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Metro is in Phase 2 of the North Link Connections Mobility Project. This is my proposal based on their proposed network.

About the Map

The map is interactive. The check boxes will display or hide different routes.

I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible on the map, although buses on Roosevelt are only shown going south (on Roosevelt itself, not on 12th).


Most of the buses either follow the current routing, or Metro’s proposed routing, although there are some significant differences. None of the buses go on I-5 over the ship canal (a subject worthy of its own post). There is more bidirectional peak service. Routes in the U-District involve fewer turns, which should speed things up. I’ve added a few routes, removed a few, and created new pairings, as follows:

      45 ā†” 65
      67 ā†” 75

Specific Routes

Peak Direction Only

302 — This replaces the coverage part of the 301/302, while providing some riders on Aurora with a one seat ride to Shoreline Community College. Most of this route is low ridership, so the extra time spent around Bitter Lake should fill up the bus, while saving Bitter Lake riders some time.

304 — Much faster bus to Richmond Beach.

Peak Only Bidirectional Routes

25 — The 25 is essentially an express version of the 62. Unlike Metro’s proposal, it covers the most densely populated parts of Wallingford. It is bidirectional, as there should be riders who want a faster ride to the UW.

63 — This is a relatively fast coverage route that goes by a lot of apartments, making quick connections to Link. It makes a new crossing of I-5 (that would have to be approved by SDOT). The success (or failure) of that crossing could give Metro data for sending the 45 the same way.

64 — This is a borderline route, but it saves a considerable amount of time for riders on 35th trying to get to Link. There may not be a lot of riders taking it in reverse peak direction, but it isn’t that expensive to run.

73 — This is a fast, cheap way to deal with overcrowding at both the U-District and Roosevelt stations, while providing some coverage on 15th NE at the one time of day that it carries a significant number of riders.

All Day Frequent Routes

D Line — Extended to Northgate, for the most part following the current 40. It makes one small deviation, using 1st NE (just east of the freeway) to get to the transit center. This is different than the current routing, as well as Metro’s proposed routing for the 40. This should be a little faster than the current routing, and much faster than Metro’s proposed routing.

31/32 — This covers the southern end of the U-District, making it easier to connect to buses heading south (like the 48). It avoids turns, getting to the station faster, while saving service money. These buses are notoriously unreliable, so it doesn’t through route.

40 — Goes to Northgate via 85th, using part of the 61 route proposed by Metro.

45 — Through routes with the 65 (avoiding turns), otherwise it is unchanged. It follows the current routing, not 80th as Metro proposed. There are lots of problems with 80th. The time savings are exaggerated, and there are fewer apartments along the way.

The combination of the D, 40, and 45 means that service is doubled up along 85th, but not on Holman Road. Ridership is much higher along 85th than Holman Road. For example, on the 45, the stop at 85th and 15th is the highest ridership stop outside the U-District. As a result of this change, more riders along 85th would have two buses to Link, as well as more frequent trips across 85th. Crown Hill — which has high ridership on several buses — would have three buses to Link. It would also have two buses to Northgate, in much the way that Lake City has two buses to the U-District.

65 — Through routes with the 45, otherwise unchanged.

67 — Replaces the 73 by going straight instead of looping around. I’ve written about this idea in the past, and now have data to support it. Those on 15th would lose all day service, but less than 35 people a day ride the 73 on this section. Riders on the 67 would have a two seat ride to Northgate, but only about 150 people actually make that trip (and they would have a very frequent transfer). In contrast, there are about 500 existing riders (on the 73 and 373) who would benefit from a more frequent connection between Pinehurst and the UW. There would be significant cost savings from ending all day service on the 73, which would go into improving other parts of the network.

75 — Through routes with the 67, otherwise the same as Metro’s proposed routing.

372 — Follows the Montlake Loop. The main thing is that service is consolidated, not that the outside loop is better than the inside one. More research would have to be done to determine which is faster, and/or saves riders time.

Infrequent Routes

74/79 — The two best pieces of Metro’s infrequent plan, with a solid layover (Green Lake Park and Ride).

81 — This is a new cross town route, similar to the 330. Hopefully both could run every half hour. They might also connect, using 30th instead of Lake City Way. The 330 is one of our most cost effective routes. It has better ridership per hour of service in the middle of the day than the 309 does during rush hour. For a bus that runs every hour, this is astonishing. Most of its ridership is not on the unique coverage area. Riders choose the route in part because the alternatives (e. g. taking the 41 to Northgate, then the 345) are so slow, and indirect. It is a bus worth waiting for, even if the wait can be huge. It is also fast, making service relatively cheap. I believe the 81 will have the same characteristics. Ridership won’t be enormous, but good enough to make this a very competitive route (much better than express buses to First Hill). It would layover where the proposed 16 lays over.


