Last we heard, just a few weeks ago, Sound Transit’s draft service plan was to discontinue ST 541 (Overlake – University District), along with ST 540 (Kirkland – University District). This week, the Rider Experience Committee is set to reconsider that plan. Up to ten one-way trips will remain on ST 541. That’s significantly less than the 20 round trips currently provided, but it indicates some rethinking of service changes on SR 520 in response to rider feedback.
The staff memo points to recent growth in ridership on ST routes over SR 520, including 541 and 542. There’s also a nod to rider input during public involvement about capacity concerns on the remaining 542 trips. Average weekday ridership on ST 541 this Spring was 873.
There now commences a period of monitoring ridership shifts on all of these services. The ten remaining trips on ST 541 will be evaluated prior to each service change. Route 544 operate for at least 24 months so that the market can develop and the full ridership potential can be evaluated. After two years, it too may be adjusted based on performance.
East Link is less than four years away. So too is a more direct pathway from the Eastside to South Lake Union when WSDOT opens the SR 520/ I-5 express lanes connection and Express Lanes Connection and reversible Mercer Street ramp. That means far-reaching restructures are not so far away, and increased Eastside-South Lake Union connections are likely a major beneficiary. Despite the hesitations of some current riders from Overlake, ST 544 is set to be the beginning of something more comprehensive.