Sound Transit is considering reworking both ST and Community Transit buses that come down I-5 from Snohomish County when Northgate Station opens in 2021.

  • Sound Transit buses 510, 511, 512, and 513 would all turn around at Northgate, allowing them to run more frequently.
  • 800-series Community Transit routes would also turn around at Northgate instead of serving the University District Directly.
  • 400-series CT routes would continue downtown, as they do today.

There is a survey. Public meetings begin Nov. 20th, and are listed at the end.

Northgate is supposed to be 5 minutes away from the U-District, 7 to Husky Stadium, and 13 to Westlake via Link. 800-series buses budget about 18 minutes from the HUB to 45th & I-5. Given a decent transfer experience, which we cannot take for granted, it should be a winner.

Existing ST express routes don’t have a timepoint at Northgate, but from the closer 45th St. freeway station to Westlake are scheduled for as little as 10 minutes and as much as 35. For downtown routes, fighting the traffic pattern around Northgate plus a transfer is going to be worse when the freeway is open and better when it’s not. Of course, the ST/CT split into downtown gives many Snohomish County commuters the option to pick their route based on traffic conditions.

Arguably, the CT/ST split is backwards. CT buses are peak-only and their riders will nearly always benefit from avoiding intense congestion below Northgate, and preserve reliability, while ST covers the entire day , when I-5 is often clear.

On the other hand, truncating ST trips allows higher frequencies where trips are sparse, and creates a more logical connection to the all-day network. When going north, riders would simply ride Link as far north as possible and then switch to a bus, rather than potentially having to backtrack downtown.

Meeting schedule:

Wednesday, Nov. 20
Everett Station, 4:30-8 a.m.

Thursday, Nov. 21
Lynnwood Transit Center, 2:30-6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 12
S Everett Freeway Station, 3-6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 14
Everett Public Library, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 14
Silverlake Safeway, 3-7 p.m.

96 Replies to “ST considers stopping some buses at Northgate”

  1. As I wrote yesterday, this is as I expected. It is a good compromise. I would prefer having the CT 400 buses go to Northgate, but I understand why they didn’t do that. With ST buses and the 800 series buses headed to Northgate, you still give a lot of those riders the option of an express to Northgate. That means that the main benefit of rush hour truncation would be service savings, not additional connections. At the same time, you avoid upsetting those who prefer an express to downtown, as well as issues with additional layover space. I’m sure CT figured they would stick with the status quo and just wait until Lynnwood Link gets here.

    You raise a very good point about rush hour express service. It is backwards, but this is typical, I’m afraid. Most express bus service operates when they know they can fill the bus* — that is typically during rush hour. In this case, I think there are other issues that complicate matters. There are different agencies involved. ST is concerned about service levels, and wants to provide as many connections with Link as possible. CT, on the other hand, is likely interested in keeping people happy. With any change, some people win and some people lose. CT doesn’t want to rock the boat now when they can just wait until Lynnwood Link gets here.

    The changes work together fairly well. Just about everyone who uses the system can see this as a positive change. If you used to take an express bus to the UW, you now make a transfer at Northgate. This won’t cost you much time (if any), and you will likely have a few more trips. Others get a better connection to popular places like Northgate and Capitol Hill.

    The only people who lose out are those headed downtown in the middle of the day (on the 512). But increased frequency would be a much bigger deal. The existing bus isn’t especially fast, either. Getting on and off the freeway to serve stops like 45th slow it down. Afternoon traffic towards downtown are often terrible, as the express lanes aren’t in the buses favor. Truncating the bus at Northgate will be a godsend for a lot of riders. Many riders also benefit from a better connection to the rest of the city. Freeway stops at 145th and 45th are the worst of both worlds — they don’t connect very well to other buses or get you that close to your destination, and yet they slow the bus down considerably. Connecting at Northgate will be better for all but a handful of riders.

    * Not that the express buses are full. It is clear the ST buses aren’t. Based on what I’ve read, neither are most of the CT express buses. But relative to midday service, those buses have a lot of riders.

    1. You are so right about about the 145th freeway station sucking. How is there no bus that runs all day on 145th Street? 145th is a major arterial street and the main route to many destinations on the north end of the city and in Shoreline. It’s a missed opportunity for a useful connection to the 512 and other Metro express buses.

    2. “How is there no bus that runs all day on 145th Street?”

      It’s been a low priority for Seattle, Shoreline, and Metor. Historically all routes went north-south toward downtown. Gradually Metro added the ancestors of the 44, 48, 8, 40, and 330; and the 65 extension to 15th can maybe be seen in that vein. 14th has no neighborhood center to draw buses; it’s on the periphery between Lake City, Northgate, Bitter Lake, and 155th & Aurora. So the reason it doesn’t have service is inertia and the higher transit priorities around it and limited service hours.

      Metro’s long-range plan attempts to address this with smart reorganizations. The 65 extension will serve 145th Station and replace the 330 and create an L-shaped route (or backwards C if you prefer). A 75 reroute will take it west on 125th/130th past 130th Station. The argument is that 130th and 155th connect larger destinations more directly; people don’t need 145th much if they have these.

  2. I think what’s proposed is a reasonable compromise. Of course, CT should be monitoring ridership on their 400-series buses and 800-series buses closely and be prepared to quickly make adjustments as people vote with their feet.

    I can easily imagine patterns where people prefer different options, depending on the direction and time of day. For instance, maybe those headed downtown at 6 AM prefer the 400-series buses, while those traveling at 8 AM prefer Link, as do those traveling home at 5 PM. We will have to see.

    1. There is one minor tweak I would suggest, though. There are a few smaller park and rides that have a 400 series bus, but no 800 series bus or Sound Transit bus. I’m thinking Lake Stevens, Marysville, and Stanwood. For markets that are only able to support one bus route, I think that one route should go to Northgate, as requiring a 3 seat ride to get on Link feels a bit much. Schedules can be adjusted as necessary so the correct number of Lynnwood to downtown 400-series trips is preserved.

      1. Yeah, that is probably the only tweak they would make. That is why they are asking people about it.

        The problem is, I don’t think there would be much demand for that. The main advantage of going to Northgate is that you also serve the UW. But they can’t justify a bus there now, so it may be that there just aren’t that many riders (in general) and almost all of them are headed downtown. It is possible that you would upset a fair number of riders, while only pleasing a handful.

        You would get better frequency, but it isn’t clear if adding frequency would increase ridership much on a commuter run. It does seem like something they should keep an eye on. If folks prefer a trip to Northgate over the express to downtown (from the areas that offer both) than it would be worth pursuing. My guess is they play it safe, and just keep the expresses until Lynnwood Link. I think it would be different if Northgate was the northern terminus for a long time, but it is only a few years.

        I think it is also possible that they find a little bit of money (after the restructure) and offer a few express buses to Northgate for areas that don’t have it right now. Another alternative would be swap out a run or two for extra service to Northgate. The problem is that for many of these areas, they don’t have a lot of existing express buses (Lake Stevens to Seattle runs 4 times a day, Stanwood 4 times, Snohomish twice). There really aren’t many runs to take, which means that someone would be upset (their 7:00 express to downtown would be gone, and they would have to choose between a 6:30 express, a 7:30 express, or a bus to Northgate). The places with anything that resembles frequent commuter service to downtown also have commuter service to the UW.

      2. Both the 75 and the 67 connect Northgate and the UW. Metro justifies more than one bus route there now due to the number of riders.

      3. I’m baffled by your statement A Joy. I mean I’m well aware of the 75 and the 67, I’m just trying to understand their relevance. Can you explain please?

      4. Good idea, maybe there should be some redistribution of the 4xx’s given this paradigm shift. I don’t know enough about the locations to suggest any specifics. But the goal should be universal access to Northgate from the largest P&Rs and cities, and I’d include second-tier cities like Edmonds and Mukilteo in that. The highest-volume stops should probably also be the ones to have 4xx’s to downtown because that would benefit the most people.

        Smaller lots are probably associated with less-dense areas, and we shouldn’t give them an extraordinary privilege. So making them Northgate-only may be in order. On the other hand, some of those small lots may function as overflow for full lots, and they may be less expensive to maintain (because of their smaller and less-central land area), and it may be good to minimize cars and feeder buses to the large central lots to avoid congestion.

        For instance, it has been said that Eastmont P&R (92nd Street, Everett) and its route the 513 are underused. What is their role in the network? Is it an underused lot that should be closed? Or does it provide overflow and congestion relief for choc-full P&Rs around it?

      5. “Both the 75 and the 67 connect Northgate and the UW. Metro justifies more than one bus route there now due to the number of riders.”

        The 75 is not for UW-Northgate trips. It’s for Sand Point in the middle. Continuing to Northgate is a service for those going from Sand Point to Northgate, Greenwood, Shoreline, Snohomish County, etc. The 67 is, well, Metro has chosen the 65/67 pair as the primary route in northeast Seattle, with 10-minute daytime frequency, 15-minute full-time frequency, and night owl. It specifically connects UW to Northgate and UW to Lake City, and all the neighborhoods in between. The 65/67 and 31/32/75 combine in the ultra-busy UDistrict-Children’s corridor, where even with 12 buses an hour they’re full in the afternoon.