Most of the changes cost about the same as what Metro proposed. Buses should run through the U-District a little bit faster, saving some money. The changes to the 40, 45, D and 61 cost about the same as what Metro proposed (based on my calculations).

There are significant savings made by not sending the rush hour buses to downtown. The 25 is also significantly cheaper. Those savings go into making several of the routes bidirectional, with money left over.

Big savings come from not running the 73 outside of rush hour. In contrast, sending the 67 up to 145th (instead of Northgate) costs only a bit more. A lot of money is also saved by eliminating Metro’s proposed 23. That should more than pay for the new 81, since the 81 is a much faster run.

Overall, ridership should be higher, with no additional spending over what Metro has proposed.

Other Considerations

I have the 31/32 laying over at the new loop, next to the U-District station. That would mean that the 31, 32, 48, 49, 70 and 372 all layover there. If that is too many buses in the same spot, I would have the 48 follow the current routing (since it passes by the other Link station).

I also have the 31/32 and 372 turn onto 43rd from University Way (“The Ave”). This would likely require a new stop sign. If this isn’t possible, then both routes would go up 15th instead (and turn with the rest of the buses).

The new pairings I propose would avoid turns and be more reliable, but there is a service mismatch between the routes. Hopefully there will be enough savings to justify increasing frequency to ten minutes across the board. If not, then 12 minutes would be fine. This would mean a small degradation on some routes, and a small improvement in others.

I’ve abandoned Metro’s proposed 23. There simply isn’t enough ridership along there to justify a new line.

A few of the rush-hour only routes are borderline, and perhaps not worth having. I think a few fairly short rush hour routes are worth having, just to see how popular they are. For example, the 64 might have high ridership, as folks prefer going to the Roosevelt Station for trips that don’t involve the UW. Likewise, for political reasons, folks who are used to having all-day service may object to having none at all.

19 Replies to “Phase 2 Northgate Link Bus Network Proposal”

  1. I like it in general. Here are a few suggestions:

    The “522” routes (I think you meant 520) should use the new UW Station bus stop for the 255, whether they terminate there or not. I think there’s a good case to have them terminate where the 255 will terminate.

    I do wish they would combine the 45/62 into a full east-west route and force some people to deal with the one-stop Link ride. Seems like a bad precedent if we can never get a “real” grid if the east-west leg is close enough to a major destination. If they did this, then they would have service hours left over to beef up the 67 and reduce wait times for that.

    The new 31/32 makes some space for two “tails” from U-District station. I say continue the 31 as the 74 and 79, which would save some money (or even separate the 74 from the 79, which probably doesn’t make much sense together anyway). Send the 32 along 45th Street to (what would a comment by me be without) Laurelhurst (with a proper but not too big loop), maybe even only for a year or too, just to see how many people would use it if they were given a really fast bus to both UW and downtown (via Link) relatively cheaply.

    1. Yeah, oops, I did mean “SR 520 routes”. I fixed it. (I can edit the map, I can’t edit the post). As for where it lays over, I don’t feel that strongly one way or another. The main thing I want to avoid is what some of the other buses do. The bus should not take an unusual route through the university (like the 540), go all the way up to 65th (like the 542) or all the way up to Northgate (like the 556). The bus should either turn around at the Montlake Triangle, turn around by the U-District Station (like the new 48), or terminate by at Memorial Way (like the old 48). Ideally it would loop by the U-District Station, but I’m not sure how many buses can do that.

      Worth noting is that Metro didn’t cover that issue with this proposal, nor did they mention the 271.

      1. Yeah, that makes sense. Though it’s worth noting that these routes don’t go to these places because they “have to,” but because, for example, the 542 is meant to provide some service to Green Lake P&R, the 556 is actually meant to be an Issaquah to Northgate route, etc., and for the first time they have a route (the 255) that goes to UW that is in no way meant to be a “U-district route,” but purely a Link connector route (though it will still be very easy to get to the U-district from the 255).

        I’m not sure what Metro would have changed about the 271, aside from maybe moving it to the 255 special stop. Consolidating eastside service to that stop seems like a good idea. But that would be a 2020 thing, not a 2021 thing.

      2. Metro published a list of routes at the beginning that it was considering for changes. The 271 would be part of an Eastside restructure, not a North Seattle restructure. Likewise, the 49 was left for an East Seattle restructure.

