It’s Service Implementation Plan time again. The 2020 (draft) version of the plan has three fairly significant bus route changes:

  1. The 540 and 541, both variations on a line from the U-District to the Eastside, would go away in favor of the 544, a Microsoft-SLU run with a few key stops in between. It would run every 15 minutes in the peak.
  2. Weekend 577 trips would continue on from Federal Way to go to Auburn, to increase frequency between the two cities.
  3. Route 566 would abandon 2 stops on I-405.

The first change certainly opens up a lot of interesting transfer opportunities. Although midday and weekend frequencies aren’t high enough to make it work, the emerging system certainly resembles canonical “open BRT” with relatively clear right-of-way on the 520 bottleneck and tendrils fanning out to UW, Downtown, SLU, Kirkland, Redmond, and Bellevue.

You can take a survey or show up for the Oct. 3 public hearing at 12:30 at Union Station.

But the real fun is in the route-by-route data, which is world class in its depth and presentation. For any bus or train route, if you’d like to know daily boardings per stop, or load factors by time of day, all that data is here for you.

I don’t see any datum in particular that stands out, but this is the kind of data set that could spawn a dozen Page 2 posts.

62 Replies to “Comment on the Sound Transit 2020 SIP”

  1. I think I mentioned this before in a previous post, but riding the 544 from Redmond to SLU is likely to be slower than riding the 545 to either Stewart/9th or Stewart/Denny and walking from there. Even transferring to the 70, the wait time for the #70 bus, and the South Kirkland P&R detour avoided would essentially be a wash. If nothing else, even if you miss a 544 out of Overlake, you are very likely to be able to catch up to it by hopping on an upcoming 545 (the peak frequency of the 545 is about the same as the amount of the 544 will take to get in and out of South Kirkland P&R).

    That said, I can see one reason for riding the 544 all the way and putting up the detour, and that’s that the 545 is already very crowded. 545, you’re going to be standing in the aisle, at least as far as Yarrow Point, if not all the way to Stewart St. 544, you get on at Overlake and probably have a row to yourself. (Maybe, if you have bad luck, someone will get on at South Kirkland P&R and sit next to you).

    In the afternoon commute, I’m guess you’d start on the 544 from SLU. But, even then, getting off at Yarrow Point and transferring to a 542/545 will likely be faster than sitting through the South Kirkland P&R detour. So, it essentially becomes tradeoff between a faster commute and having more space on the bus.

    In general, I tend to view service networks where the one-seat ride option is slower than an alternative two-seat ride option with a good deal of skepticism. Sometimes, I wonder if it would have been better to just turn the 544 around at South Kirkland P&R and use the savings to improve frequency on route 542. The problem is, you wouldn’t be able to buy as many new route 542 trips as route 544 extensions, which would lead to a net cut in capacity to Redmond, at a time when the buses are very full. So, ST is essentially hoping that people will be willing to put up with the detour for the sake of a one-seat ride, to avoid overcrowding the other routes. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case.

    Hopefully, this is just a temporary solution and post-east-link opening, the 545 resources can be scavanged to make this better. Ideally, Redmond->SLU, Redmond->SLU, Kirkland->SLU, Redmond->UW, and Kirkland->UW would all be separate routes. (I don’t think a Sound Transit route is necessary between South Kirkland and Redmond, since very few people need to travel that route).

    Another concern I think I’ve expressed is that, during peak hours, there are already a ton of buses going into and out of South Kirkland P&R, and adding any more buses there, without mitigation, may lead to situations where buses get stuck behind other buses, making the delays far longer than necessary. One obvious mitigation would be to convert some of the routes to stop on adjacent streets instead. South Kirkland P&R was never designed to handle the volume of buses per hour that it’s going to get.

    1. What about routing this 544 to SLU thru Eastlake and down Eastlake/Fairview, maybe it could even head west to LQA?

      1. You can’t turn right onto Eastlake from the Stewart St. exit. It’s either Denny->Fairview or Denny->Westlake.

    2. The 544 is a garbage route. just skip s kirkland P&R.

      Nice to see the 255 finally truncated, although the offramp at montlake is a disaster as of two weeks ago.

    3. riding the 544 from Redmond to SLU is likely to be slower than riding the 545 to either Stewart/9th or Stewart/Denny and walking from there.

      Yeah, I think that is the big flaw with this design. This bus will only appeal to a small number of riders. If you are in Redmond, it makes sense to take the 545, which serves a bigger part of downtown, and has oodles of options for getting to South Lake Union. If you are at South Kirkland Park and Ride, and headed to South Lake Union, it is great. But what if you live in Kirkland, and are heading to the south end of downtown, where the biggest buildings are? Now you are making a transfer, and it probably isn’t your first. The 544 will not go through Kirkland, but will only serve the Park and Ride. Thus a lot of the riders will take a bus and transfer there. Quite often, they will be on the 255. In that case, they will just stay on the bus, and either transfer to Link, or transfer to the 545 (at Evergreen Point) which serves a much bigger swath of downtown. Even if they are headed to South Lake Union, they will probably transfer at Evergreen Point, knowing that if they miss the 544, they can always take the 545, and either walk a bit, or take another (more frequent) bus.

