Link Transit’s electric bus in Wenatchee (SounderBruce/Wikimedia Commons)

In a ballot measure that escaped our notice, on August 6 voters in Chelan and Douglas Counties approved a two-phase sales tax increase (by 12 points) to fund a service expansion. The first 0.1% will come into effect in January 2020, and the second in 2022. The current rate is 0.4% out of a possible 0.9%.

Link Transit

Next July, the agency promises increases in Saturday service. If they are able to fill open positions, Link will also start running service on Sundays. For urbanite tourists, Sunday service opens up a wealth of possibilities to get around the area after traveling to Wenatchee without a car, which is not difficult.

You can find more details about Link Transit’s plan for the next few years here.

21 Replies to “Link Transit expanding”

  1. “after traveling to Wenatchee without a car, which is not difficult…”

    Yes, it can be done, but the catch is it’s expensive. At a minimum, round trip fares start at around $60 for one adult, which is not that much less than the cost of an all-day rental car. If you’re making trip with someone – even just one other person – renting a car and driving actually becomes cheaper. And doing an all-day trip like this is much more enjoyable when you’re doing it with someone.

    But, it’s actually worse than that. Services across the Cascades are very infrequent, so you have to pay careful attention to the schedule. A quick check at the Greyhound schedule shows two daily trips in both directions – one that departs mid-morning and arrives early afternoon, the other that departs early afternoon and arrives late afternoon. So, at least with Greyhound, visiting Wenatchee on a bus is effectively impossible without an overnight stay. A quick check on AirBnb shows most options around $70-125 per night, with one outlier for $43/night. All of them are located in the outskirts, rather than the middle of the city, where most of the transit is, so getting in or out there by bus would be additional expense and hassle. Hotels in the Wenatchee town center do exist, but they start at $65/night+tax for a Motel 6, and go up from there.

    The Amtrak schedule is no better for daytrips than the Greyhound schedule, with the one daily eastbound train arriving in the evening and the one daily westbound train departing in the very early morning. (The Apple Line runs from Omak=>Ellensburg, and isn’t really relevant in getting to/from Seattle). Flights to/from SeaTac of course, exist, with a schedule that would permit daytrips, but they’re much more expensive.

    And that still leaves the issue that the places in the area worth visiting are generally outside of the city, and still require a car to get to, either way.

    Bottom line, the cross-cascades bus routes aren’t really designed for visiting the Wenatchee area in a daytrip. They’re a good, cheap way to spend a spend a few days at your parents/grandparents’ house, if they happen to live in the area, but that’s basically about it.

    For simply visiting Wenatchee, it is still hard to justify doing the trip any way other than old fashioned way, in spite of service improvements to the local buses. Go with friends. If none of them own a car, split the cost of a rental car. And take turns driving so that no one goes to sleep behind the wheel and everyone stays safe.

    1. I agree. Intercity transit needs are mostly ignored by our state. It seems to only emerge as HSR planning, which is so far in the future that most of us will be dead or living with limited mobility on opening day.

      I am also surprised that a Bolt Bus operation isn’t going at least to Ellensburg and Yakima. It sounds like the free market is abdicating everything to airplanes.

      1. It’s interesting — and sad — that a rural county can’t find enough people to drive all the buses it’s willing to fund.

      2. Who said there’s a driver shortage? The problem is finding someone willing to subsidize the service so that it can run every hour or two at a price competitive with driving. Since it doesn’t exist, people drive or fly.

      3. Next July, the agency promises increases in Saturday service. If they are able to fill open positions, Link will also start running service on Sundays.

        I’m not talking about Greyhound or Bolt, Mike: Link Transit. But actually, I see that it’s not drivers they need, but rather maintenance staff.

        Still, the story specifically says “If they are able to fill open positions“…..

      4. Ellensberg and Yakima are served several times a day by the SeaTac to Yakima airporter service by Belair.

        A similar airport bus called the Wenatchee Valley Shuttle operates up there.

        The one relevance that the Apple line does have is that you can change in Ellensburg between the Apple line to Wenatchee and Greyhound’s Seattle – Spokane route. You’d have to do your overnight in Ellensburg after arriving there at 10 pm or 1 am. I’m not sure if you could connect to Belair’s airporter with it as Belair usually stops in some pretty difficult to get to areas.

        The busbud web site shows several Greyhound bus trips from Ellensburg to a few Seattle area hospitals. Do those actually exist? Is anyone able to buy tickets for them other than hospital patients?

      5. The airporter is not an attractive option because it just takes too long to get to the airport from most of the city, plus you spend a lot of time traveling in the wrong direction. Yes, Link does go to the airport. But, it’s a good 35 minute from downtown and, with the bus transfer, at least an hour from Fremont or Ballard. On top of that, you’re at the mercy of I-405 traffic around Renton/Newcastle, which can back up at any time of day, including weekends. From Bellevue, you could practically drive all the way to Ellensburg, in the time it would take just to reach the airport bus stop.

        The airporter is designed first and foremost to serve people who live in Yakima/Ellensburg, who are flying out of SeaTac. Just about any other use case is not what the service is designed for.