      3. My point is that the bus shouldn’t go to Green Lake Park and Ride or Northgate once there are stations there. I think it is silly for the 540 to wander through the UW — that is a waste of service time for literally less than a dozen riders (total).

        As far as the U-District is concerned, the 271 is just like the 48 (they follow an identical path from the Montlake Bridge to their terminus). No one expected the entire route to change, but it is reasonable to change the small piece in the U-District. It was strange that they left it out, and even stranger if it continues to go to the old layover, while the 48 doesn’t.

    2. A true east-west route through Sand Point, as David Lawson suggested a long time ago ( does have its merits. I pursued that idea for a while, but finally gave up. I do have a preference for it, but it isn’t that strong. It is clear that Metro has no interest in it, though.

      I’m not sure if it would end up saving much in terms of service, but I do think it would reduce some three seat rides. I think you end up with a bus that stays to the west of I-5 (on his map, it is the 16). This eliminates the hassle of getting along that side. Likewise, by having an east-west route, it is easier to get to Wedgwood.

      Most of the other trips are the same, or easier. So basically, Metro is trading some three seat rides for some one seat rides. I can live with that, given the relative few trips that are really bad.

      1. I’m glad you brought that post up. It’s a good example of what could be done if Metro weren’t so easily swayed by “but my bus won’t go to…” arguments.

        My thoughts broadly on this are that before U-Link, there was an infrequent network that wasn’t really a grid. You have 3 core downtown-UW routes with a tail for various neighborhoods (71, 72, 73), and at peak you have even more of these (74, 76, 77). On top of that, you have some buses that get people to UW, but also meant to connect to the 70s buses (the 75, 68, and off-peak, the 30). No grid, just trunk and branch. And that really made sense for the time.

        In 2016, you had Link that eliminated the need for express buses to downtown (though some remained, I guess to make use of express lane direct access at places that are harder to get to Link from), so we were able to create a frequent grid, but a tortured grid. It still has to funnel people to Husky Stadium to get them downtown, but largely there is a semblance of north-south and east-west routes, even if they need to have a tail to Link like the 45, 71, or 65.

        But once Link became a true north-south leg in NE Seattle with Northgate Link, then that *should* free up the map for a true grid. North-south buses would still have to converge to either U-district or UW station (and the 75 would never really be a good grid player, but that would be the exception), but there could finally be really frequent (like 10 minutes or less frequent) east-west service unchained by having to go all the way to Husky Stadium (or to Stevens Way and make you walk the rest). It would be like Sand Point, Ravenna, Wedgood, Lake City, Maple Leaf, Greenwood, and more all get their own version of the 74x, except it’s better, runs every 10 minutes, and runs all day! Plus, virtually eliminate 3-seat rides except for longer and more awkward trips (and even these 3 seats will all be every 10 minutes or less, so it’s not even that bad). And it just seems really dumb that the only reason we’re not doing this is that Metro just won’t, and they’re worried about people just wanting their bus to go the same places it does already. We can live with that, it’s just a shame.

      2. … but there could finally be really frequent (like 10 minutes or less frequent) east-west service unchained by having to go all the way to Husky Stadium (or to Stevens Way and make you walk the rest).

        I don’t see where you get the savings. Let’s say you combine the 45 and 62. Now you have one bus that goes all the way across. Great. But you still need some level of service southeast of Green Lake. That bus will still go to Fremont and then downtown (presumably). You also need some bus that takes over the southern tail of the 45 (between 65th and the UW).

        You really haven’t eliminated anything, you’ve simply swapped it around. The southern parts of the 45 and 62 exist not because they are chained to the northern parts, but because we need service on those sections. Other north-south buses can provide that functionality, but that means extending them. For example, the 31/32 could keep going, past the Link Station on 45th, and terminate at 65th. But again, that is merely a swap — it wouldn’t save any service. Without some level of service savings, I don’t see how you get an increase in frequency.

    3. I also thought about extending the 31/32 to the 74. The problem there is that the 74 is infrequent, while the 31/32 are not. You could pick one bus, and send it that way, but that limits flexibility. It is possible that the 31 and 32 will each run every 20 minutes (for combined ten minute frequency) while the 74 and 79 run every half hour.

      Likewise, in a previous proposal, I had the 74 laying over by Children’s. But that would require some new routing, and I don’t think it is that important. Combining the 74 and 79 probably does save some money.

