting a seat on the bus.

        In Kirkland, the 544’s diversion to South Kirkand P&R exists first and foremost for people who drive to the P&R. As mentioned before, those who bus to the P&R (at least on the 255) have no need for it – they can make the exact same connection at Yarrow Point. And, since South Kirkland P&R is already filled to capacity, any extra service that only goes to the P&R can’t even attract more riders to the system – at best, it can cause the parking lot to fill up slightly earlier each morning, but that’s it.

        My $0.02 is that the 540’s service hours is better spend just adding more peak-hour runs to the 255, while the 541 should either just remain as is or convert to 542. I’m not sold on the need for a special eastside->SLU bus. Traffic in SLU is horrible during rush hour, and riding the bus through there is likely to be no faster than just getting off at Stewart and Denny and walking – something which you can already do on the 545. Or take the 255->Link and walk from Westlake Station instead – it’s about the same distance.

      4. Houghton would have been a good Kirkland terminal for Route 544; it would have provided service to the many empty stalls there; Route 255 will provide plenty of service to South Kirkland; it is full.

      5. One really nice thing about Sound Transit is that they have stop data, and publish it every year. If there really are hundreds of people people making the trip from Overlake to South Kirkland (enough to justify the express service) then we will see it. My guess it will be somewhere around 25, give or take.

        If there aren’t a lot of people making that trip, then the route is a failure. That leaves better alternatives. If a lot of people from Overlake are willing to live with the detour to get a one seat ride to South Lake Union, then they should have their own bus. If there aren’t a lot of people making that trip, then they should just end the bus route at South Kirkland (or up the road, as Eddie suggested).

      6. Houghton would have been a good Kirkland terminal for Route 544; it would have provided service to the many empty stalls there; Route 255 will provide plenty of service to South Kirkland; it is full.

        I can’t comment on the particulars of this specific suggestion but in general I’m very dissappointed that this “once in a lifetime” opportunity to up end Kirkland/eastside transit was a total wiff regarding making use of an existing P&R that’s in a prime location yet under utilized. #1 goal of any restructure should have been to make parking here as golden as Brickyard and S. Kirkland. Wiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

    2. I’m personally not too concerned about the “diversion” to S Kirkland, in that if one is truly concerned, one can get off at one of the freeway stations and catch one of the “direct” buses to Overlake.

      1. The big opportunity lost here was when it was decided that building 30-50k per stall “free” parking was the best way to create affordable housing. WSDOT owns a chunk of land adjacent to 520. They use it to store vehicles, sand, etc. All of that could have been moved up the hill and the P&R relocated where this long loop de loop would have been eliminated. A further benefit would have been the insane idea of double tracked Link from the OMF-E to S. Kirkland P&R would have been off the table.

  5. Sadly, this turns two-seat rides (235>255) into three-seat rides (new 239>255>Link) for large sections of Kirkland (for example, North Rose Hill north of NE 85th Street). It also eliminates most alternates (236, 238) for when you get stuck waiting at KTC for 30 minutes to make the last 1.5 miles to home. Connections have always been a pain, especially heading to Kirkland anywhere not right at KTC or Kingsgate P&R. This new structure just exasperates the problem combined with long headways (we still have only have 30-minute routes to get to/from neighborhoods to a transit center). The average wait times for connections frequently approach or exceed the the time to just drive, especially evenings/weekends. And now, we even lose direct service to the adjacent Bellevue.

    Eastsiders get the prohibitive economics of running a large bus on a more frequent schedule, but think out of the box. Why aren’t smaller airport shuttle size vehicles more economical during off-peak that can help with the “last mile” syndrome? So many people scream about building parking garages on the Eastside. This is why. We can’t reliably and consistently use transit “last mile” to get from our houses to/from a transit center. I’m a long-time discretionary transit rider for both work and pleasure, taking 2-3x as long as driving trying to do the right thing. This re-structure is a step backwards and will nudge me back into my car when this goes in effect.