    2. Who takes a day trip to Wenatchee or Chelan? The rental car sounds way less attractive when it’s a multi-day trip.

      There are plenty of itineraries in that area with limited local mobility needs, and a few buses running per day are sufficient to get you in and out of there.

      1. I did a day trip to Leavenworth ten years ago and I’ve been thinking about doing it again after hearing their German theme has significantly expanded and improved. Wenatchee and Ellensburg aren’t as much tourist destinations but they are larger and I intend to visit them in the next couple years, and they’re just the right distance for a day trip. Chelan I don’t know about; it mostly seems to be multi-day campers.

        If the first three cities had better transit connections to Pugetopolis and each other. you would see more people visiting them, both on transit and by all modes, just like with Trailhead Direct or similar small-town transit in Switzerland and Germany.

        But when it’s a mishmash of a few uncoordinated services, each one running once or twice a day, often at inconvenient hours, costing $50, you lose at least half of the potential riders. They look at the schedule and see it doesn’t work for them or costs too much, or they don’t look at the schedule because they assume there’s little chance it will work for them. The same problem happens on a different scale with our most underserved coverage routes like the 208 and 268 and former hourly 50 — people who would take it don’t because the schedule doesn’t work for them or it’s not worth checking whether it might work because the chance it will is small.

    3. To qualify my comment yesterday, more service on Link transit *is* a good thing, and it’s especially remarkable coming from a more conservative part of the state (Donald Trump won Chelan county in 2016 by about 15 points). I just that the benefits will go to the people that live there, not people visiting all the way from Seattle. (And that’s perfectly fine; they’re the ones paying the taxes for it, they should get the benefits).

      As for better state support of inter-city transit, I think a good model would be something like the Strait Shot Express from the Bainbridge Island ferry to Port Angeles. It has affordable fares, as well as a carefully constructed schedule that allows the locals in Sequim/Port Angeles to visit Seattle for a daytrip, without the added expense of an overnight stay. It also runs 7 days/week, making it possible for people who work during the week to come in for a Seahawks game, PAX/Bumbershoot, or other special events.

      Unfortunately, it is not possible for one single bus to run a schedule that supports daytrips in both directions (to do that, the bus would have to be running in both directions at the same time each morning/evening). In general, it makes sense to do what the Strait Shot does and prioritize people in the medium-sized towns visiting the big city, rather than the other way around. Not only is the travel market much larger (Seattle has events and services that you can’t get in Port Angeles or Ellensburg), but it’s also a trip that’s much more feasible to do by transit, since you have an entire big-city transit system – including Link – at your disposal after you arrive.

      Also, one obvious way to help keep fares down on the inter-city bus is by not having it fight traffic in the middle of downtown. Today, there’s not much choice, but come 2024, there is a strong case to be made for truncating a Wenatchee/Leavenworth bus at Lynnwood Transit Center, or truncating an Ellensburg/Yakima bus at South Bellevue P&R.

      1. Oregon sponsored bus service from Portland to Cannon Beach appeases on both the Amtrak and Greyhound timetable and ticketing system.

        You’d probably only need to add one bus as the trips going the other way seem to be adequately operated already.

      2. There is, but where in the US has this? We’ve talked for years about terminating the Vancouver buses at New Westminster but Greyhound isn’t interested. It seems more likely for the county-based and state-subsidized services to do that. The Mt Vernon bus terminates at Everett Station; the Olympia bus terminates at Lakewood; and the Penninsula routes terminate at a west sound ferry terminal. (Although some go through to Seattle hospitals. Hmm, First Hill Station, anyone?)

        Theoretically a Wenatchee/Leavenworth bus and an Ellensburg bus could do something similar, and we can talk about which stations are large enough to be suitable termini. An Ellensburg bus would probably go to Bellevue Transit Center because South Bellevue is in the middle of nowhere. If Issaquah were a larger destination and had better connections it would be even better. (And no, I don’t see a bus terminating at Issaquah and people taking Issaquah Link to Bellevue and transferring to East Link to Seattle as being politically feasible. I can just see people with luggage saying, “This is ridiculous.”)

      3. I general, I don’t think state subsidized route should be targeting people who are carrying excessive amounts of luggage. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any luggage capacity on board (there should), but the focus should on people who are on a budget a traveling light.

        If I were designing such a system, I would set up the stops like this, assuming a post-2024 Puget Sound Transit network:

        Highway 2 route:
        Wenatchee->Leavenworth->Monroe->Totem Lake Freeway Station->405/85th St. Freeway Station->Yarrow Point Freeway Station->Evergreen Point Freeway Station->UW Link Station.

        I-90 route:
        Yakima->Ellensburg->Cle Elem->Eastgate Freeway Station->South Bellevue P&R.

        In terms of Seattle terminus, I think south Bellevue P&R strikes the right compromise between providing a direct route to the important areas, minimizing transfers, and avoiding traffic congestion. We don’t want the bus to get stuck in traffic downtown Seattle. Bellevue Transit Center, I don’t like because it’s too much of a detour for people going to Seattle, which is the primary market. South Bellevue P&R is a quick transfer to Link and it’s on the way. It’s also a very short train ride to DT Bellevue anyway, not to mention downtown Bellevue has its own traffic issues you don’t want the bus fighting if you don’t have to.