      In other words, they picked a very tiny part of downtown to serve, and then connected it well to only one park and ride. It really is a mess, and sounds like a big loser.

      1. Oops, forgot to close the italics. Only the first paragraph (the quote from asdf2) is supposed to be in italics.

    4. Looking over today’s comments about proposed service changes, same sensation is coming over me as when I read Sinclair Broadcast’s admonitions that Seattle and environs are dying of the homeless.

      Not homelessness, mind you, but of people who used to have a place to live until, well, not only my own ex-landlord, raised their rent to where for the first time in their lives, long-time tenants can’t pay it anymore.

      My sources are suspect, especially Dave Ross. Because while it strains credulity how one two-car collision can take down a major part of the region for half a day….no way I’m going to take the bus up and look for myself, is there?

      Even worse, fact that even ST’s highway coaches like on the 590’s and the 574 don’t have Greyhound standard bathrooms means I’ve got no choice but drive my car, alternative being to demand that my bus driver leave me off on top of the overpass where we’ve been stuck for an hour.

      Especially infuriating are the wrecks involving the unprofessional driving of commercial vehicles. So let’s leave the 544 just sit there awhile and discuss how we’re going to both limit the use of our roads to those who know how to drive them. And increase our skills and knowledge base so thoroughly that fewer people with a driver’s license get stuck or wrecked.

      Is the 544 planned out so it will benefit from its own lanes and pre-empted signals? And also, while I admit it sounds like a “stretch”, somebody put me down as dead-set against LINK’s move to collect all its train drivers “off the street.” Anybody with the personal experience to know, please back me up or tell me I’m wrong.

      Transit driving ability is not a matter of the material spinning around the wheel-hub, steel or rubber, but rather the skill, coordination, and determination needed to operate giant machinery with many dozen lives in your hands. From its inception, Link’s been in hands that started on a very large steering wheel. Discard that and Rail Division won’t like the “feel.”

      At least for next decade or so, Company and Union should maintain the ability to shift back and forth between modes. And 587, you know who I’m talking about: every time a union-member bad-mouths another one’s division, a chip falls off both of your bargaining power. Go easy on the broom.

      Mark Dublin

  2. The 577 change is certainly welcome. With hourly weekend headways and a downtown live-loop, 577s currently have an awkward ~45-minute layover at Federal Way. I’m guessing that except for some marginal fuel and maintenance cost this may cost ST almost nothing, and will be several minutes faster than the 181 between Federal Way and Auburn.

    1. It’s functionally half-hourly, since it and the 578 are timed to leave every 30 minutes, but each individually runs every hour. Just now it will also make Auburn – Seattle service every half hour instead of every half hour as well.

    2. A better way of saying that change is that the 577 becomes a weekday peaker in peak direction only* and 578 now operates every half hour on weekends.

      * pretty much. Some 577 trips do turn back in the morning.

  3. If I understand it right, the weekend 577 running every hour (in conjunction with the 578 running every hour on the other half hour) has a very high recovery time at Federal Way TC (very high being nearly an hour, for a slightly longer than an hour round trip). So looks like what they are doing is extending those trips to Auburn basically for free. Makes sense, and I’m not sure why they didn’t think of this until now.

    And yes to the 566 stop changes! Being a regular rider of the 566, I find that later in the morning it gets, the less reliable the northbound 566 gets (as well as the worse traffic gets, until probably 10 or 11), and that’s precisely when the extra freeway stops kick in. The 566 is often delayed by 10 minutes or more before even getting to those freeway stations, and operators now usually don’t even move into the HOV lanes between the stations anymore (I’ve seen many drivers do this without a problem, but I understand why they’d be nervous about it). So in effect, buses already 10+ minutes delayed get on I-405 and move more slowly than an SOV in the right lane until about Coal Creek Parkway.

    Curiously though, the page mentions that these stops were added as an East Link construction mitigation, which is interesting. Does anyone know about this? I do know that the 560, 555 and 556 were moved for East Link construction, but that’s in a different area than the I-405 freeway stations.

    1. It may not have been an issue of “not having thought of it” but more an issue of having enough data to prove it’s possible.

  4. Some things that jumped out at me, while comparing this to the previous year:

    556 — There was a sudden increase in ridership from Issaquah. It went from around 25 boardings a day to 250. Any idea why?

    550 — The numbers are way down. Ridership went from about 10,000 a day to 7,000 a day, a dramatic drop. More than anything, it looked like peak ridership is way down.

    554 — Similar drop (of about 500).

    Link: Link numbers are back on the Route Profile section! This means that you can see how many people board each direction. For example, about 2,000 people a day ride the train from Capitol Hill to the UW. Not bad considering the weakness of the UW station, and the popularity of the 43 and 49, which provide some of the same functionality.

    Unfortunately, it also means that it is tougher to spot the trends. However, just looking at the total station data, there are a few things I noticed:

    Rainier Valley ridership keeps growing — Mount Baker, Columbia City and Othello all grew by about 200 boardings a piece. So did Beacon Hill. Rainier Beach is the only stop in the area that was flat.

    UW and Capitol Hill are both up almost 500 boardings.