      6. RossB, you wrote:

        “The problem is, I don’t think there would be much demand for that. The main advantage of going to Northgate is that you also serve the UW. But they can’t justify a bus there now, so it may be that there just aren’t that many riders (in general) and almost all of them are headed downtown.”

        Metro clearly disagrees, as two routes already making that connection now. Having ridden both, I can assure you they don’t run empty. There are indeed that many riders in general, and they are not headed downtown, as there are faster ways to get to downtown.

        That is the relevance.

      7. “The main advantage of going to Northgate is that you also serve the UW. But they can’t justify a bus there now”

        I didn’t notice that until A Joy responded. You’ve got cause and effect reversed. People aren’t taking transit to Northgate en masse because the express buses don’t go there. It takes an hour to get from Northgate to Lynnwood on local buses, and that’s only part of people’s trips. The reason no express buses serve Northgate is the distance between the freeway exit and the transit center: it would be a time-consuming detour for the 512. If it’s serving flipping 145th, it would serve Northgate if it could. ST has chosen not to send another route to Northgate because it’s focusing its resources on Northgate Link, which will be a more complete solution.

      8. A Joy — You are clearly confused. I’m sorry about that — maybe it was my pronouns.

        A bus from Northgate to Snohomish County will mainly benefit those headed to the UW. Oh, there will be other benefits. Riders will get a get a direct trip to Northgate. They will get a nice connection to Roosevelt and Capitol Hill. But for those leaving in the morning, and coming back in the evening (which is the group we are talking about) the main benefit will be much better service to the UW. Northgate, Roosevelt and Capitol Hill have jobs, but nothing like the number of jobs found at the UW. The UW area is a major employer (and a major university). That is why ST runs express buses there.

        But for areas like Lake Stevens, CT can’t justify service to the UW. There just isn’t that much demand for it. Since there isn’t enough demand for a Lake Stevens to UW bus, there won’t be a lot of demand for a Lake Stevens to Northgate bus. Does that make sense now?

        This has nothing to do with demand between Northgate and the U-District, let alone the justification for the 67 and 75, both of which do much more than make that connection.

        The reason no express buses serve Northgate is the distance between the freeway exit and the transit center.

        That, and the fact that there isn’t that much demand! Seriously dude, I get it. Northgate has some employment. I would be the first to admit that. But it is nothing like the UW in terms of employment, let alone overall number of trips. It is also much faster from Lynnwood to Northgate than it is to get from Lynnwood to the heart of the UW (which is what buses like the 855 do). Yet CT doesn’t run buses like that — even from their most popular areas, like Lynnwood — because there isn’t enough demand. Yes, this sucks for those trying to make that trip, just as it sucks for someone in Snohomish Country trying to work at Bitter Lake. You are forced to take slow buses, because the agencies can’t justify an express.

        My point in all of this is that there are places — like Lake Stevens — that are scraping by with minimal service to Seattle. They have four — and only four — trips to downtown Seattle. They don’t have a single bus to the UW. It is a very low demand area, which means that it is quite likely that truncating at Northgate — while reasonable — might result in few new riders, while upsetting those that are still there. That is why they have a survey. Are there dozens of riders who take two buses to get to the UW? Are there a handful that are headed to Northgate, but currently drive? If so, now is there time to speak up, and ask for a truncation. Otherwise, CT will just play it safe, and not try and upset anyone.

      9. Just to beat that dead horse some more: It is worth looking at the numbers for the 555 and 556. Both are unusual, in that they provide suburb/intra-city service to Northgate. Their paring, and the detailed data that ST provides, make it fairly easy to assess the demand for trips to Northgate. The 555 heads east in the morning, and west in the evening. Thus it picks up riders from Northgate, and drops them off at Bellevue. About 260 riders a day do this, which is quite respectable. The 556, on the other hand, does the opposite. Not only that, but it extends to Eastgate and Issaquah. So people from various places on the East Side can get to Northgate in the morning, which I’m sure is great if you work in one of the Northgate clinics. Yet a mere 36 people actually do that. Despite an express from Bellevue, there just aren’t that many people making that trip. That bus has way more riders headed to the UW — and that is despite the fact that there are other direct buses headed there. With commuter demand from Bellevue to Northgate being weak, I would guess that commuter demand from Lake Stevens or Stanwood to Northgate can be counted on one hand.

      10. “Northgate has some employment.”

        It’s not just Northgate! I see four transit markets from Snohomish County: (1) downtown, (2) UW and U-District, (3) the rest of north Seattle and Capitol Hill, (4) the airport and everything south of downtown. North Seattle will probably be third in size, but ridership will grow rapidly from its current level, and who knows where it will peak. Probably at the equivalent of a few express buses per day, maybe a half dozen. That’s not “very little” or “doesn’t justify a bus”. It’s just an area that has latent demand that has never been filled, like N 40th Street was before the 30/31/32 served it. (And that resulted in those routes having as much ridership as the 44, if not more.)

        Link’s ability to serve multiple corridors simultaneously turns bus-based planning on its head. Link can simultaneously serve Snohomish-UW, Snohomish-Northgate, Snohomish-North Seattle, Snohomish-downtown, and Snohomish-airport better than any of the existing routes, with only the Snohomish-downtown expresses coming close. The demand for Snohomish-downtown and Snohomish-UW is huge and has been clearly visible for years. The demand for Snohomish-North Seattle is latent and most people don’t have a clear picture of how big it will be, but I postulate it will be big, or at least moderately big. Maybe similar to Lynnwood-Bellevue Stride. It’s not to one 50,000 person campus like UW, but all the other locations in North Seattle may add up to 20,000, 30,000, maybe 50,000. They’ll be transferring at Northgate, U-District, and Roosevelt. Northgate isn’t just the destination, it’s a transfer point. And Northgate the destination extends to Licton Springs. One of my previous jobs was in an office building on Meridian Ave north of the college, and I had colleagues commuting from south Everett and Lynnwood.

      11. It’s not just Northgate! I see four transit markets from Snohomish County: (1) downtown, (2) UW and U-District, (3) the rest of north Seattle and Capitol Hill, (4) the airport and everything south of downtown.

        Right, but the first two dominate for commuter traffic. It isn’t even close. Again, look at the 556. In the morning, 19 people a day get off that bus in Northgate. 130 get off in Bellevue. 60 get off at the UW. But this special express bus to Northgate only gets 19 riders. This is Bellevue we are talking about — an area with way more population density than Lynnwood, let alone Stanwood. Northgate is by far the second biggest employment destination between Lynnwood and the UW, and all it gets is 19 riders. Of course there are other trips — but those trips make up those 19. Someone in Bellevue may take the 556, then catch the 345 to Northwest Hospital. But that still adds up to a tiny amount compared to the UW, let alone downtown.

        That is my point. If 100 riders are heading downtown, there are probably 40 heading to the UW, while the other stops between UW and Lynnwood are likely in the single digits. You get maybe 3 or 4 to Northgate. Another couple for Capitol Hill. Add one for 65th and you still don’t have that many commuters to this area. Service to other parts of Link are irrelevant (it doesn’t matter where you transfer).

        I keep emphasizing commuters because that is what we are talking about. We are not talking all day demand. That is different, and much more balanced. We are talking about how many riders from Stanwood would be in that third category. Keep in mind, they barely have service to downtown Seattle. They can’t even justify service to the UW. But you are saying that additional trips to Northgate, Capitol Hill, and 65th (along with connecting buses) will somehow tip the balance? I really doubt it. I think you will find that only a handful would prefer a trip to Northgate, and the overwhelming majority of those riders are headed to the UW.

        But like I said, that is why there is a survey. Maybe there are a significant number of people who would commute from Stanwood via the Northgate Station if they offered it. My guess there aren’t.

      12. Even if focus on the “big picture”, consolidating the downtown service onto a single route, such as the 402, means more frequent and reliable service with consistent headways. Relying on a hodge-podge of bus routes that, individually run every half hour or so, coming from different locations, suffering different random traffic delays, means longer waits for a downtown bus at Lynnwood, where the bulk of the riders are.

        That said, maybe unreliable downtown service inducing more people onto the 800-series or 500-series buses to Northgate is a feature, not a bug, as it makes it easier to just get rid of the downtown service completely in 2024, when Lynnwood Link finally opens. Given that this is only two years, it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the scheme of things. But, I still think you benefit more riders in the short term prioritizing consistent headways for Lynnwood->downtown over a one-seat ride to downtown all the way from Stanwood.

  3. It’s a reasonable operations change in concept. The only concern that I see is whether Link trains can hold the demand. Even if riders fit on trains at Northgate, Capitol Hill riders may be left on the platform.

    For overcrowding, may be best to make the service change once the East Link trains are running — even if those trains are only in service north of Capitol Hill (using the East Link tracks to get to and from the East OMF). At the very least, a few extra peak-hour reliever train sets would be a good strategy.

    An overcrowding analysis is needed!