        An Issaquah terminus, however, I feel would go too far the other direction. South Bellevue, there’s some branching going on with demand patterns, in that some will ride Link west to Seattle, while some will ride Link north to Bellevue and Redmond. Issaquah, there is almost no branching in demand – nearly everyone will want to go west. On top of that, the Issaquah->South Bellevue bus probably won’t be running anywhere near as frequently as Link. Plus, accessing Issaquah Transit Center require waiting at several stoplights, and saves almost zero actual service hours over just running the bus to South Bellevue. I think serving Eastgate Freeway Station along the way represents a reasonable compromise, at least reducing the backtracking required to get to Issaquah.

        For the highway 2 route, I considered Lynnwood Transit Center as a terminus, then quickly realized what a terrible idea that would be. Once the bus reaches the junction of SR-522/I-405, it’s only 5 minutes more driving to reach UW Station than to reach Lynnwood Transit Center, but UW Station is much closer to where most of the people want to go. In terms of traffic, 405 and 520 can be bad, but the bus will have the express toll lanes to shield it from most of that, plus the HOV lanes and HOV Montlake exit ramp to shield it from traffic on 520. There might be a minor delay getting over to the right to turn from 405 onto 520, but that’s about it. In return, UW Station saves at least 20 minutes over Lynnwood for getting almost anywhere in Seattle. And, for trips to the eastside, you’d be able to switch over to a Metro/Sound Transit bus at any of the 405/520 freeway stations. Getting to Lynnwood would require turning around and transfering to I-405 BRT at Totem Lake Station, but with Lynnwood being a relatively minor market, that’s not the end of the world.

        Assuming both routes can complete in under 3 hours one day, I would set up the schedule something like this:
        Arrive Seattle 9:00 AM/6:00PM
        Depart Seattle 9:30 AM/6:30PM

        Arrive Seattle 10:00 AM/6:00 PM
        Depart Seattle 10:30 AM/6:00 PM

        For fares, I think $15/person each way is reasonable, given the distance. This would keep the fares at a level comparable to the cost of gas to drive oneself for a similar distance.

      4. Other states:

        The Capitol Corridor from Sacramento to San Jose has extensive bus connections including Reno, Tahoe, Redding and Eureka. Illinois Amtrak has bus connections to Davenport, Madison and Indianapolis.

        Those would be like connecting Cascades service to places like Yakima and Wenatchee. In both of the cases, I’m pretty sure some state subsidy is involved.

      5. A regular bus service to Leavenworth could have a stop at Steven’s Pass in the winter. As It can be quite the dangerous drive esp. if you want to catch the fresh snow, I bet it could be popular. Wintertime equivalent of the hiking trails express busses? In Leavenworth itself there are also a myriad of nordic ski and snowshoe trails. Not to mention Oktoberfest weekends.

      6. Unfortunately, it is not possible for one single bus to run a schedule that supports daytrips in both directions (to do that, the bus would have to be running in both directions at the same time each morning/evening).

        It depends. Strait Shot is pretty much perfect for a day trip to Port Angeles for me (to visit my parents). Catch the 9:35 ferry and you’re there around Noon. Have a nice lunch, do a bit of shopping, walk the waterfront trail, have a happy hour drink and/or an early dinner, get on the bus at 6:00, catch the 8:20 ferry, and you’re downtown around 9:00.

        Being in town from 12:00–6:00 may not work every possible day trip, but it seems pretty reasonable to me.

    4. Yes, I was trying to figure out a way to travel there without a car and it was quite difficult. I have a gift certificate to Loup Loup ski area that I’ve been meaning to use for years, but highway 20 is closed through the Cascades in winter and the drive on hwy 2 and up 97 is really long, so I thought it would be fun to do train to Wenatchee and bus, or even small charter plane to Twisp and bus, or even public transit most of the way and then rent a car. I couldn’t figure out anything reasonable! Perhaps I should offer up the ski gift certificate to whoever can come up with the fastest route from Seattle to Loup Loup!

      1. Loup Loup is a super adorable ski area… use that ticket! You could take Amtrak, Greyhound/NW Trailways, or the Wenatchee Valley Shuttle to Wenatchee, and then Greyhound/NW Trailways all the way Okanogan. TranGO has service that runs a few times a day over Loup Loup Pass (it’s called the Twisp-Okanogan Connector). Not so say this would be the most convenient of trips, but it could be done. And I don’t think a day trip would work.

        In Wenatchee, you can also take Ski Link up to Mission Ridge on weekends, if you want to expand your transit skiing adventure.

        If it were me, I would take Amtrak over to Wenatchee on Friday evening, ski at Mission on Saturday, rent a car on Sunday to go to Loup Loup, and take the train or bus back on Monday morning. I hope you do it!

  2. Was the map always in the article? I saw it for the first time just now on the home page but on the article page it was a broken image icon, and then when I reopened the home page to look at it more closely it was a broken icon there. That’s in Firefox which i usually use. In Chrome it’s showing.

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