    Southern suburb stops are down. — Tukwila went down about 200; SeaTac is down about 350; Angle Lake is down about 250. I believe that SeaTac is at its lowest level now, below 6,000.

    Downtown stops keep growing — All the downtown stops have more riders, led by Westlake and I. D., each of which are up almost a 1,000. Some of that is growth in Rainier Valley, Capitol Hill and the UW. But I have to conclude that a good chunk of that are trips just within downtown. Riders who used to take the first available vehicle (often a bus) now take the train.

    1. People are avoiding the 550 because the 550 has gotten worse with multiple iterations of East Link disruptions. First the Rainier Freeway Station went away, with the real story being the D3 roadway to the DSTT. Then the DSTT itself went away, meaning the EB 550 doesn’t have a meaningful connection to IDS (though westbound has a great connection to IDS). People are flocking to the 271 because it makes more sense at this point (so many that Metro recently added trips to the 271).

      1. Yeah, that’s what I figured. Things have gotten a lot worse.

        I think that a lot of people are working from home, or driving. If everyone switched to the 271, and everyone then got on Link, then ridership at the UW station would be way up. It is up almost 500 riders, but the 550 is down almost 3,000. There is definitely some switching going on, but unless I’m missing something, I have to conclude that there is a net loss in transit ridership there. Are there any other good ways to get from Bellevue to downtown Seattle? You could work your way up to 520, but the 271 doesn’t even serve the freeway stops. You could take a different bus from Bellevue, but then what? Ridership on the 545 actually went down (200). You also have the 255, but I really doubt it is carrying an extra couple thousand riders. I have to conclude that a lot of transit ridership just went away.

      2. The South Bellevue P&R, which was the source of a lot of 550 riders, also closed for East Link construction.

      3. The 550 had extraordinary ridership for suburban express route, so even if it fell back it’s still probably robust. (All the Tacoma routes combined, Federal Way routes, and Lynnwood/Everett routes would be higher, but they’re twice the distance so the driving alternative is less bearable.) I mainly ride the 550 weekends so I don’t see the peak experience much, but I can clearly imagine it’s gotten much worse. As to where the people went, have car volumes increased? People are switching to the 271 if they can, which depends on where they’re going and what time it is. On Sundays both routes are half-hourly and leave Bellevue at almost the same time, so there’s not much point in taking the 271 if you’re going to southwest Capitol Hill and can walk from 9th & Pine. But if they alternated every 15 minutes, then it would be. Other people may just not be making the trips. It may be an unimportant trip, or they may be going to a chain store that has another location, or switching from one bar to another.

      4. The South Bellevue Park and Ride still shows up in the report. The numbers are down, but not down that much. It went from 117 to 95 boardings, a loss of about 20, compared to an overall loss of 3,000. In contrast, Bellevue TC went down about 500, Mercer Island 300, etc.

      5. The stop is still there but I’m mystified as to who can use it. I don’t see any parking lot nearby. The only residents are the houses across the street. Nobody gets on/off there on weekends when I pass through.

      6. South Bellevue retains a connection with the 249, and people walk from adjacent Enatai. So there remains a minimal level of ridership. Prior to the loss of parking in 2017, South Bellevue had about 850 daily boardings per direction.

        One effect I see in the numbers is the loss of significant intra-downtown ridership. For example in 2017 the eastbound 550 had about 500 deboardings (“Offs”) in the DSTT, the vast majority at IDS; in 2019 the number is about 30, and no IDS stop. The drop makes sense; when the 550 was in the DSTT it served that purpose (“get on whatever comes first”), but on the surface what’s the point? It makes more sense for someone going intra downtown to either drop into the DSTT and wait for Link, or use 3rd Ave bus service, rather than mess around with less-frequent suburban service on 2nd/4th.

        Anecdotally, 550 peak ridership is way off, but off-peak ridership seems fairly consistent. The cumulative effects of construction have really taken a toll, but the big driver seems to be moving out of the DSTT. The loss of an outbound IDS stop also hurts, although this has been partially restored via a new outbound 554 stop on Jackson at Maynard (requires transfer at Mercer Island). The 550’s surface routing is faster than the previous DSTT routing without the direct access ramp to I-90, so that helps. However it is slower than before construction started, and much less reliable due to traffic impacts downtown.

        One thing Sound Transit could consider is an increase in off-peak service. Weekday middays are fine at every 15 minutes, but evenings and Sunday could do with 15-min frequency. The ridership and crowding numbers don’t explicitly justify this increase, but it would help build off-peak ridership in advance of East Link opening.

        However, I’m not sure there’s much Sound Transit can do at this point except ride it out (pardon the pun). Throwing more peak service at it won’t really help; frequency is already insanely good. There’s nowhere they can easily improve speed and/or reliability. Construction impacts won’t get any worse, but they also won’t get much better (the one exception is the SB Bellevue Way to WB I-90 HOV ramp, which should re-open later this year I think, but ultimately that’s minor). They might be able to get the South Bellevue parking garage open before East Link, but that’s not guaranteed, and even if they do that probably doesn’t happen until 2022.