    1. With 4 car trains running every 6 minutes, I don’t see that happening. People in Capitol Hill might have to stand, but they will get on.

      1. Yep. I think ST has already assumed that all the Metro buses will be truncated, and has done the analysis. The trains will be fine.

      2. we should also lobby for ST to run Link frequently at off-peak times. They neglect that today.

        Good point. I think things should improve with Northgate Link. Ridership per hour of service will be much better. The increase in ridership that comes with increasing frequency in the middle of the day will also be much higher. Thus it would cost ST very little and there would be good farebox recovery if they improved frequency during the day.

      3. It’s already frequent. Only a handful of bus routes have 10-minute middays, and I don’t think any have 10-minute evenings or Sundays, or 15-minute between 10pm and 1am. Long-term I’d like 5 minutes on Link and all core bus routes, but one thing at a time. First we need to establish a 15-minute standard for buses, then a 10-minute standard, then we can worry about increasing Link’s off-peak frequency. If I’m at a subway station anywhere in the world, I expect a train to come within 10 minutes. If it comes every 2-5 minutes, then I assume those are extra runs to manage capacity or for operational efficiency. The London Underground comes every 2-3 minutes because if it didn’t, in 10 minutes the station would be overflowing with people out the entrances and a block down the street. It’s not because people can’t be expected to wait 10 minutes. But on an uncrowded line, when it gets to 15 minutes, then it starts to feel excessively long, and if it’s 20 or 30 minutes then it’s even worse.

        We see this in bus transfers. Grid-network activists and Metro want people to transfer between the 11+48, 2+48, Link+65, etc, rather than demanding a one-seat route like the 43. That’s fine if both routes are 5 minutes, and tolerable if they’re 10 minutes. It starts getting long if they’re 15 minutes, especially if you’ll be making one or two more transfers during your trip. All those waits add up, and can make a 20-minute trip stretch to 45 minutes or 60 minutes, and in a worst-case scenario you may be waiting and walking 40 minutes and riding 20 minutes. But what should the maximum wait for transfers be? 15 minutes? 10 minutes? 5 minutes? There’s reasonable disagreement and uncertainty about that.

      4. Where are you going to park/maintain 80 cars plus a reserve before East Link trackage exists as far as Lake Bellevue? It takes 48 minutes between HSS and Angle Lake. Figure six minutes at each terminal to change ends and that means one train takes two hours to make a cycle.

        Right now there are ten trains per hour between 5:48 and 8:40 AM northbound, and presumably the same headway southbound.

        At six minute headways there are nine trains running in each direction and one at each terminal at any given time: total twenty trains. IIRC every third train at the rush hour has two cars while the others have three each. So, that’s seven times three plus three times two or 27 cars per direction today. Total 54 cars plus the reserve, whatever it is.

        There is simply not enough room in the MF and available overflow night parking to hold more, or ST would run every train as a three car at the peaks. It’s a lot simpler.

        So, unless some sort of alternative overnight parking can be found, it clearly appears that Northgate Link will open with 54 cars available at the peaks plus the reserve until the East Link trackage is completed to Lake Bellevue. East Link doesn’t have to be “in service”; the stations and even the trackway east of Lake Bellevue can still be under construction, but the trackway has to be intact that far.

        How is this wrong?

      5. I think you make a good point, Tom. That’s why I suggested that Link train access to the East OMF may be needed to enable the capacity that may be required if these changes are made to bus routes.

        There is another strategy, which would be to reduce the frequency of trains south of SODO or Stadium to eight minutes and have four minute trains north of that as peak service only.

        Still, the storage yard capacity must be balanced with rider demand. I can only imagine the outcry of both North Seattle and Snohomish riders if Northgate trains begin running and they can’t get on a train. The afternoons will be particularly critical if riders get left at Westlake heading north.

        I have seen how crowded three-car trains are already. Expecting the fourth car and surplus capacity to absorb the new riders to and from Northgate as well as 520 riders, riders from restructured North Seattle Metro service and these Snohomish riders seems pretty foolish. It may be ok, but ST badly needs to examine the likelihood of overcrowding for this situation and have a Plan B.

      6. It’s already frequent. Only a handful of bus routes have 10-minute middays, and I don’t think any have 10-minute evenings or Sundays, or 15-minute between 10pm and 1am.

        The 3/4 runs every 7.5 minutes. RapidRide G will run every 6 minutes. There are various combinations — such as Lake City/Children’s Hospital/U-Village/UW — which are much better than ten minutes. All the SkyTrain lines run every six minutes or better during the day. Ten minutes is nothing special; it would be a disappointment. With Northgate Link, we will finally have an urban subway, with multiple stops. It is quite possible that ridership per hour of service will be at its peak — if not, it will be awfully close. Of course ridership will go up substantially as it gets built out, but each expansion means more hours of service — this may be as efficient as it gets. You are also likely to get big increases in ridership, given the urban nature of the system.

        Furthermore, we are creating a situation where three seat rides will be common. Lynnwood to the Seattle Center. Lake City to Ballard. It is the whole point of a spine. But the spine has to be frequent, otherwise people will ignore it. They either take the slow two seat ride, or drive. It doesn’t make sense to funnel all the buses to the train, then have riders wait an extra four minutes.

        To be clear, that does *not* mean that buses have to match the frequency. Far from it. It is very difficult to do that. Not everyone leaves a station at the same time. It also creates a mess at the station, as all the buses leave at the same time (or arrive at the same time). Delays with the buses are common. The best way to solve the timing problem is to just run the trains as often as possible.

      7. “Lake City to Ballard three-seat ride”

        I’m hoping Metro modifies the 2025 plan a little and extends the 40 to Lake City, replacing part of the 75, as David Lawson suggested earlier. When the long 75 (UDist-Ballard) was split, it was split at Northgate rather than Lake City, and maybe that was a mistake. Ballard and Lake City are large urban villages and represent the most quintessential crosstown trips in north Seattle. In contrast, making Sand Point to Northgate a 2-seat ride affects a smaller number of people at Magnuson Park and Matthews Beach, and they will hopefully have an ultra-frequent 41 in Lake City to transfer to. And from Magnuson Park you can also take the 62 the other way to Roosevelt Station.

      8. I’m hoping Metro modifies the 2025 plan a little and extends the 40 to Lake City, replacing part of the 75

        Yeah, sure, that might be nice. But the 40 is a slog. The problem is that Northgate Station is very far from Northgate Way. It is a huge detour, if you are trying to get from Lake City to anyplace west of the freeway. But the detour means that the bus goes right by a train that is very fast. If you happen to be headed to East Ballard (15th) or west Ballard (32nd) you will probably prefer the 3 seat ride to the 2 seat ride, even if the 40 gets you to the middle of Ballard. Having more riders use Link is a good thing, as it simultaneously enhances other trips that involve Link (e. g. Lake City to Capitol Hill).

        Or how about Lake City to Capitol Hill. Yes, you could do as you do now. Take some sort of bus that slogs its way to the UW, followed by the 48, hoping you don’t get stuck by the bridge or nasty traffic along the way. Or you take a quick trip to Link, followed by a fast ride under the canal, then a trip on the frequent 8.

        Keep in mind, these are not obscure places. These are places with way more density than any place in Snohomish or Pierce county. These are not places that are very far from the urban core (and in the case of the C. D., could be considered part of it). In many cases, it will make sense to turn a slow two seat ride into a fast three seat ride. But to make it all work — to actually provide a service that gets people out of their car — you need to run Link more often.

  4. I am not worried about the transfer as much as I am looking at the time it takes to get from the Northgate Way exit to the transit center. That south bound exit is not good for east bound traffic. That sentence probably does not make sence until you drive that backwords nonfunctional semi cloverleaf exit. It always clogs up at the yield sign by the Macdonalds. Then it clogs up again at the turn to go south just after you go under I-5. Any chance of a bus lane at that exit? Probably not. Going northbound will be fine. The entrance they put in about 25 years ago works pretty good.

    1. eeexactly.

      There are 4 traffic lights from the I-5 (SB) exit to the transit center. A short bus-only lane from the SB off-ramp to MacDonalds intersection and a holding queue jump may help (like the one at Howell & Boren for CT buses in the afternoon). Another bus lane south on 1st Ave NE will likely help too.

      1. Another good point. I forgot about that bus. It isn’t an all day, bidirectional bus though (like the 512).

    2. It doesn’t sound that bad to me. To be clear, it would be better to have bus lanes. It will be annoying as the bus circles around, and is delayed by traffic. But in general, it won’t spend that much time doing that. As of this moment (at 9:30 AM) it takes 3 minutes to get from 130th to the station ( At its worse, that stretches up to “typically 3-6 minutes” (according to Google). It is actually worse in the evening (going that same direction).

      But the alternatives are not a picnic either. The 400 series buses exit the freeway, and then spend quite a bit of time looping around the UW itself. If there is congestion on the exit ramps to Northgate, there is likely congestion on I-5 itself, between Northgate and 45th. As the CT representative pointed out, these 400 buses do not use the express lanes. They are slogging in general purpose I-5 traffic.