    1. “Why aren’t smaller airport shuttle size vehicles more economical during off-peak that can help with the “last mile” syndrome?”

      Vans are more fuel-efficient for a small number of riders but there are other factors too. I’ll first deal with using vans on current routes and theoretical new routes, and then with unrouted service, Much of the cost of a bus is for the driver, so the same for both large and small buses. Switching between a large bus peak hours and a small bus off-peak requires driving 10+ miles to the base and back, using time and fuel. Metro’s bases are currently full and can’t fit any more buses, small or otherwise. Additional bases are expected in the mid 2020s.

      For unrouted (on-demand) service the economics are harsher. Metro is experimenting with two such services, VIA and Ride 2, in Eastgate, Tukwila, Rainier Valley, and West Seattle. Local, national, and international experience has shown that even little-used coverage routes (fixed routes running every 30-60 minutes) average 10 riders/hour (the break-even point for cost-effectiveness), while on-demand vans achieve only a tenth of that. So it’s expensive to run on-demand taxis and it can’t serve that many people. All that deadheading between clients add up.

      In contrast, a fixed route is strategically located (supposedly in the most widely-accessible corridor), and runs at a predictable schedule so people can remember it and plan to use it, and the 50% deadheading is eliminated. With an on-demand taxi you can make a last-minute reservation but you might wait 10-20 minutes for it, whereas with a fixed-route bus if you know when it comes you can go to the stop then and wait only 1-2 minutes. In between are semi-fixed routes like the Valley Shuttle in Snoqualmie and dial-a-ride routes in Kent and Burien, which have a scheduled fixed route but reserve 10 minutes per run for deviations in certain neighborhoods. This can be a good compromise to reach isolated houses.

  6. In general this shows the difficulty of providing good transit in a low density area that has no stomach for high taxation. This is essentially a truncation of sorts, and the contrast between what happened in northeast Seattle and the northeast suburbs is striking. While many in Seattle lost their one seat ride to downtown, they at least got frequency. The 65 runs every ten minutes, while the 62, 65 and 372 run every 15. These are relatively low density areas, yet the folks there have a fairly good grid with fairly good frequency.

    In contrast, Kirkland gets squat. Consider two areas, Totem Lake and the cluster of apartments mentioned above (https://goo.gl/maps/PsUCfRk8JnE7nDdA9). A trip from Totem Lake to the UW requires either slogging your way through Kirkland, or detouring to Bellevue. Remember, this is after Metro decided to truncate buses at the UW.

    The QFC area apartments are in worse shape. To get anywhere requires a 15 minute walk, followed by catching a 30 minute bus. A trip to Seattle (anywhere in Seattle) requires another bus. Likewise with a trip to Bellevue or the business part of Kirkland (so revered that some have proposed a chunnel serving it).

    I’m not sure I could have done much better (other than stick with the original draft). These are the tough trade-offs that come when you are trying to serve a low density area. I just find the disconnect between what Link is in the process of building (light rail to South Kirkland) and what it needs (a lot more buses) depressing.

    1. I disagree that Kirkland gets squat. Yes, Kirkland is challenging and remains challenging, but I would argue there are real benefits to more frequency and span of service, even with issues like a slog through Kirkland, which I say might be heavily ameliorated if Kirkland was willing to dedicate some bus only lanes.

      1. Various parts of Kirkland — including areas that are relatively dense (as dense as various parts of Northeast Seattle) — will continue to have very poor transit options. Of course I believe there are real benefits to more frequency and span of service. The problem is, they won’t get it. Almost all buses are half hour buses. The exception is the 255, which will only work for a small subsection of the city.