      7. I’ve always found the 550 to be somewhat annoying, even when it had the DSTT and the direct ramp to 90. That this is the “express” bus between these two huge job centers, and not only does it take the slower of the two bridges across Lake Washington, but before you get to Bellevue TC, there’s all these stoplights on Bellevue Way SE to deal with. And before all that, you have to get off the freeway at Mercer Island. So it takes 35 minutes to make the trip even off peak, which is slightly longer than it takes to get to Federal Way off peak, on the bus. Now with the worse conditions, it’s more like 45+ minutes. I’ve always considered the 271 more worthy of an express moniker than the 550 (*even* including the local routing through Medina!). I understand the planning decisions around all that, but I think a lot of people are turned off by the fact we can’t seem to just run a good no-nonsense bridge-to-freeway real express to downtown Bellevue of all places.

        So maybe this drop off is just people for whom the 550 was already a tough sell, and after it got worse, decided to screw it and drive the faster way to Seattle.

      8. As an aside, I was wondering this: Will the South Bellevue new garage open a year before East Link? The last year will be in rail systems testing and I’d think the garage could open early. That would raise 550 ridership.

      9. AlexKven: As I’ve pointed out before, half the 550s ridership was Mercer Island and South Bellevue. Obviously South Bellevue’s ridership is gone, but Mercer Island is not-insignificant portion of the remaining ridership; roughly a third (and the 2nd busiest stop; Bellevue TC is #1). So skipping Mercer Island to try and gain more Bellevue riders is robbing Peter to pay Paul, AND you’re significantly degrading Mercer Island service in the process.

        Travel time is roughly the same whether you’re using Link/271 or the 550. Link/271 is probably a little more reliable right now. Link/555 or 556 during peak is faster if you’re going the right direction. But the transfer turns off some people, and the impending changes to SR 520 for construction will likely decrease reliability to the point where its a wash.

        Al S.: Sound Transit has committed to try and open the parking garage early, but won’t guarantee it. Can’t find a source right now.

      10. As I’ve pointed out before, half the 550s ridership was Mercer Island and South Bellevue.

        Um, no. As I’ve mentioned before, South Bellevue was insignificant. Just read the previous report. Here are the boardings per direction for South Bellevue:

        2019 Report: 13 (eastbound); 104 (westbound).
        2020 Report: 7 (eastbound); 88 (westbound).

        It is an insignificant change to an insignificant stop.

        Now, Mercer Island is different. Here are some numbers for it:

        2019 Report: 220 (eastbound); 993, (westbound).
        2020 Report: 191 (eastbound); 812, (westbound).

        In comparison, Bellevue Transit Center is the biggest stop by far (more than the combined Mercer Island and South Bellevue):

        2019 Report: 32 (eastbound); 1538, (westbound).
        2020 Report: 21 (eastbound); 1186, (westbound).

        It is worth mentioning the other stops that occur between South Bellevue and BTC. They all add up. In the 2019 report, there were about 200 eastbound boardings, and about 1,200 rides the other direction. That is more than Mercer Island although still not as much as Bellevue Transit Center.

        As for Alex’s suggestion, it is worth noting that the biggest loss appears to be during rush hour. There is no specific breakdown, but they have charts for average ridership per bus. The ones that ran during rush hour used to be stuffed. Now they barely reach sitting capacity.

        In my opinion, Alex’s idea has merit. An express wouldn’t run all day, but only during rush hour. Those in Mercer Island would have a less frequent bus, but frequency at that hour is fairly high. Since an express would take less time to run, the drop in frequency wouldn’t be that bad. For example, the bus runs every five minutes or so in the morning. That is 12 buses an hour. Take out half of them, and convert them to express buses. Except you save money with those expresses, so you add back a couple regular ones. That means a bus every 7 or 8 minutes for those in Mercer Island. Since there will be fewer riders from BTC, it wouldn’t be especially crowded.

        Is it worth it? I’m not sure. Let’s say you just miss the express. Would you wait ten minutes for it, or would you just grab the regular 550? What about those other riders (those between BTC and South Bellevue)? Would they take a bus to BTC, and then the express, or would they just take the 550.

        I think the idea has merit, but I don’t think it is worth the trouble, especially so close to East Link opening. If ST had more money (or the 550 ran a lot more often) they could add the express buses and only marginally reduce service on the 550 (run the express every six minutes, and run the 550 every six minutes). But they don’t, nor do I think they would shift money elsewhere, even though it would be a pretty good rush hour route.

      11. Sorry, I should’ve been more clear. I’m referring to 2017, prior to East Link construction heavily impacting 550 ridership. In 2017 almost half the 550’s ridership was at South Bellevue and Mercer Island. South Bellevue’s ridership evaporated when the parking closed. As you point out, Mercer Island’s is down now with the 550 out of the DSTT.

        I made the point a couple years ago responding to a Page 2 post about a 551 super-express, but looking at the 550’s alignment in totality, the only significant time savings that can be achieved (peak or off-peak) is by skipping Mercer Island. During peak, Bellevue Way and I-405 have traffic. Downtown Seattle has traffic. Only I-90 is reasonably fast. If you could somehow teleport from Bellevue TC to I-90, that would be worth a lot. But that’s impossible. That’s one of the reasons we’re building East Link.