      The same is true for the 512 most of the day. As Martin pointed out, when that ramp is the worst is also when traffic is the worst. When it takes “typically 3 to 7 minutes” to get to the station, it takes way longer than that to get downtown. Getting from Northgate to downtown Seattle anytime after 3:00 PM is terrible. The 41 uses all sorts of creative ways to do that. Rather than going to the closest ramps (at Northgate) it goes south, on the surface streets. It gets on the freeway by Lake City Way, then gets off at 45th. Then it used the HOV lanes to get back on. In other words, traffic is so bad that it is better to sit through light cycles, rather than slog it out on the freeway. Even after that, it slogs over the ship canal, and on to (and through) downtown.

      It is better in the middle of the day, but as mentioned, that is also when the loop is a piece of cake. As of right now, it takes 3 minutes to go 1.8 miles, including all those traffic lights. A drive downtown — at this very moment — has plenty of slowdowns. To be clear, there will be times when an express would be faster — but not by that much, and not that often. Overall (going both directions) that would be extremely rare, because as you mentioned, the northbound on-ramp is much closer.

    3. As eddiew mentioned, essentially it’s what KC Route 303 does. I took it the other day and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be at the Northgate exit. I wrote in the survey, but perhaps they could add a bus queue lane at the SB-to-WB Northgate exit and have buses make a left turn direct to EB Northgate at the signal.

      1. Apparently the city will take a look at it. To quote the last paragraph of the Seattle Times article (

        A tricky question is how freeway buses will travel from the Northgate Way interchange on First Avenue Northeast and turn into Northgate Station. Done wrong, this segment will cancel the benefits of a speedy train. The Seattle Department of Transportation will decide next year what bus signals or lanes to build.

  5. If ST is going to truncate service now, they must keep the concept of the 510& 513 but still terminate them at Northgate. Loads on these routes are nearly full by the 2nd stop. As for route 513, it should be serve the S. Everett Fwy Station via 19th Ave SE to increase capacity for Everett customers. Otherwise, it’s an under-performing route.

    Additionally, bus lanes and/or queue jumps should be added to keep buses following to/from the Northgate TC. There are 4 traffic lights from the I-5 (SB) exit to the transit center and 3 on the return.

    1. Jordan, don’t you know that it is revealed truth here at STB that no Snohomish County express bus is ever full?

  6. @asdf2: ” – requiring a 3 seat ride to get on Link feels a bit much”. This is my number one concern for midday riders. Many 512 riders are transferring from other buses. I was mainly concerned for north-of-Everett riders who already have a lengthy commute. But if a route from those communities to Northgate were established, it would only be fair to do the same for Edmonds, Mukilteo, MLT and other communities in Snohomish Co.

  7. I thought maybe the 512 would be truncated but I didn’t expect the other ones. Congratulations ST and CT for being so bold. People in Lynnwood and Everett work throughout north Seattle including Ballard, Licton Springs, and Sand Point. They have never had a reasonable bus alternative but now they will. And ditto the people who work north in Snohomish, or travel to or from Northgate, Roosevelt, and Capitol Hill off-peak.

    I wish ST would say how frequent it would be rather than just saying “more frequent”. The 512 is 15 minutes weekdays, 20 minutes Saturday and early evening, 30 minutes Sunday and late evening. Can we hope for 7 minutes weekdays and 15 minutes minimum at all other times?

    1. Every 7 min might be an overkill. Perhaps during shoulder peak times, 9-10a or 7-8p. I’m content with 10 min Mon-Sa and every 12 on Sundays. The current frequency isn’t sufficient for summer crowds, especially on the weekends and Sunday games.

      1. Yeah, 10 minutes is a huge ugrade from 15. Likewise 12 is much better than 20 or 30. Going from 10 to 7 is nice, just not as big of a deal. It is worth noting that the 512 does fairly well on Saturday, but struggles on Sunday. I think more frequency would increase ridership substantially, especially since this will connect much better to a lot more places (like the UW).

      2. The 10-minute threshold is for rider convenience and maximum ridership. Anything more than that is for capacity management to avoid overcrowding. That was more or less the practice of the 71/72/73X, and the legion of expresses from Tacoma Dome and Lynnwood TC. Maybe the 512 doesn’t need 7 minutes, but it partly depends on how much they consolidate runs into one route number. If other routes are consolidated into the 512 because they’re not sufficiently different from it after truncation, then it may reach 7 minutes. Tacoma Dome has peak routes to Seattle departing every five minutes, plus Sounder.

        “The 512 … struggles on Sunday.”

        It may struggle to fill a 30-minute bus on Sunday, but its passengers struggle to work their lives around the 30-minute schedule. 15 minutes is an appropriate minimum for the main route connecting Seattle and Snohomish County. Lynnwood Link will be 5 minutes. We really shouldn’t make people deal with 30-minute service for several more years and then make a big jump up to 10 minutes and 5 minutes — not on the 512, and not on the 550. Otherwise you’re treating Snohomish County like it’s still as small as it was in the 1970s, not a 600+-person county. 30 minutes may be fine for Olympia to Tacoma, but not Lynnwood to Seattle. And ST will have tons of freed-up service hours when it truncates routes at Northgate.

      3. @Mike — My point is ridership per bus is much less on Sunday than Saturday. This suggests that frequency is the culprit. It is so low for the Sunday bus that people ignore it. There may be other reasons (people may work more on Saturday, free parking on Sunday, etc.) but I think ridership would increase substantially with more frequency on Sunday, just like every other day of the week.

      4. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe I thought you were saying the opposite of what you meant. You seemed to be saying there’s not enough ridership potential for 15-minute Sundays, at the same time you’re saying there’s not enough for Lynnwood-Northgate without UW which seems like a similar thing, and I disagree with both of those.

      5. I wrote “I think more frequency would increase ridership substantially, especially since this will connect much better to a lot more places (like the UW).” This is important. This is not true of every route. You could increase the frequency of some routes (like the 513) and you would likely see very little in the way of increased ridership.

        But the 512 does reasonably well off peak, when it is frequent. But there is likely a tipping point. At some point, added frequency doesn’t add new riders. Going from 10 to 7 is nice, just not as big of a deal. 10 minutes is a huge upgrade from 15. Likewise 12 is much better than 20 or 30. That is why I think it makes sense to aim for 10 minute service weekdays, and 15 minutes both Saturday and Sunday.

        The phrase about the UW (and other locations) was obviously in support of more frequency (I’m not sure how you confused that). The 512 doesn’t serve many locations very well. Link will serve them much better. If it is noon and I want to get from Lynnwood to Campus Parkway, or Capitol Hill, then I have to transfer anyway (or walk a long ways). A bus that gets me to Link would be just fine. If that bus came more often, I would be more likely to catch it (even if it meant I had to transfer at Northgate to a train).

    2. ST Express runs all day and counter-peak. The buses that become 512s start as 510/511/513s. In order to terminate 512s at Northgate, at least one of the other routes also has to terminate there, or wastefully deadhead there from downtown, or have 512s start/end downtown during peak.

      The ideal frequency for 512s off-peak is whatever matches Link’s, which is to say every 10 minutes. 7-minute headway would mean some buses would be much emptier than others leaving Northgate Station, unless that is the headway during peak. At any rate, the improved connectivity of starting from Northgate should justify improved frequency on the 512, though I’m not sure if the savings from not going all the way downtown actually frees up enough hours. Getting onto the freeway at Northgate will still take several minutes. ST will also be looking to reduce service hours, partially because of I-976, but also because of capital costs for Link exceeding projections, particularly in the Snohomish County subarea.

      I see two realistic possibilities: ST Express 512 will run either every 10 minutes or every 20 minutes off-peak, and it may vary by weekday vs. Saturday vs. Sunday and time of day. Ridership may determine the difference, but Link’s schedule will determine the stable headway options.

      For the 20-minute option, I can see CT alternating with the 512, and running a mid-day route to Lynnwood P&R and one or more of its other most popular all-day park&rides. But I’m betting against CT running mid-day and weekend commuter route service, as the ridership just won’t justify the expense.

      1. At any rate, the improved connectivity of starting from Northgate should justify improved frequency on the 512, though I’m not sure if the savings from not going all the way downtown actually frees up enough hours. Getting onto the freeway at Northgate will still take several minutes.

        This is greatly exaggerated. As Mike pointed out, when getting to the station takes a long time, getting to downtown takes forever. When you can quickly get downtown, you can quickly get to the station. But most of the savings come from *not* going through downtown. Here is a map showing the route that the bus takes from downtown to an arbitrary spot on the freeway ( It take 20 minutes. This does not include the additional dwell time for the 7 additional bus stops (6 downtown, one at 45th). Now look at how long it takes to get from Northgate to that same spot on the freeway ( Four minutes. Figure another 4 minutes saved by avoiding all the stops, and you have a full 20 minutes of savings, when there is no traffic.