        The point is, if I lived just about anywhere in the region, I would want a car. If I didn’t know how to drive, I would learn. This goes for places like Totem Lake. Holy cow, this is basically akin to Northgate. It has a freeway stop right next to it, with express service to downtown Bellevue, Lynnwood and Everett. It is a transit center, with buses going everywhere. There is a hospital, along with plenty of apartments (all over). This is the up and coming, supposedly transit-rich section of town, yet if you just want to go to the UW in the evening, you are screwed. Never mind the lack of lack of express service to downtown, you don’t even have express service to the UW. All this talk about truncating buses at the UW (oh, the horror) and it doesn’t benefit you. You are stuck with the same slow slog through Kirkland. Now imagine you aren’t headed to the UW, but to Fremont, Ballard, or Northgate. Again, you are hosed. Holy cow, despite billions spent on a train making it super easy to get to a doctor appointment in Northgate, you are still hosed because you can’t get to the UW in a reasonable time and make the connection. Link is largely dead to you, as is pretty much all service outside commute hours (in traditional commute direction) towards Seattle (the biggest city in the region).

        You aren’t alone. Totem Lake is better than most. As I said, there are large apartment complexes in Kirkland without any service whatsoever.

        Again, I’m not saying I could do better. I’m just saying that it is obvious that bus service in that area is woefully underfunded, while we screw around with much more expensive light rail projects.

      2. I think the theme of these comments is becoming abundantly clear. However you slice and dice it, there is simply not enough service hours to go around to really serve Kirkland well, so the best you can do is try to concentrate as much service as possible to the area that offers the best car-free amenities, while providing at least some service to the other areas. And, the best place to live car-free in Kirkland is downtown, not Totem Lake, and it’s not even close.

        If you think of it that way, truncating the 255 and re-investing it to create Kirkland’s first ever full-time frequent route makes a lot of sense. It will made the Redmond people jealous (at least weekends) that they’re still stuck with 30-minute routes, while Kirkland gets a 15-minute route.

      3. Totem Lake, Kingsgate, and Brickyard have peak express service to downtown Seattle with the 252, 257, and 311. That’s not changing under this plan.

        Yes, but none of them run in the evening from Kirkland towards Seattle. If you are trying to get from Totem Lake to just about anywhere in Seattle in the afternoon or evening, you are out of luck.

        I think the theme of these comments is becoming abundantly clear. However you slice and dice it, there is simply not enough service hours to go around to really serve Kirkland well …

        Exactly. I’m OK with that. The same is true for say, Wenatchee. But I wouldn’t turn around and plan a big light rail line in Wenatchee. Yet that is exactly what ST is doing.

        Just to be clear, I wouldn’t expect every last part of Kirkland to have great transit. But Totem Lake should have decent bus service, and it wouldn’t be that hard to provide it. A bus doesn’t even have to start at Totem Lake, since it is on the way. You could run an all-day, frequent bus from Woodinville to the UW, for example. This would provide coverage for Woodinville while connecting Totem Lake to Seattle. Such a bus would have good return on investment — far better than most of the I-405 BRT projects.

        Again, I don’t fault Metro. They are doing the best they can with a bad hand. I just think it is nuts that we are spending an enormous amount on dubious projects, while service that I would consider basic is lacking.

      4. Yeah, a Woodinville->Totem Lake->UW all day express route makes a lot of sense. I’m still not sure where the money to pay for it should come from; certainly not by cutting the frequency of the downtown Kirkland->Seattle bus route in half.

        Reading between the lines of what you’re saying, maybe the elephant in the room is the Issaquah rail line – that the money should have been spent bolstering ST Express in the East King subarea instead. A small fraction of the Issaquah Link budget could have easily paid for this line in question.

        Definitely a good point…

      5. Kirkland has and will continue to have extremely poor transit in general, and I think this is reasonable given the overall low densities in the city, and more importantly severe lack of political will to invest in transit like Seattle did with things like a TBD. A Woodinville->Totem Lake->UW express route sounds awesome, but I would want to see projected ridership numbers first, which I intuit would be very very low, though maybe not as bad as 405 BRT.

      6. “A Woodinville->Totem Lake->UW express route sounds awesome,”

        That could be something for the 522 to do after 522 Stride starts.