        It’s not a good value to skip Mercer Island. You’d save about 2-5 minutes per trip. It’s a pretty insignificant number of platform hours, because much of the 550’s peak service is trippers (for example in the AM peak, an inbound 550 then runs an outbound 545, then back to the base). So the net effect would be to complicate the service pattern, cannibalize 550 ridership at a time when you should be trying to build it, and not save any money.

      12. OK, yeah, you are right. Ridership at South Bellevue used to be about 850, then it dropped dramatically (to about 100 and now even less). The funny thing is, that dramatic drop is not nearly as big as the one that the overall 550 had last year. Probably because the more recent drop was so widespread.

        Anyway, skipping Mercer Island wouldn’t be worth it. But an express — from just BTC to downtown — might. I say might, because it isn’t clear where you get the money. First of all, it wouldn’t be called the same thing — it would have a different number (e. g. 551). What I wonder about, is how much faster it would be if it went on 520 instead of I-90. If it was a lot faster, then it wouldn’t cost that much to run the bus and it would be very popular (i. e. worth waiting for). The money has to come from somewhere, though. If you dropped the frequency of the regular 550, it would likely hurt riders. That is the thing about express overlay routes — they make the most sense when the main route is extremely frequent. The 550 is frequent during rush hour, but not extremely frequent. It peaks out at about one bus every five minutes. In comparison, the E runs every 4 minutes, and the 522/312 combination runs about every 3 and a half minutes. The point being, those routes are really frequent to deal with crowding, while the 550 is just trying to retain good service. If one out of five of those was express, the folks at the regular stops probably wouldn’t notice (there just isn’t much difference between 3 minutes and 4 minutes). But 5 minutes versus 8 minutes is noticeable.

        In any event, I seriously doubt anything will happen. ST is simply holding on, until East Link gets there. If they had extra money, they could just run the express, but they don’t, and I don’t think they would take it from any other route (even though a lot of them are not that great).

      13. Jason Rogers,

        Though I think 520 would be better for the 550 express (for various reasons), I-405 to 90 wouldn’t be completely out of the question. I-405 has bad traffic, but one thing it does have going for it is an HOV ramp to westbound I-90, that actually crosses over regular I-90 lanes to the left-hand HOV lane! (which I’m guessing was originally built for ease of access to the I-90 express lanes)

        So the bus could take the NE 6th entrance to 405, and make its way over to the right-hand size HOV exit lane to I-90 (this would be the worst part in traffic). It’s worth noting that this HOV exit is also nearly always free flowing, even at the worst of I-405 traffic (in fact, it’s generally the left 3 lanes that continue to 405 that are slow, and the right 3 lanes that exit to 90 that are moving).

    2. 554 probably down because the recent re-route made the 21X series much faster at peak for most riders, particularly Eastgate and Issaquah TCs.

  5. “Interesting Transfer Opportunities” is an oxymoron.

    Transferring is a pain in the butt, and adds time to commutes. It already takes more time than just driving. At what point do people just says “screw it” and take their own car?

    Cutting two routes out of the UW to Kirkland/Eastside seems dumb. the 540 is frequently a “phantom” bus on OBW. The 541 is often crowded and the bike route is full (for a couple more weeks anyway). The 255 doesn’t stop at the UW Montlake Station anymore but will…???? 2024? The 544 doesn’t either.

    Not sure what these folks see besides data on a sheet.

    1. Transferring is a pain in the butt, and adds time to commutes

      In this case, the average door-to-door time in peak will decrease significantly by adding a transfer.

      1. In this case, the average door-to-door time in peak will decrease significantly by adding a transfer.

        Will it? What trips will be a lot better?

      2. Could just be that pain-control is a really personal thing, but after an hour on the bus from Olympia, I kind of like the feel of the cushion on a bar-stool in the Anthem Cafe where my Intercity Transit Route 620 deposits me across the sidewalk from the major Pacific Avenue zone. Right next to History Museum and also Federal Courthouse.

        Ensuing standing streetcar ride down to Freighthouse Square is invigorating “stretch” session. Before choice of equally comfortable rides via either Sounder or (my usual) ST 574 to Sea-Tac Airport to LINK (always tap my card because I really do believe in the ORCA system.)

        Do think, thought, that training for Customer Information staff should include wide enough familiarization travel that they can advise passengers on where they can transfer in safety and comfort. Which I think would REALLY do a lot for ridership.

        Mark Dublin

    2. “Transferring is a pain in the butt, and adds time to commutes.”

      it depends on the specific trip pair, the routes, and their frequency. A good transfer network gives you access to more places as Jarrett Walker would say. In other words, more destinations in a given 30-minute or 60-minute travel time. Right now it wastes a lot of time to get from Kirkland to north Seattle on the 255. Conversely, the forced transfers at Kent Station and Renton TC between the Seattle trunk routes and the eastern residential area where most people are coming from is inefficient. We’ve suggested converting the 101, 150, and the eastern peak expresses into routes that terminate at Rainier Beach on one end and go through the city centers to the eastern neighborhoods. That would give more robust service, free up some hours for additional frequency, and avoid wasting hours on congestion-loaded freeways and downtown parallel to Link. The tradeoff would be a modest increase in travel time.