        Now consider what happens when there is traffic. As Adam has pointed out, it sometimes takes a half hour to get off the freeway. That doesn’t count the time spent as the bus is stuck downtown. Do you really think it takes a half hour to exit at Northgate and get to the station? Get real. On the worst of days, at the worst of hours, there is a delay of maybe five minutes. A delay of that nature happens all the time on I-5. As I mentioned above, it is so bad that the 41 routinely finds clever ways to avoid it, in a desperate (and ultimately futile) attempt at keeping anywhere near the schedule. These (routine) delays mean extra padding, which in turn mean extra money.

        The service savings will be huge. Whether they translate into better service or additional routes is anyone’s guess. But it is quite reasonable to assume that they could increase frequency substantially with no additional cost.

      2. “ST Express runs all day and counter-peak. The buses that become 512s start as 510/511/513s”

        The distinction will no longer apply as much after Northgate Link opens. The 510/511/513 skip 45th and 145th peak direction and don’t run reverse-peak. 45th won’t be a stop after truncation. 145th is so minor it’s not worth us worrying about. The 512 makes all stops to Everett. The 511 skips 45th and 145th and makes all stops to Ash Way. The 510 runs nonstop to Everett, skipping the 511’s stops. The 513 is a funny thing that serves a couple stops in Everett the others don’t. When all of these go to Northgate, the difference between them becomes less significant, and there may be adjustments between them with one route shifting to another. The long nonstop between Everett and Seattle is partly to compensate for the hour-long trip, which can stretch to a two-hour trip when there’s a major collision or traffic spike. If it’s only going to Lynnwood, then maybe it can add a couple stops without becoming excessively slow. In that case maybe it can change its route number if it matches another route.

      3. Could the 513 serve Ash Way, for instance? It’s been said that Ash Way P&R is a time-consuming detour for a through route. Maybe the 513 should stop there because it’s the least-used route and shorter than the 510. Maybe it should make all the stops south of there? That might free up some 511s to become 510s.

      4. This is greatly exaggerated.

        Sorry to ruin your day, but I totally agree with your analysis of why not going downtown is a huge service savings, even if you can’t stand my expressions of uncertainty. There is nothing about uncertainty to greatly exaggerate.

      5. The distinction [between the 510, 511, 512] will no longer apply as much after Northgate Link opens.

        I would say the biggest difference is that the 510 skips Ash Way, the 511 ends at Ash Way, while the 512 serves both Everett and Ash Way (along with other stops). Skipping Ash Way probably saves a lot of time during rush hour, but doesn’t make that much difference in the middle of the day. I think the approach they take makes sense, and probably won’t change.

        The 513 is the only dog in the group. It just struggles getting riders. It is hard to say how to fix it though. It is hard to figure out a remedy without mucking around with CT’s routes. My guess they will simply endure the route until Lynnwood Link gets there.

    3. This is the exact question I came in to ask: if all the hours saved from truncated at Northgate are plowed back into the same routes for frequency, what kind of improvement would be realistic?

      1. My guess is we can make the following changes:

        510 — A few extra runs, if that. It is fairly frequent, and not very crowded.
        511 — Every ten minutes, at least northbound. It is very crowded right now, and this would not be that expensive. Adding this level of service may mean taking the savings from it and the 510.
        513 — Maybe a reverse peak or two. This has very low ridership overall, but a reverse peak might get some riders headed to Boeing. It might be really cheap if it eliminates a deadhead.
        512 — As I wrote up above, I would focus on the weakest points first. It wouldn’t cost that much to have 15 minute service during the day on Sunday. I would also try and extend late night service to 20 minutes, if not 15. There are a fair number of riders late at night, which means that ridership would be pretty good with increased service. I would also try and extend the last bus, even that bus runs every half hour.* Assuming you can do all that, I would also like to see it run every 12 minutes, if not 10 in the middle of the day. Hard to say whether we can reach 10, but 12 seems possible.

        Community Transit save money with the changes, but not as much. The weird bus is the 855. It will be an exact subset of the 511 and 512 (going from Lynnwood TC to Northgate TC). I’m not sure what they are going to do about that. They could take advantage of the savings and extend it, or they could do the opposite, and just kill it. Doing the latter would free up a fair amount of service that could be spread to other express buses. If they just keep it as is, then I would expect an extra run here or there to take advantage of the truncation.

        Of course, all of that is hand waving. There are so many particulars that it is difficult to determine with much confidence what is possible.

        *There is a phenomenon (I can’t find a link) involving the last bus. Basically the last bus of a line always has weak ridership. But if they add another bus after that, the old “last bus” suddenly gets much better ridership. That is because people are afraid of missing that last bus. If the last bus runs at midnight, they catch the 11:30 PM bus. If the last bus runs at 12:30 AM, they catch the midnight bus. If you look at the late night ridership for the 512, it is good until about 11:00 PM, then it drops (although it still gets about 25 people). Adding “late night” service, with a few extra runs might be worth it.

  8. This should be a good improvement to service for a few reasons:

    For the 500-series buses and the 400-series buses that enter downtown via Stewart, there are some major choke points that this will bypass. I’ve waited for over half an hour before in the Stewart exit lane, and for far too long attempting to turn left on 5th from Stewart. It will be nice to skip these points. (The 400-series buses entering downtown from the south are typically much more reliable.)

    As pointed out above, the 800-series buses spend a long time looping, and also can’t make use of the express lanes, which adds time during rush hour.

    Finally, there isn’t really a good way to take a bus to Northgate from Snohomish County, despite all the CT/ST buses passing very close by. This will improve access to Northgate and also Capitol Hill to a certain extent.

  9. For the 500-series buses and the 400-series buses that enter downtown via Stewart, there are some major choke points that this will bypass. I’ve waited for over half an hour before in the Stewart exit lane, and for far too long attempting to turn left on 5th from Stewart. It will be nice to skip these points. (The 400-series buses entering downtown from the south are typically much more reliable.)

    Interesting. It looks like the buses are almost evenly split between those that use Stewart and those that don’t:

    Buses using Stewart exit: 402, 405, 410, 415, 417, 422, 424
    Buses that don’t use Stewart: 412, 413, 416, 421, 425, 435

    Many of the buses that use Stewart will now have alternatives for the rider (an 800 series bus headed to Northgate). It looks like the only people who would have to put up with that exit would be riders on the 422 and 424. You might consider suggesting that those routes avoid Stewart as well. That would be a minor change (and a seemingly odd one) but one that might save riders a fair amount of time. It would lead to a system that is a bit more balanced. Those that live an area with service to both Northgate and downtown might prefer the station at 7th and Stewart. Those that only have an express to downtown have a faster one.

    Finally, there isn’t really a good way to take a bus to Northgate from Snohomish County, despite all the CT/ST buses passing very close by. This will improve access to Northgate and also Capitol Hill to a certain extent.

    Yeah, exactly. Truncating at Northgate will dramatically improve service to Northgate and Capitol Hill. These aren’t huge employment centers, but they are significant. This will also make it much easier for folks to get to First Hill. Not as much as if there was a station there, but still easier than walking up the hill.

  10. This will be a boon for reverse commutes too. I work in Everett and live near I-5/65th and now have to backtrack to 45th to catch the 512 northbound. Southbound in the evening insult is added to injury having to sit in stop and go traffic from Northgate on, watching home go very slowly go by.
    Another benefit: a 512 stop in Northgate for, e.g., shopping/dining/catching a hockey game on the way home. 512->145th->347 from Everett to Northgate is really unpleasant. All the above counts for Lynnwood workers too, of which there seem to be quite a few reverse-commuting on the 512.

  11. CT currently parks an armada of commuter buses in the SODO, and has to get the drivers back to the Snohomish County base. Those one-off trippers are really expensive. CT may as well run reverse-peak-shoulder runs to get buses back to base, and then start earlier in the afternoon driving the bus, rather than just the driver, back to Seattle. Ridership may be pitiful on these reverse-peak-shoulder runs, but CT would save the cost of parking space and get some fare revenue. Some will ride those buses for the second-story view, especially if the 512 runs from Northgate. Those gorgeous views from the I-5 bridge will only be there so long for bus riders.

    1. FTA funds cover bus that are in service but not deadhead runs, so there might be some added revenue from that as well.

    2. I assume the parking is so that riders can have a break. A live loop through downtown would be brutal. The other reason for parking is so the bus can pick up evening riders with some level of reliability. You really don’t want your northbound bus from downtown to Lynnwood to be stuck going south on the ship canal bridge when it should be picking up riders.

  12. I’ve been on Amtrak thuway buses from the north that have taken closer to an hour from Northgate to King Street Station. Given a decent transfer experience and halfway decent access to the HOV lanes, I might start getting off at Everett and using the 512 or something like that.

    1. I’ve already done that several times, just using the 512, without Northgate Link. It is considerably faster than going downtown, so long as the wait time for the 512 in Everett isn’t too bad. You also save money on the Amtrak ticket.

      1. You’re not trying to get to King Street to get a southbound train to Portland though.

        The express lane / how lane transition is a mess in the afternoons, and I’d love it if the just extended the Cascades to Everett so there were a few through trains a day.