      7. Reading between the lines of what you’re saying, maybe the elephant in the room is the Issaquah rail line – that the money should have been spent bolstering ST Express in the East King subarea instead. A small fraction of the Issaquah Link budget could have easily paid for this line in question.

        That, and the excessive amount spent for I-405 BRT. That extravagance isn’t quite an elephant in the room — it is more like a hippo.

      8. “A Woodinville->Totem Lake->UW express route sounds awesome, but I would want to see projected ridership numbers first, which I intuit would be very very low, though maybe not as bad as 405 BRT.”

        The 311’s and 257’s are generally packed (the 252 less so), at least in the 8-9 AM and 5-6 PM hours when I’ve taken them. I’m pretty sure they’d be busy through at least 10 AM, and decently used off-peak. Extending the buses later would be very popular I think – only 4 buses run after 5 PM out of Seattle, and they’re generally packed.

        I’ve taken the 311 more than the 257 since I get on at Brickyard, but the 257 probably gets 1/3-1/2 its riders from the local areas it serves before hitting Totem Lake.

      9. @David — I agree. Just to be clear, I’m not wedded to the Woodinville idea. Maybe there just isn’t a lot of ridership in Woodinville (which is CT’s point). The 236 and 238 were dogs — it makes sense that they are killing them.

        But so too is the Woodinville tail of the 522. There are about 250 riders who use that bus in Woodinville. It just doesn’t make sense for Metro or ST to spend that much time sending buses along the SR 522 corridor, when so few people from Woodinville will use it. If you are in Woodinville, the only thing the 522 gives you is a fast ride to Bothell, Kenmore or Lake City. That is all good and well, but not worthy of that much service.

        That is the basic problem with Woodinville service, before or after the restructure. You can’t get to a major destination quickly, or easily. Even a trip to relatively nearby Kirkland is an infrequent slog. That route is justified only for coverage reasons (along Juanita-Woodinville Way).

        I would end the 522 at SR 522. Those headed to Bothell and Kenmore would have to transfer. Those headed to downtown Seattle or downtown Bellevue would have to transfer. But at least those transfers would be fast, and frequent. Those headed to the UW (one of the big three) would have a very fast one seat ride. Totem Lake, meanwhile, would generate the bulk of the ridership for that route, because Totem Lake is rapidly becoming the Northgate of the Northeast.

        Which is a key point I’m trying to make here. The similarities between Northgate and Totem Lake are striking. Both are suburban in nature, yet have plenty of old apartments and condos. They are sprawling, not well served by a single transit center point. Both have medical related employment, as well as a fair amount of retail. Both have modern, six story bread boxes to add fuel to the fire. Finally, both have good local connections, which means if you are at the hospital, the mall, an old condo or new new six story apartment, and you don’t feel like walking to the transit center, you can take a connecting bus. That — along with an express bus — is what drove transit ridership in Northgate. Once people realized that it wasn’t that hard to get just about anywhere in the city via a bus, they started taking it.

        I’m not saying that Totem Lake has quite the same level of bus ridership, but I would be willing to bet that there are lots of people who wish they didn’t have to drive anywhere, along with plenty more who simply can’t. As with Northgate there are plenty of people who would prefer living someplace a little nicer (maybe a couple miles to the south) but can’t, because it is too expensive. Building a frequent, fast bus to a major destination while connecting them to every major (and several minor) destinations in the area would likely be very popular.

        It would also be fairly cheap. Woodinville to the UW takes about 20 minutes, give or take. The Totem Lake stop, like other freeway stops, costs nothing. Like the 41, ridership would be driven by the fact that it is so fast and frequent. If we are really serious about having a region wide transit system — so serious we are willing to spend billions on trains to places like Issaquah, Fife and Ash Way — then we really should have an all-day, frequent express bus from Totem Lake to the UW.

    1. I don’t see 250 working without bus only lanes on 85th, Redmond Way, and Lakeview Dr, but I look forward to being proven wrong.