  6. The 544 is unattractive with the S. Kirkland P&R diversion. There are few transfer opportunities created and it is an incredibly slow diversion for through riders, with far too many traffic lights. Instead S. Kirkland P&R riders could use the 255 and either connect to Link or else could transfer to the 544 at Yarrow Point. They can also transfer to 545 (and other downtown buses) and reach Stewart and Denny.

    The elephant in the room is the fact that the 540 is a dud. Metro is taking the fairly successfully 255 and turning it into the 540. Even with frequent service, the 255 is going to lose a huge portion of its ridership. Ridership that will either switch to cars or over to the 545. Especially evenings and weekends. It’s going to be faster to go from downtown to Kirkland by getting on a 545 and transferring at Yarrow Point. The 255 truncation is a mistake outside of the peak hours. It’s the peak only routes that should have been candidates for truncation, not the all day workhorse route.

    ST better have enough capacity on the 545 because it will get 255 riders.

    I know that there are fanatics that love the truncation, but it’s got too many drawbacks whether bridge openings, stadium events, and the tortured transfer environment and escalators, and the loss of the Stewart/Denny stop as well as the neat stop on Olive near the freeway that Link doesn’t duplicate.

    1. There are arguments on both sides of that. The current 255 and other Kirkland routes are too infrequent evenings/weekends for a city Kirkland’s size, and they’re the main thing holding ridership back. When a route is half-hourly or hourly, some people who would take it if it were more frequent won’t., because they don’t want to wait for it, don’t want to look up the schedule, don’t want to go to the bus stop and risk having to wait 20-40 minutes for it, and worry that if they just miss one the next one might be delayed or might not come. Frequent service is the key to alleviating this, and not having the 255 run parallel with Link and getting stuck in I-5 and Stewart Street traffic is the way to do this if no additional revenue is available.

      For everybody who likes the one-seat ride to downtown, there’s somebody else who’s going to north Seattle, the CD, Rainier Valley, the airport, etc. 2020 is just one year before Northgate Link opens, so people will be taking the 255 to Link and Northgate/Licton Springs.

      WSDOT/SDOT/UW need to do something robust about the Montlake bottleneck so that the 255 can get to the station without bogging down in traffic. They’ve mused about rechanneling Montlake Blvd. Hopefully it will be something.

      I’m more concerned about the 544 getting bogged down around SLU. But it’s important to switch from routes going downtown to routes going to downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, and this is one such route.

      1. After the 255 has a dedicated ramp on the Montlake lid, plus the existing bypass lane from there up to the Montlake bridge, plus the new stops by the station that they are building now for this purpose, what traffic would it still be bogged down in, en route to UW station, other than a raised bridge?

    2. The reason why the 540 is a dud is not because of the U-district route. The data from route 271 shows that people are indeed willing to transfer at UW Station to go downtown, and are indeed doing it.

      Rather, the 540 is a dud because it is infrequent and unreliable, compared to the 255. Anytime you have a 10-minute route interlined with a 30-minute route, the 10-minute route is almost always going to show up at the bus stop first. Even if you time your schedule to match the 30-minute route, the 10-minute route is still likely to show up at the bus stop first.

      On top of this, the 540 uses a different bus bay at Kirkland Transit Center from the 255, so at one of the busiest stops, it can’t pick up riders who are waiting for the 255. The 540 also doesn’t go to Juanita like the 255 does. The 540 is also scheduled with insufficient layover time, often resulting in trips beginning 20+ minutes late – from the very first stop. And, ever since Sound Transit started contracting with Community Transit to operate the 540, the 540’s real-time arrival info disappeared from OneBusAway.

      When the new 540 (rebranded route 255) runs with a decent schedule and decent reliability people will use it, including those headed to downtown.

      “It’s going to be faster to go from downtown to Kirkland by getting on a 545 and transferring at Yarrow Point.”

      I highly doubt it. Remember, during evenings and weekends, the 545 is still going to be running only every 30 minutes, while the 255 is running every 15 minutes. On weekends after 8 PM, the 545 will be running once per hour, while the new 255 is running every 15 minutes. Whatever time you save around Montlake, you would probably squander standing at the bus stop.

      And, once your downtown destination is 5th/Pine, rather than Denny/Stewart, Link only becomes more attractive. As it stands today, the 545 takes – on a weekend – at least 10 minutes to get from 4th/Pine to the Olive Way on-ramp, simply due to all those stoplights and bus stops. This is enough time for Link to get all the way from Westlake Station to UW Station, plus an additional 4 minutes for riding the escalators up and down at each station. If your downtown destination move further south – say, Pioneer Square, you have the additional factor of Link being a faster way to get through downtown than a bus down 4th/5th Ave. For instance, from 5th/Jackson, the 545 takes about 20 minutes to reach the freeway. Those same 20 minutes is enough time to walk down into the tunnel, wait 5 minutes for Link, ride Link all the way to UW Station, ride the escalators up to the surface, and walk to the 255’s new bus stop.