    2. We really need 2 through trains from Vancouver to Portland each day. The bus is not great.

      Why can’t we have an 8am departure from PDX go all the way to Vancouver? This train could turn back at 5pm and overnight in Seattle. The morning Seattle train would hit Vancouver at noon and head back to Portland at 1pm, for a 9pm arrival. This would give 3 round-trips between Vancouver and Seattle, and 2 round-trips between all 3 cities, finally giving us a PDX-VAC round trip that doesn’t A) get in extremely late and B) leave extremely early on the way back.

      1. and when Seattle has their NHL team, a midday train would be the perfect train for fans to shuttle between the two cities.

        With enough hockey fans using it (and if the reliability were assured) it would make the winter season more profitable.

      2. Running more Cascades trains may have to do with getting the Point Defiance Bypass going again with safety issues solved. A major benefit of the bypass was that it would allow more trains per day with higher on time %.

      3. Are there really enough people riding all the way through from Vancouver, B.C. to Portland, OR, for thru-train trips to matter? Including breaks, you’re looking at about a 9 hour train ride. There are a ton of flight options between the two cities, and for a trip of that length, I would expect most to fly.

        Implementing thru trains does have consequences for Seattle->Portland or Seattle->Vancouver passengers. With only two round trips per day, a thru trip would have to replace an existing trip. If the trip is to not leave Portland or Vancouver in the middle of the night, this means replacing a morning or evening trip with a midday trip. It also means less reliability for people leaving Seattle.

      4. From a few years ago, the numbers for the 518/517 Cascades trains (NB/SB) Portland to Vancouver BC were about 20,000 boardings a year from stations south of Seattle (Tacoma – Portland), with about 85% of those originating from the Portland/Vancouver USA area.

        That’s just under 2,000 boardings a month.

        The bulk of the through travel is the cruise ship passengers heading to Vancouver BC in the summer.

        That means that ~30% of the people getting on and off those trains in Vancouver BC have come from the deep south (Portlandia).

        How that compares with non-linked trips from PDX airport, I don’t know.

        I haven’t seen any current figures on the Cascades, though.

  13. The bus operations are one side of the coin for the Northgate transfer. The other is train capacity.

    Consider this: There are currently 23-30 light rail vehicles per hour per direction on Link. When Northgate Station opens, there will be 40 LRVs per hour per direction. Much of the new capacity will be taken up by local routes replacing expresses, and more by new connectivity to UW.

    When East Link opens, there will be 64 LRVs per hour per direction on the joint section from ID/CS north (with headway on each branch increasing to 7.5 minutes during peak).

    I’m assuming the ST route planners are carefully counting how many seats and how much standing space they expect peak Northgate truncations will fill.

    I’m also assuming they are paying attention to construction work on and around the site of the soon-to-be-former Mall formerly known as Northgate, in determining a feasible path between the freeway and the station.

  14. I wonder if ST will get rid of the 145th station once they truncate at Northgate. It doesn’t get many riders, and those that miss it will just transfer from Northgate. The time savings won’t be huge, but they will be something.

    1. It’s likely that the 145th stop only exists as mitigation for not stopping at Northgate and 65th and Shoreline. If so they’ll close it in a heartbeat. But it does have an existing P&R, and it’s ten blocks from the might-someday-be-a-village at 15th Ave E & 145th.

      1. ST plans to extend it to 145th Station and Shoreline CC for Lynnwood Link. It was extended to 15th in the early 2000s to give more connectivity to Jackson Park. I could see Metro extending it at least those 10 blocks in the Northgte Link restructure. It restructured a bunch of routes with U-Link to be prepared for Northgate Link, so it may do the same here. It might even extend the 65 all the way to Shoreline CC now. That would address a significant transit gap between Lake City, Aurora, and Shoreline CC. which has only the hourly, weekday-only 330 now.

      2. Yeah, not much reason to keep it. You no longer need it as a means of getting to Northgate. It doesn’t serve the 65 — the 65 won’t be there before Lynnwood Link. There is almost nothing there right now. The only bus connections are:

        347 — Which connects on either end via Mountlake Terrace and Northgate.
        373 — Which only runs during rush hour, and may be restructured out of existence.
        308 — Which has four runs a day. Even if this bus is retained it will avoid that area, and simply go down 15th to Northgate.

        Kill the stop. The only reason Link is adding a stop there is for a bus route that comes nowhere near there right now. Kill the stop.

  15. Consider what it would be like for Link to absorb the entire Snohomish-Seattle commuter ridership when Northgate Station opens:

    Link could run short-run peak trains to Stadium or SODO Station, alternating with the full-length runs to Angle Lake Station, increasing south-end headway to 7.5 minutes (which will happen when East Link opens anyway), but moving up 3.75-minute peak headway on the main section. Capacity on the south end would actually increase slightly, with the shift from 2-3 car trains to all 4-car trains. OTOH, south end buses could start moving to permanent schedule patterns to align with Link sooner rather than later.

    The biggest hurdles would be road capacity to get buses to Northgate Station, and whether ST will have a large enough LRV fleet to pull this off (doubtful, but don’t jump on me for expressing doubt just because I confess I don’t know). Even having just 3-car trains for the short runs ought to work.

    1. See above. Unless alternative overnight parking space can be found — or the reserve thrown into operation fully — there will not be enough LRV’s to run four car trains every six minutes until the East Link trackway is usable to Lake Bellevue.

    2. Let’s see if thus will work. It would be about 23-24 minutes to Stadium, so with the turnback time, there would be 16 three car trains on the short turns. The through trains would still take two hours for a round trip to Angle Lake, and there would be seven of them at eight minute headways.

      So 16 times three would be 48 plus seven times four is 28. Uh-oh. Seventy-six cars.

      This will probably not work either until the East Link trackway is open to Lake Bellevue.

      I grant that it is conceivable to leave two trains parked at each terminal station which would be sixteen cars. But 54 plus 16 is only 70. That may be close enough fot DT to use some of the reserve during the peaks and make it work. But it will be walking on one if its own rails.

      1. I think you are trying to count additional trains and LRVs.

        With the travel time going from 48 minutes to 55 minutes end-to-end, the current plan for 6-minute headway, and no more than 11 minutes to turn around on each end, the plan would be 21 trains at most in the peak loop, for 84 LRVs total. I assume the maintenance department has a plan to deliver those LRVs by 2021, but it looks like it is going to be tight.

        If the main line were to roll back to 7.5-minute headway, and stick to 3-car trains (unfortunately reducing south-end capacity), that loop would take ca. 18 trains, and 54 LRVs. Only 8 trains could fit in the 64 minutes max for the short-run loop (with the Stadium Station turnaround needing to happen in 6 minutes or less), for 24 LRVs. That’s 78 LRVs in the 3/3 plan. The 4/3 plan would take 96 LRVs.

        The north-end capacity would go from the current 23-30 LRVs per hour per direction to 48 (under 3/3) or 56 (under 4/3) LRVs per hour per direction. I don’t know if 8 extra LRVs per hour (vs. the current plan) would suffice to absorb the remaining 800-series ridership. I’m thinking it would be tight.

        I suppose a follow-up restructure that consolidates all the commuter buses to Northgate could wait 6 or 12 months while 800-series riders vote with their feet to switch to the 400s, and sufficient additional LRVs become available for 4/3 (thereby never reducing south-end capacity).

        At any route, there is limited ability to convert shorter commuter runs into more peak-direction commuter runs. The real key to improving frequency is consolidation into fewer routes, i.e. sending the whole armada to Northgate.

      2. Your totals are higher than mine, so how was I “count[ing] additional trains and LRV’s”? I don’t argue with your slightly higher numbers; I neglected to add the additional seven minutes between Northgate and HSS so I thought 20 trains would do for full-distance six minute headways. You are right that it’s 21.

        For the turnback scenario I used four and eight minutes instead of 3.75 and 7.5, because you can’t really “clockface” those fractional headways. You might do three, three, three, and then four to make “3.75” on average, but that would make the south end six then seven which is “6.5” on average.

        The point is, we broadly agree on the total number of vehicles required for each scenario, but it remains out of the question to host 84 LRV’s on the system along with the reserve before the trackway to Lake Bellevue is passable for non-revenue service. Completely out of the question.

        By your own figures the short-turn plan would require 78 LRV’s plus the reserve as well. That’s still way too many to park at the existing MF, and even if you kept two trains at each remote terminal, with 3/3 that’s only twelve cars removed from the MF; with 3/4 it’s fourteen. Neither is enough of a reduction to work.

        Things are going to be VERY crowded on Link from soon after Northgate opens until Lake Bellevue becomes reachable.

      3. The 84 LRVs is based on ST’s current plan to run all 4-car trains, with 6-minute peak headway, until East Link opens. So, the space at the base must exist. It may be that delivery is behind schedule, and ST will have to decide to delay Northgate Station opening, or start with some 3-car trains after opening. (I would vote for opening earlier with the mixed-length fleet.) Let’s not even think about the possiblity that there might be a manufacturing flaw that requires months of retrofit for each Siemens LRV.

        I’m not saying 3/3 is the best plan, just that it ought to be analyzed (in the context of terminating all CT commuter buses at Northgate, or not), and that it requires slightly fewer LRVs than the current plan.