  7. Well I wouldn’t say the elimination of the 236 was unnoticed, just the bulk of it’s routing has service from the new routes. :-) This plan is the first change in 30+ years of riding Metro almost every day that will ironically result in me riding the bus less. I’ll probably have to drive 2 or 3 days a month now, mostly because of no parking at Kingsgate or South Kirkland PR. :-)

    I call this the “needs of the many plan” . :-) It basically resulted in small “pockets” getting very poor or even no service other than peak in exchange for overall service being better. Not inherently a bad deal.

  8. Shouldn’t they have just waited a few years when East Link opens and done a big restructure then? Some of these changes might not look so great after there’s light rail on the Eastside.

    1. I was wondering the same thing, Sam. So I stared a bit at the service map to contemplate this. Some other postings indicate that this structure creates several local routes in North Kirkland and Kenmore that don’t end at any future Link station. However, those routes usually do end at a future STRide station — but it may be out-of-direction.

      So I see this as a route structure where Metro is getting more and more out of the long-distance service market and handing that to ST.

      That said, the concept of STRide merely as a freeway flyer service rather than a combination of trunk-branches to arterials service may not be the best service design unless some agency commits to putting more money into “protected” transferring rider connections. The freeway transfer points will be noisy and nearby traffic will speed by transferring riders walking across major streets and ends of ramps. Bluntly, pedestrian transfer movements seems to remain too “challenging” to solve because no single government agency wants to champion improving this part of the transit trip. Even though the region in decades past has built many excellent transit centers, I find that the recent silence about getting between buses and Link or STRide platforms is almost deafening in contrast.

      1. Consider too that the STRide-Link at Bellevue TC will still require every bus to go through three signals to reach it (405 median, 112th, 110th) and every transferring rider will have to cross a wide 110th Street. This transfer will not be quick nor seamless.

      2. I’m none too pleased that the station wasn’t put in the tunnel under 110th as originally planned AND Sound Transit didn’t built a pedestrian tunnel under 110th, even though the road was closed was for months for light rail tunnel construction.

        That being said, 110th is not nearly as high volume of a street as most of the other N/S streets in Bellevue and it doesn’t feel as wide as it appears in maps. I expect that the delay to cross 110th to the Bellevue TC will be similar to the delay to cross 108th at the other end of the transit center. Not nothing, but not interminable either.

    2. There are real problems on the other side that motivated the restructure. Evening/weekend trips between the U-District and north Seattle to Kirkland and Redmond are very difficult, and the loss of the Montlake freeway station during construction means you can’t go a little further to Montlake and transfer. The 255 is hourly evenings, which is really inadequate for the Eastside’s third-largest city and makes most potential riders drive. Most routes around Kirkland have have large periods of hourly service or no service. Metro has tried multiple times to fix these but failed, similar to the 2, 3, and 4 restructures that also failed and were deferred (although the 3N/4N to SPU has since been implemented). There are tradeoffs several different ways, but making the 255 full-time frequent and giving full-time access to UW station is a significant benefit, as is the increased Bellevue-Kirkland and Kirkland-Redmond frequency on the 250, and the increased frequency in north Kirkland. It’s a judgment call whether network A (current), network B (this plan), and network C (post-Stride) should be changed now or when, but you have to look at not just these riders in north Kirkland but also these other riders. And at least Metro is moving toward frequent corridors in the highest-demand areas, which it has been too hesitant about historically. Those corridors are what generates the most ridership and most makes it feasable for some people to get around mostly without a car, whereas without them nobody can get around without a car without making extraordinary sacrifices that most people won’t do. It’s absolutely insane that cross-520 bus service to northeast King County drops practically to zero evenings, or that people have to transfer at Yarrow Point where it may be a very long wait, or that the 271 doesn’t go to Yarrow Point and can’t help with this.

      1. Aren’t evening and weekend trips from NE Seattle to the NE Eastside more difficult because there is less service because there is less demand?