      But, even if downtown->Kirkland travel time ends up being a wash (which, weekends, I think it will), the change is still worth making – and in a big way. Getting that 15 minute frequency 7 days/week is going to be huge, and make the bus so much more worth riding than the hodge-podge of half hourly and hourly schedule the route gets today. While most of Seattle has grown to enjoy and expect 15-minute service on their buses 16-18 hours per day, 7 days per week, for most of the eastside, this is a fantasy. In fact, the RapidRide B-line is the only bus route I can think of on the entire eastside that meets this standard. Once people get used to a bus that shows up every 15 minutes, they won’t want to go back, and wonder how they ever put up with it the old way.

      1. @paul

        That information has not been updated. This last shake-up PT began running the 540 & 541.

  7. Oh, I forgot to mention: The new 513 is a failure (so far). The route is extended now to SeaWay Transit Center. Only 8 riders a day used it from there. Ridership is actually down beyond Eastmont Park and Ride, with only 24 riders at Casino Road and Evergreen Way (there used to be 40 riders a day from the stop up the road at 79th Place).

    I’m not sure if this route ever stands a chance, but right now the execution is terrible. There should be stops along Casino Road, to complement Everett Transit 12 (that maxes out with half hour frequency). That way you would pick up some people who are connecting to Swift or SeaWay from one of the more densely populated parts of Everett (Casino Road).

    1. Yeah, I don’t think STC will ever be useful for anyone who isn’t a Boeing employee. I do wish they’d run some reverse peak trips on the 513 though. The fact that there’s a peak Boeing Everett express from Auburn but not from downtown Seattle is a real head scratcher.

      1. ” I do wish they’d run some reverse peak trips on the 513 though.”

        Sub. Area. Equity. The Snohomish subarea is paying for the route, and doesn’t give a **** about residents of King County riding in the reverse direction. North King isn’t too interested in paying for it either, since they have other ways to spend their money that would generate much better ridership.

        There also just aren’t that many people commuting from downtown/Capital Hill to Boeing. For those who live in Green Lake, Wallingford, or Ballard, a reverse-direction #513 would be all but useless – the overhead of going downtown in the wrong direction to catch it would be too much.

        Maybe, once Link goes to Northgate, we can talk about a Northgate->Boeing commuter shuttle. But, until then, I can see the reason for just letting them stick with vanpools.

  8. Make sure to tell them to use a different number for the Seattle-Auburn route. Having the same number mean different routings on different days of the weeks is super confusing.

    1. It’s not any different than Metro having three versions of the 255, or three versions of the 41, right? It’s just a short-turn 578. The 577 number goes away on weekends.

      1. Yes, these extended trips will be numbered 578, and only go as far as Auburn (which is a little less confusing, about the same as how some 566 trips end in Auburn and others in Kent).

        When I first saw the post about this on Facebook, the headline (route 577 extended to Auburn) made me think that the weekday peak 577 runs (that come every 10 minutes) would be extended to Auburn (which would kill reliability, and would add load to buses that all fill up right away at FWTC)

      2. In the days when transit signage was a long sign on a cloth roller instead of a panel of pixels, or a smart-phone readout, it was very common for different terminals for same route to be listed.

        Generational thing! So personally think best way to handle this is to have outside PA make the announcement, along with some theme music from the last time when each particular part of time was The Place To Be! Have to admit, though, that “Take The A-Train” has wrong resonance for giant red articulated bus.


  9. “I don’t see any datum in particular that stands out”

    As an engineer, this statement makes my brain hurt, since datum is not in any way the singular of data, but a completely different word with a completely different meaning that makes no sense at all in this context

  10. What if, maybe in coordination with the opening of Stride, ST added a new service from Kingsgate/Totem Lake to UW via the 85th Street Station, Kirkland TC, Google, Houghton Park and Ride, and 520? I know this isn’t the most direct route (I struggled to find a better route that hit these destinations, even without Google), but it would relive some of the parking at South Kirkland Park and Ride, provide a 1 seat ride to UW from Totem Lake, and connect with Stride. It would also probably encourage more riders to go to Houghton, instead of South Kirkland P&R.

    Just throwing this out there. What do people think?

    1. Metro’s 2025 plan has an express route on Woodinvile-405-520-UW so that could serve Totem Lake. Houghton is within walking distance of the emerging South Kirkland urban village so that would be better than South Kirkland. However, the park n ride is on the wrong side of the freeway so the bus would have to cross it twice. That sounds as time-consuming as South Kirkland. 70th Street also curves around so if you’re walking from the P&R to the Metropolitan Market plaza you’d have to walk in an S shape, unless somebody built a pedestrian bridge straight across.

      1. Metro should partner with CT and runs that Woodinville end north to Snohomish so CT can get rid of that useless 424

    2. I think the detour through Kirkland would add too much time to make it attractive for folks coming from Totem Lake. Assuming this route only runs during peak hours, when the 252 is running, riding the 252 to Yarrow Point or Evergreen Point and transferring to a U-district bus would be substantially faster.

      For Kirkland->UW, this route would be somewhat redundant with the new 255. As mentioned in the previous comment, crossing 405 twice to go into and out of Houghton P&R would be no faster than the 255’s slog into and out of South Kirkland P&R.