        3/3 has the additional advantage of not having to run 4-car trains half-empty all day, evening, and weekend, at least until East Link. It would save dramatically on mileage and maintenance. Freeing up the maintenance crew means getting the new Siemens LRVs qualified for service faster.

        I realize that running mixed lengths has a practical effect of reducing capacity used on the car that may or may not come, so that needs to be taken into consideration.

      4. Brent,

        OK, I guess I have misconstrued posts over the past couple of years. You are saying that the lack of enough cars to run all three car trains through the peaks today is not that the MF is full, but that ST simply doesn’t have the cars?

        But they’ve been trucking Siemens cars to Lake Bellevue for several months. Surely there must be a few which have been tested and could run out of the existing MF if there is space for them.

        IIRC someone posted that the cars are incompatible with the Kinki-Sharyo’s, so no mixed trains. But surely they could run a few all-Siemens in order to meet the current demand.

        Are you certain that the mothballing isn’t from lack of space?

        If it isn’t, then there will be no problem with train capacity, of course.

      5. OK, then. There it is; I was typing when you posted the link. There should be no problem. Thank you.

      6. I’m certainly not saying there won’t be problems. Base space just isn’t one of them.

        Ability to get that many buses through Northgate Station may be a significant challenge (49 additional buses during the peak hour, on top of the 67-89 already planned to approach it from the north during that hour), and so may traffic conditions getting to the station. We may be cursing having that park&ride garage entrance so close to the station.

        I also haven’t seen it in writing that the double-talls can access the station. Presumably they can, since ST has a bunch of double-talls doing the 510 series, but those buses could also be repainted as CT, so I’m checking on that.

        Link capacity might also be a challenge, but the 3/3 plan certainly provides more Northgate capacity that the 4/0 plan, does it with fewer LRVs, and saves ST a bundle in maintenance. ST could do that plan even without CT diverting more buses to Northgate, just to enable more CT buses to rapidly switch to 800-series routes as riders vote with their feet.

        If that means south-end trains end up too crowded already (which is to say some riders can’t get on the train at Beacon Hill Station northbound in the morning), it forbodes ill on ST’s predictions of sufficient space for riders on Federal Way and Tacoma Dome Link. Capacity on the south end is about as much as it is ever going to be, at least until South Link gets re-paired to Ballard Link, at which time the signal timing on MLK becomes the determinant of minimum headway (currently 6 minutes).

        This certainly throws a wrench in my dream of pairing East Link and Ballard Link.

  16. Between ST, CT, and Metro, I hope there is frequent peak period service between each new Link station and SLU via the I-5 reversible lanes. Link will handle the connection with the U District and downtown well. SLU will not have Link until the Ballard Line in 203X or later due to Eyman. Routes 555 and 556 clearly need not serve Northgate any longer.

    1. I hope there is frequent peak period service between each new Link station and SLU via the I-5 reversible lanes.

      I hope they don’t. I hope that buses like the 309 go the way of the dodo. I understand the reasoning, I just don’t think it is a good way to spend money.

      Let me back up here and say that downtown Seattle has grown from a land use standpoint. This map, made by the Seattle Downtown Association, seems about right. There are various places not covered by Link right now, like South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. There are also places that will likely never have rail, like First Hill and Belltown. But for many riders, that is true today. If you want to get to Belltown from various places in the north end, it takes three buses. Or you walk a ways after that last bus.

      The big problem with buses like that is that they tend to be very expensive. While on the freeway, you don’t pick up any fares. If you ran them only with the express lanes, they would likely deadhead back. This means very poor ridership per mile. If they only run during rush hour, then driver costs are at their highest, as are the need for buses. It all adds up to a fairly poor value, even if you have very happy riders.

      Then there are logistical issues. Assume that the 522 is truncated in Roosevelt Station. Now imagine a bus that goes from Lake City to Roosevelt to South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. This sounds like a great bus. It doesn’t spend that much time on the freeway; it runs by a lot of density; it gives riders the option of transferring to Link, or an express to South Lake Union/Uptown. But there are issues. Someone on Lake City Way will catch that bus, just like they would the 522. Since the 522 is crowded, this bus would be too. So now you have lots of riders who have no interest in taking this bus downtown, but are all going to get off at Roosevelt Station. That means that you have to make up for those riders with riders from the neighborhood, as well as those that transfer from Link. But I don’t see anyone transferring from Link. It makes way more sense to just stay on Link to downtown, then take a far more frequent bus to South Lake Union/Uptown. So now you are expecting more people to get on the bus than get off. I doubt it. It isn’t that Roosevelt is less densely populated than Lake City, it is that the bus coming from Lake City made lots of stops. I also think the locals will just ride the train, even if the bus gets them closer to their destination. It is far more frequent and reliable.

      I’ve seen with this phenomenon before. I have a friend who lives close to NE 65th and 25th NE. He can take the 372 to the UW, make the bad transfer, and take Link into work. Or he can take the 76, which saves him a significant amount of time. He just takes the first bus that arrives. It is the situation going the other way, except he always takes Link. Frequency trumps speed. Similarly, frequency trumps coverage. People will gravitate towards the most frequent vehicle, which also happens to be fast, and that is Link.

      I’ve also seen this with the 309 versus the 312/522. I know someone who works on First Hill, and he prefers the 309 (obviously). But if the 312/522 arrives first (and there is room available) he takes it, then he hoofs it up the hill. I know someone else who is headed downtown, and takes the 312/522 to downtown. But the 312/522 is often so crowded that it skips his stop (the last stop before downtown). He will take the 309 if arrives, both because he doesn’t want to wait, and also because he often gets a seat on it. It means a longer trip — a long walk to work — but he will still take it.

      To be clear, we need to improve the network within downtown Seattle. No one should have to take a two (or three) seat ride within the urban core. What is a six minute drive, should not be a 26 minute bus ride (involving a 20 minute walk): This is less than two miles, right in the heart of the city, yet it takes an eternity by public transit (which means most people would just walk or call a cab). There are other trips like that within the urban core which are just as bad. This needs to improve.

      But the farther out you go, the more it makes sense to transfer. The 71/72/73 express buses to downtown were fantastic buses. They spent very little time on the freeway, and carried plenty of passengers. But the savings from the truncation are huge, and have managed to create a relatively low density area that happens to have extremely good service. This approach — even if it means a three seat ride (or a two seat ride followed by a long walk) should be the one we take as go forward.

    2. Most of the north-end Metro express routes, and ST 522, pass essentially right by a station before getting on the freeway, so those certainly should cease to be freeway expresses. The exceptions are routes 301, 304, 308, and 355. Connections at Northgate Station (in the case of routes 301, 304, and 308) and Roosevelt (in the case of the 355) are probably preferable to slogging downtown on I-5, and create substantial opportunities for reverse-peak service.

      1. Yeah, it will be interesting to see what happens with those routes. I think there are differences between them:

        301 — This is similar to the Snohomish County buses. They spend a fair amount of time on the freeway before going by Northgate and heading downtown. The savings from truncation would be big, but I’m not sure if Metro will truncate these. Metro kept the 76, rather than truncating it at the UW. It is a little different, though, in that the route did not come close to a station (truncating at the UW would have required a big detour back to the station). Truncating at Northgate is much easier. So I really see no previous precedent — I could see Metro going either way.

        303 — Already serves Northgate. The question is whether it continues to go downtown, and if so, if it goes to a different part of downtown (right now it serves First Hill — maybe it will serve South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne). As I mentioned elsewhere, I would simply truncate it.

        304 — This gets on the freeway at 145th. At that point it is very close to Northgate, making this ripe for a truncation (or some sort of restructure, including deletion).

        308 — Similar to 304, with an even stronger case for truncation or deletion, since it come from the east. I could easily see it simply going down 15th, and ending at Northgate.

        355 — Somewhat of a different beast, really. I could see how your approach could work — like this ( or this ( as a tail. That would save a lot of service hours. But I like Eddie’s idea. Have this cut over to Aurora on 80th, and then just go down Aurora. That adds extra service to the more crowded E and still keeps the one seat ride to downtown. There are some alternatives to getting to the UW, even if it means a two seat ride. The existing routes doesn’t go through the heart of the U-District anyway.

        In my proposal, I truncate the 301/303/304 and 308 at Northgate, and change the 355 as suggested (

  17. The same arguments for prioritizing truncating the peak period buses at Northgate, rather than the 7 day/week all-day bus routes, apply to the SR-520 UW truncation. It’s the 252, 257, 268, 311 that should go to UW. Evening, weekend, mid-day Kirkland service on the 255 and Redmond on the 545 should continue to go downtown. 540 and 541/2 are the UW alternatives and riders have both choices. The 255 truncation will create a backlash.

    1. I agree. The other issue is that 520 buses headed to the UW have to deal with the Montlake Bridge. Truncating at rush hour doesn’t involve the bridge. Truncating outside of rush hour means your trip might be significantly delayed.

      That being said, the new 520 work is not complete. Right now it is a mess, and not particularly good for transit. Eventually it will be complete, and much better for buses. At that point, truncating rush hour buses at the UW makes a lot more sense.