        And here are some service hours Metro could redirect … stop sending the 221 up to Education Hill in Redmond at night and on weekends. Why does this sf home neighborhood get almost 17 hour/7 day service when similar neighborhoods like Somerset and mid and south Mercer Island don’t? Also, stop sending the 245 down to Factoria. People at the Eastgate P&R can transfer to the 240, 241, or 246.

      2. It’s a two-way effect. Northeast King County does have a lower ridership baseline because the kind of people who live in such low-density areas expect to drive more and are less willing to take transit off-peak, and there are no major ridership magnets like downtown Bellevue or UW. But at the same time, there are a couple hundred thousand people and lowrise apartments and walkable neighborhoods and parks that people want to travel to. So there’s clearly latent demand that’s not being served. Asdf2 and I aren’t the only people who would take cross-lake and Kirkland-area transit if it existed and were more frequent.

        And it’s partly about the insatiable demand for peak-hour 520 service. Metro and ST feel they must keep up with peak-hour demand, especially now with the bridge toll, because all levels of government have been telling people to take transit to avoid the toll, and the toll is highest peak hours, so the transit has to be there for people to take. There would probably be more evening service if there weren’t such an extreme demand for peak-hour service.

      3. Case in point, I have a friend who lives on 68th east of 108th. Visiting them on a Saturday evening is difficult because of the hourly bus. I can walk to Westlake but if I didn’t it would be even more difficult. Sometimes we meet at a sports bar in Belltown or the pizza place in Laurelhurst and they take UberX. I’d like to suggest they take transit but they won’t take it seriously when the bus is hourly. Most of my friends are like that; they’ll drive rather than take an hourly or half-hourly bus. Even I avoid neighborhoods with half-hourly buses, such as the evening 11. It was such a relief when the C, E, 5, and 40 gave frequent evening service to those neighborhoods starting between 2012 and 2017. And to get from Kirkland to Laurelhurst evenings in the current network… take the 255 to Westlake, transfer to Link to UW, transfer to the 65 to Laurelhurst. And coming back there’s a 5-minute walk between Stevens Way and UW Station. Do you think anyone who’s not a die-hard transit fan or seriously poor would do that?

      4. Thankfully, the 520 trail is open, making the bike option for trips like this viable. With an e-bike, I can do the entire trip in door-to-door 40 minutes.

        With the current network, trying to do it on a bus would be insane. With the new network, it becomes much easier.

    3. Stride essentially replaces the 535, which means that all these local routes get a lot more transfer opportunities over a larger span. The 535 is half-hourly off-peak and has no service at all Sundays.

      Restructures should go to Link stations, and several STB articles have argued for more Renton and Kent routes to serve Rainier Beach Station. However, Bellevue, Redmond, or UW may be too far to expect north Kirkland routes to go to, so their connection may have to be to 405 Stride or 522 Stride. Stride is supposed to be a kind of poor man’s light rail. And for better or worse, it shows what 405 Link would be like, which could help gain support for routing a Link extension closer to downtown Kirkland.

  9. Is Kirkland getting screwed again? It’s worth some attention. The most unchangeable fact is that downtown Kirkland is a way’s west of 405 on the shore, so it’s hard to serve rapidly without tunnel/elevated ROW. Kirkland has blocked density downtown or along 108th that a north-south downtown line would serve or that moderate-income people would live in. Instead it has channeled growth to Totem Lake, which is essentially putting people “out of sight, out of mind, no view, and can’t walk to central Kirkland”. The cross-Kirkland connector seems like an ideal place for Link or BRT, but the quiet woodsy trail really is a unique amenity in northeast suburbia, and it doesn’t quite reach downtown Kirkland either. So that’s the long-term environment transit has to make the best of. These factors underlie some of the complaints, and it’s hard to solve them in a win-win way.

    I wish Kirkland would channel growth to downtown and 108th and 85th and 68th/70th, and then it would be easier to concentrate service along the natural Bellevue-Kirkland-Redmond triangle.