      I think a better solution would be to start with routes 252 and 257. Keep their Kirkland routing as is, but add a stop at the 405/85th St. station, once it opens. Then, truncate both route in the U-district, and re-investing the savings into improving the span of service, and adding service in the reverse direction (the latter would be mostly free, since buses would be presumably be deadheading that way, anyway).

      As for a connection between Google and the 85th/405 BRT station, that feels more like Google’s responsibility than Metro’s responsibility, since it’s essentially a private shuttle for they’re employees, they can afford it, and they already run a fleet of commuter shuttle routes. That said, I’m not too sold on the usefulness of such a shuttle. It would get stuck in horrible traffic (which won’t go away unless the roughly 2/3 of employees who drive to work stop doing so). The traffic would make wait times unpredictable, even before you start moving. Meanwhile, the Cross Kirkland Trail runs diagonally, shaving both time and distance off the walking route. I would guess that, in practice, when push comes to shove, simply walking the trail would be get you to work just as quickly. Looking at the map, the entire walk is about 1 mile, or 20 minutes. The shuttle would be about a 10 minute wait time, followed by a 10 minute ride. Either way, the grand total for the connection is still 20 minutes. But, at least with the walking option, you can make it faster by jogging a portion of the way. With the shuttle option, there’s nothing you can do to speed up the trip.

    3. Yeah, at a certain point, you are much closer to the freeway, and a neighborhood through route just doesn’t work for you. That is the case with the existing 255, and will be the case with the new one. But that is more about connecting Totem Lake with the rest of Kirkland than giving Totem Lake folks a good ride to the UW.

      As Mike mentioned, what they need is an all day express that goes on 405 and then 520 to the UW. It would include all of the freeway stops on 405 as well as 520 (which is how it would serve Totem Lake). Where it would start is the challenge. For political reasons, there is talk of starting in Woodinville. This is OK, but I don’t think it would be the best anchor. It makes more sense to go from UW Bothell to UW. That is by far the fastest way to get between the two campuses. It also gives UW Bothell riders another connection to 405, which in turn means a more frequent way to get to downtown Bellevue. If the bus did that, then the 372 could be truncated in Kenmore, if not Lake City.

    4. A route from downtown Kirkland to 108th, Old Redmond Road and Redmond would pass both Google and the freeway exit. There have been arguments that 70th is better than 85th for a frequent Kirkland-Redmond corridor. Metro is about to launch a Bellevue-Kirkland-Redmond route on 85th and it was expected to be a RapidRide precursor, but now Metro is planning to put the RapidRide on Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake, which raises the question of what will happen to the Kirkland-Redmond part. Maybe it should be routed on 70th? Or can both corridors justify frequent service? It would solve this dilemma if they did.

  11. I’m hesitant to even bring up the fare mess pending on the 577/578-Auburn/578-Puyallup next July, as fares ought not impact routing decisions.

    That said, Federal Way riders will be paying the smaller fare for the 577 and 578-Auburn (I assume), and the 2-county fare for the long version of the 578. Renumbering to have 577 just to Federal Way, 579 to Auburn, and 578 to Puyallup might help.

    It was apparently enough of a mess that the county council decided to delay implementation until after the next county council election because …

    At any rate, I’m still a fan of making the long-distance expresses a higher fare than the fare for the BRT-ish routes. Federal Way wouldn’t be happy, but they will soon have other options in 2024. I expect that peak 577 service is here to stay. But it should cost the rider a premium when the Link Red Line becomes available. And Link should not cost more than said express bus just because it is a more circuitous path to downtown Seattle.

    In the meantime, I would not be surprised if there is a movement to have some 577s converted into 579s. during peak. If that were to happen, I would suggest amping up frequency on Metro route 181 in preparation for its conversion to RapidRide would be a better alternative.

    1. Er, the ST Board decided to delay implementation of ST’s fare change to make each route have a 1-county or 2-county fare all the time from July 2018 to July 2020. At least reduced-fare riders are getting a single 1-county fare on all trips.

  12. Minor quibble: The survey asks whether the various changes will improve my commute. It does not ask whether it will improve my ability to get around.

    So, I just pretended the new 579, as it hopefully will be styled to avoid destination and fare confusion, would help my commute. I do travel to Auburn from time to time, and it will help me.

    1. The word commute is ambiguous; it can mean a trip to work, a trip to town, any trip on a trunk line, or about practically any trip. The purpose of transit is to serve trips, regardless of what they are for or when they are. So you’re certainly justified in reporting any trip, unless it’s a narrow survey specifying “trip to work”. But that kind of survey is only justified if there’s another estimate of total trips. Otherwise I’d assume they use the word commute simply because the bulk of people on express routes use it only for work and drive otherwise, so to them it makes sense.

  13. Route 544 will be a weak route replacing two other weak routes. as other posters have noted, the deviation to South Kirkland will slow Overlake riders to the point Route 544 will not be attractive to them relative to routes 268, 542, and 545. rather than the South Kirkland deviation, ST could have relied on transfers at the 92nd Avenue NE and Evergreen Point freeway stations. Revised Route 255 will provide many trips; maintaining service to the same lot is silly; it is full. Houghton is almost empty. the real test will be in 2021; will ST change routes 542, 545, 555, and 556 with Northgate Link? Outreach could begin now.

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