      1. I’m still a fan of truncating the 255 all the time because the frequency gains it enables will be a game-changer, and the time cost of the truncation is relatively minor. Just today, for example, I was on a Link train and intended to get off at Westlake Station to catch the 255, but missed by stop. Had I made it, I would have had about a 5 minute wait at 8th and Olive. The fact that I was *still* able to catch the same 255 by staying on Link to UW and catching the 542 to Yarrow Point demonstrates that, even on a Saturday afternoon, the overhead of switching to Link is really tiny.

        Of course, it is possible for the Montlake Bridge to be up, delaying the bus by about 5 minutes, but it also possible, and quite common to have traffic delays downtown, delaying the bus by more than 5 minutes. The 6th Ave. bus lanes are not in force on weekends, and it hard to justify putting them in force at a time when only one bus route that uses that street is in service, and that one route, running only every 30 minutes.

        The existing 255 routing is also not super-great for downtown, either. Connecting with the 3rd Ave. bus spine, for example, requires either walking 3-5 blocks or backtracking south all the way to Jackson. Similar for access the retail core around Pike Place Market. For each of these cases, Westlake Link station is several closer than the nearest route 255 stop, so what you pay in transfer penalty, you might win back simply by not having to walk as far, downtown. For the stadiums at the south end of downtown, Link saves time by traveling through downtown much faster than a bus, and avoids gameday traffic congestion.

        All in all, I do think the truncation of the 255 is a good idea in all but two cases. The first case is Husky Football games, because the traffic around UW Station is so bad, and there’s no room for bus lanes on the bridge and 520 exit ramp. The second case is construction-related closures of the 520 bridge. It feels ridiculous to take Link from downtown to the UW, only to ride a bus right back downtown again to get to the I-90 reroute. Fortunately, these two cases are both rare and scheduled in advance, providing Metro a chance to temporarily reroute the bus to serve Westlake Station instead of the U-district.

        Of course, peak-hour routes such as the 252 and 257 really should be truncated to UW Station too. At the limited hours when they run, traffic on I-5 is bad, and the change would save riders time. Most likely, Metro took it off the table as pragmatic decision to minimize the number of pitchforks at the public hearings. But, if the 255 restructure is successful, I could see a similar truncation for the 252/257 coming back. If Metro ever wanted to increase the operating span of these routes, as suggested by several STB commenters, including RossB and myself, avoiding the slog into, out of, and through downtown, would be a logical start towards paying for it.

      2. My serious concern about the purported 255 frequency gains is that the ridership will not support the frequency gains, and at the first budget crisis the 255 goes back to 30 minute frequency evenings and weekends, and once lost, it never comes back. Evenings and weekends, generally the 255 takes less then 10 minutes between Montlake and Westlake, and the truncation makes transit so much less desirable because of the significant added time caused by the truncation – and the added unpredictability of the Montlake Bridge openings, closures, stadium area events. Even Hec Ed events can gum up the area. If the 255 becomes half hourly, the transfer penalty becomes huge. To speak nothing of also losing the walkshed from the Stewart/Denny and the Olive/I-5 stop – Stewart/Denny opens up both lower Capitol Hill (Pike/Pine) and SLU in a way that Link does not service, hence the proposal for the 544 but that is limited. Really the all-day 255 should fulfill that role.

      3. I like the truncation of the 255, but I’m not so excited about it. I think this will improve things overall, but I don’t think it will be a game changer. I don’t think there is an easy solution, either. The problem is that there is only so much service to spread around, and it can’t quite get “over the hump”.

        It is similar to the “hub and spoke” versus “grid” trade-off. If you don’t have much service, then switching from hub and spoke to grid is tough on a lot of people. The majority of your riders (headed to the hub, presumably downtown) have a time consuming transfer. For some it is great, but for many a big pain.

        In contrast, if you have enough service, than this problem goes away. People still transfer, but it doesn’t take long. When Metro truncated the 71/72/73 it was controversial. A lot of people thought they wouldn’t do that, because the UW transfer is awkward, and the 71/72/73 buses were so fast. I’m sure there are people who hated the change, and still do. If you are in the U-District in the morning and want to go downtown, you lose five, maybe ten minutes.

        But it created a huge area of very good service. With few exceptions, you can get anywhere in Northeast Seattle to anywhere else with minimal waiting. Areas that are fairly low density now have buses running every ten minutes. These aren’t shuttle buses, but buses that connect to major and minor destinations (UW, U-Village, Children’s Hospital, etc.) as well as Link. There are new buses that provide very good one seat connections to places like Fremont and Wallingford.

        The problem is, I don’t see that happening in greater Kirkland. I suppose for one slice of it — Lakeview and 108th — they will have much better frequency. But overall, it just doesn’t seem like such a big change. Part of the problem is that the UW is so far away from places like Juanita and Totem Lake. If I’m in Lake City, the three (yes three) routes that can take me to the UW are all quite reasonable. They are all fairly fast. If the goal is Husky Stadium/UW Hospital/Lower Campus/Link, then the route of the 372 is the one that Google picks ( The other routes are also very good — costing a couple minutes, maybe.

        In contrast, if I was driving from Juanita or Totem Lake to the UW, I would head towards the freeway. Everyone would. The frequency improvements are nice, but it is so slow from say, Totem Lake to the UW, that few will use it, even if they are headed there (let alone trying to get downtown). That means that the main benefit are for those in southwestern Kirkland headed to Seattle, and service within Kirkland itself. That seems like a much smaller level of improvement.

        To be clear, I still support the changes, but there is little in the way of big changes, in my opinion. From Juanita and Totem Lake — two of the biggest neighborhoods in the region — it is still very difficult to get to the UW. Even during rush hour it requires a slow slog through Kirkland before you get on the freeway. Failing to truncate the express buses to downtown probably played a part in this. Truncate buses like the 252/257 at the UW, and you can probably run those both directions during peak. That means someone trying to get from Totem Lake can get to the UW (and anywhere Link goes) quickly, even when traffic is terrible. Hopefully that will happen when 520 is fixed, Link gets to Northgate, and there is just a little bit more transit money on the East Side to afford a good network.

      4. “My serious concern about the purported 255 frequency gains is that the ridership will not support the frequency gains, and at the first budget crisis the 255 goes back to 30 minute frequency evenings and weekends, and once lost, it never comes back.”

        There are so many things wrong with this statement:

        1) Don’t assume that not truncating the 255 makes it somehow immune to cuts in the next recession. They could force through a restructuring anyway, but without frequency improvements. Or, they could leave the routing unchanged, but cut frequency from twice per hour to once per hour.

        2) Even if what you’re saying is true, it’s ultimately for the greater good of the region as a whole, even if ends up not being good for Kirkland. Remember, if a recession hits and the 255 isn’t cut back, that means some other route, somewhere else, has to be cut back instead.

        3) Even on evenings and weekends, today’s 255 is far from empty. At first, it may go from a bus every half hour carrying 20 people to a bus every 15 minutes carrying 10 people, but, over time, I would expect that “10 people” to slowly increase as word gets around and more development in and around downtown Kirkland comes online. The evening/weekend 542 also started out nearly empty, but I’ve observed the ridership steadily grow, month by month, as more people find out about it. The 255 is similar. It will also help that the 255’s lowest ridership segment – the Brickyard Tail – will be offloaded onto another (less frequent) route.

        I do agree with RossB for Juanita and Totem Lake – especially Totem Lake – it’s still too slow. But, contrary to what PSRC may wish for, the walkable and transit-friendly center of Kirkland is still downtown Kirkland, and Totem Lake is still mostly just a car sewer. There is a reason why I chose downtown Kirkland – not Totem Lake – as a place to live, and hardly ever visit Totem Lake. (And, on the rare occasions I do, I generally bike the CKC, rather than ride transit).

        Juanita – I don’t think is that bad on the 255. The section along Market St. is typically very fast, and the bus hardly stops at all. It’s just 5 minutes more on the bus than from Kirkland Transit Center. Juanita will get much more frequent service to both downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake as part of the 255’s restructure. That has to be worth something.

  18. I’m sorry, you want to take away the only means of using I-5 to get from 145th to, say, Everett, where some of us near 145th without cars actually go on the 512, because it’s not the most popular stop (having lived downtown, I can list out maybe 50 closely-spaced stops that are more laughable)?

    And you want to take away our north/south bus to downtown while you’re at it?

    But in 2024 you will expect everyone to jump on the Link because they’ve developed such an appetite for transit?

    How do you propose we get from here to Everett? The Lynnwood TC? Anywhere north of Aurora Village? As pointed out, there is no E-W outside of the rare coach during rush hour to get people to the buses on 15th or Aurora. Short of catching the occasional 348+E+Swift combination that might end up in Everett one day, so long as your errand doesn’t take place after dark, what you’re really saying is that people in Seattle shouldn’t need to go to Everett, where there is a major events center, a burgeoning commercial/transit district, etc. Or Lynnwood, where there is a convention center, mall, etc. (Yes, I’ve been there on the bus, too.)

    I have always felt the parochialism on this blog was — significant — but today is a new low.

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