    Regarding the issues of UW station access vs north Kirkland access, I have no answers beyond what I wrote above. But maybe it shows a larger issue, that northeast King County’s network is evolving without a sufficient goal framework. What should it be, what are the agencies doing instead, and what should we tell the agencies? What would a network of “every route goes to Link” look like? Would it address the overall mobility needs of Kirkland and northeast King County? Has 405 Stride focused too much on following current routes (Lynnwood-Bellevue, Bellevue-Burien) and not enough on where the one-seat rides should go? How much can we do without a multi-line BRT that would have cost more? And the money that could have gone into it was taken by Issaquah Link.

  10. Is there a reason that Route 255 isn’t branded for RapidRide status? That seems reasonable to me because there are several RapidRide style stops on 520 and it would seem to be a good political compromise for not going Downtown. It could even sequentially become “RapidRide K” as in Kirkland or “RapidRide L” as in Lake.

    I would think that weekday ridership would be comparable if not better than RapidRide lines B or F.

    1. Metro’s 2025 plan replaces it with an Express on Kirkland – 108th – UW Stn – Campus Pkwy – SLU/Uptown. That’s a year-old concept so not necessarily current, but it shows Metro’s direction then. Rapid lines are different from Express routes so Metro would have to choose one way or the other. Upgrading it to RapidRide would depend on the county-wide levy expected in 2021 because RapidRide requires certain corridor investments and new red buses. It would also have to wait for the base expansions in the mid 2020s, and the time it would take for the manufacturer to schedule and build the buses.

  11. I will be most interested to see how or if the255/link transfer is made reasonable at husky station. Especially getting to eastbound 255.

    1. Fortunately for you, there’s a graphic in the article that shows that it will be just south of the existing pedestrian bridge across Montlake, which has both stairs and an elevator. There’s also an existing bus stop which no doubt would be upgraded for the service revision. It would be difficult to make the transfer easier, unless UW gave up some parking on the east side of the station.

  12. I think an easily missed detail here is some brand new service Metro is introducing with route 230. Most of the new network is just putting new routes where old routes used to be, with more of a grid network and less of a piecemeal of windy routes (like the 236, one of the most zig-zaggy routes I’ve ever seen).

    But the 230 introduces new bus service on 100th Ave NE north of Juanita where there was none before. Aside from just providing new coverage, it’s a straight shot from downtown Kirkland to Bothell. But one thing that caught my eye was the part of the 230 on this map (https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/depts/transportation/metro/programs-projects/north-eastside-mobility/map-proposed-north-eastside-restructure.pdf) that continues north of Bothell and beyond the page into Snohomish County. On the PDF of the new route, it says it goes to North Creek, but it doesn’t provide a map. Anyone have an idea of what the exact routing is? My guess it’s going to Canyon Park P&R, filling an all-day gap in CT service where it is currently peak-only.

    1. North Creek is the business park in that area. From the map in the approved ordinance, it will run up to SE 240th St just over the county line and loop around the AT&T office building.

      I like what they did with the new 230 and 231 by having them take the straightest local street path from Kirkland to Bothell and Woodinville instead of the spaghetti routes taken by the 238 and 236.

      1. I like what they did with the new 230 and 231 by having them take the straightest local street path from Kirkland to Bothell and Woodinville instead of the spaghetti routes taken by the 238 and 236.

        I agree. That is much better. If you are going from Kirkland to Bothell, you have a straight shot. If you are going from Kirkland to Kenmore, you have to transfer, but the transfer is frequent and fast (you can take the 372 or 522). They managed to make the bus routes a lot faster, while adding coverage (on 100th). There is a lot to like about this restructure, even though there are some places that are lacking.

        When Link gets to Lynnwood and the 522 BRT is built, it will be interesting to see what happens in Bothell. Both the 230 and 239 spend a fair amount of time looping around Bothell. The 372 goes all the way out there as well. That bus could be truncated in Kenmore, if not sooner, while the other buses could get truncated close to the Bothell Park and Ride. I would put the extra savings into running that 230 more often (every 15 minutes if possible).

      2. Ok cool, thanks for finding this. It’s kind of an odd place to end the route. It’s unusual for Metro to extend routes a mile or so for a smallish office building.

      3. It’s not really for the AT&T building; it’s just a good point to layover and turn the bus around while avoiding large one-way loops. There’s a few other offices in that area as well, including the Northshore School District administration.

  13. Two things pushed the 255 truncation/reroute/do-over. #1 was the loss of the bus tunnel. #2 was the loss of the Montlake Flyer stop. Both actions mean the 255 riders were screwed. So the question was how to make lemon-aid. There’s not a lot of options. Personally I’ve used the 255 more to get to the UW than DT. So for me the decision to force a transfer to Link at Husky Station was a winner.

    One option would have been to force the issue and require WSDOT (on their dime) to maintain a flyer stop throughout “the rest of the west” construction. It would add cost but certainly could have been done. WSDOT spends tons of extra money to make things convenient for drivers; the cost of making things convenient for transit would have been small potatoes in comparison.

    Another option would be to prioritize the 520 to Westlake transit project to the top of the list.

    With regard to the truncation eliminating Brickyard service I don’t have much personal experience. I will say that one of the problems with the status quo is the variability of where the various flavors of 255 ran. Some would “end” at Kirkland TC. In fact they would go “out of service” and jump on 405 to get to Totem Lake TC. This was actually a very usable connection and experienced drivers would let you stay on the bus and take that hop. A 255 that runs one route all the time no matter what will help make riding transit easier to understand. In general, if the changes result in actual increased frequency then it’s a win.

  14. The elimination of the 234/235/236/238 seems a lot like change just for the sake of change. Odd routes, yes but they are not random and have provided coverage for years which has shaped development and influenced peoples choices about where to work and live. The new routes seem every bit as circuitous and, at this point random. I get the “concept” of Kirkland to Redmond on NE 85th. But multifamily housing pretty much is clustered around 148th which already has transit. And there’s not really any “job centers” on NE 85th. It’s mostly just an awful road for drivers and totally sucks for pedestrians. God help you if you ride a bike on this road.

    Kirkland to Redmond has a connection on Old Redmond Rd. You know, the old road that connected Kirkland to Redmond? There are a lot of multifamily units all along this route and although it’s not as direct would seem to be a better choice for additional service.

  15. It’s certainly not change for the sake of change. If anything, it’s probably been entrenchment of the current network that has stopped Metro from considering major changes in the past.

    The old (current) network is a patchwork of routes that individually don’t run very often, and try to go close to everyone in Kirkland, and try to go to as many transfer points as possible. So they all go to Kirkland TC, and many of them also go to Totem Lake TC or Kingsgate P&R (or both). Some northern routes separate to go to Bothell or Woodinville, and both going to Brickyard. Bellevue is a big job center, so there is frequent service there, but made from two of the coverage branches. Kenmore, Redmond, and Seattle are far branches, so one bus gets sent to each.

    The result is a very coverage oriented, infrequent system that doesn’t resemble a grid, and where most routes don’t follow a pattern anyone would drive (see for example the 238). All it promises is that it’s possible to get where you want in one or two buses, but not that it will be pleasant or efficient. The new network is superior in many ways. For one, it’s more grid-like, and most routes are now relatively linear (or follow a general direction at least. There aren’t any routes like the 238 anymore). Some options are removed for some people, but some people see new connection options, even some fast ones like I-405 freeway stations to Bellevue, or the new straight-shot 230. As always, there are winners and losers, but it’s better on the whole.

    1. All it promises is that it’s possible to get where you want in one or two buses, but not that it will be pleasant or efficient.

      Pleasant and efficient is a tall order for most eastside locations. I guess the thing to watch is ridership. If more people ride it’s more cost effective and directly benefits a greater number of people. Color me highly skeptical. The loss of service on 116th and what I see as a significant degredation of service to Lk WA Tech are the two main beefs I have.

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