      One of the main things I did with this proposal is try and keep it as much like Metro’s proposal or the current routing as possible. This is not a clean slate set of ideas, as previous proposals. That is why, for example, I have the 62 following Metro’s proposal, and the 45 following its current route. In general, I’m only fighting the battles I think I can win, or the battles that I feel are really worth fighting for.

      1. This makes sense. Though I’m not convinced that reducing these routes to 20 minutes each is on the horizon. But even if it was, then having the other low-frequency areas connected to these also go from 30 to 20 minute headways seems fine as long as it’s not super redundant. I would be more interested in running the 31 on Sundays before doing that.

        But you make some good points on 31/32 reliability. Hopefully Metro will rectify the issue by changing the 75 through-route as you suggest. Your winnable battles strategy makes perfect sense, it’s just frustrating.

    4. “I do wish they would combine the 45/62 into a full east-west route and force some people to deal with the one-stop Link ride.”

      A grid is an ideal pattern but we mustn’t take it too far. There’s a real tradeoff between a 45/62 route and the predominant trip patterns. The mixed-use businesses and multifamily/rowhouse concentrations aren’t distributed across linear grids like they are in San Francisco and Vancouver, where there are always people going from north Divisadero to Castro or from north Fillmore to south Fillmore for instance. Seattle has islands of urban villages in a vast sea of low-density/residential-only areas. A grid route that serves only those lower-density areas is a weak route. On the 45/62 the only significant activity clusters are Greenwood, Greenlake, Roosevelt, and Magnuson Park (which has limited uses). That’s borderline for a grid route, and it contradicts the predominant trip patterns to the U-District. The U-District isn’t just 45th Station, it’s also 55th, 50th, 40th and Pacific Street. A huge ton of destinations and riders that aren’t a short walk from 45th or UW Stations. Transferring to Link if you’re going to 55th or 52nd is ridiculous, and forcing a bus-to-bus transfer with possibly longer wait times and unreliability is borderline too. And in compensation you get a one-seat ride to Ravenna and Magnuson Park? Who’s going to ride that? A few people.

      So grids are good but they mustn’t be added blindly everywhere without fully considering the tradeoffs, and Seattle’s land-use patterns are more village constellations than an ideal grid.

      1. “Greenwood, Greenlake, Roosevelt, and Magnuson Park”

        Fun fact: the 45 serves three out of four, and the 62 also serves three out of four, even though they both turn south. So what you’re really talking about is the merits of connecting Greenwood and NW 85th Street to Ravenna and Magnuson Park, and vice-versa.

      2. Worth noting is that there are future changes that would strengthen the case for an east-west bus line. Right now there is barely enough service between 65th and 45th. The 45 provides it on the Ave, while the 67 provides it on Roosevelt Avenue.

        But eventually the Roosevelt RapidRide (J) will take over the Roosevelt section. That would likely send the 67 to the Ave.

        Then you have the Lake City Way corridor, currently served by Sound Transit. Eventually that responsibility falls to Metro, which basically means an all day 312.

        That means that Metro has several options. One would be to keep the current level of service between 45th and 65th, by shifting the 67 over to the Ave, and sending the 45 to Sand Point (making it an east-west route). That saves some service hours.

        The other alternative is to double up service along the Ave (between the 67 and 45). I’m fine with that, but if you are going to double up service, then I think it makes more sense to do so with the all day 312 and the 67, and just have an east-west bus as Alex suggests.

        There are other issues, though. The biggest of which is what to do with the western part of the 62. The cheapest would be to simply truncate at the Green Lake Park and Ride, but that is about five minutes away from the Roosevelt Station. There are plenty of other options (such as essentially looping around the station) but none of them look great. Still, definitely worth considering, even with those challenges.

        It just makes sense to do that later — after RapidRide J and Lynnwood Link are here.

    5. The 45 can be seen as a northwest-southeast corridor, a complement to the grid. Lake City needs a counterpart to Ballard. That could conceivably make even Lake City-Fremont trips, Lake City-Wallingford trips, and Lake City-Geenwood trips shorter, not just those directly on the diagonal route. So it could end up having wider benefits than just those destinations along the diagonal route. Going from Lake City to Ballard via the U-District or 130th & Aurora may be excessively long and not the best network, even if it is grid-correct.

  2. Thanks for all the good food for thought. This restructure is loaded with possibilities and questions and I sure wish more media outlets were delving into this in more depth (ahem, Page One).

    Getting better east-west routes is a tough challenge. I am becoming convinced we should leave the 45 mostly as is and create a new route like this:

    Break the 62 at Roosevelt Station and turn the eastern leg into a cross town route that heads north around Green Lake, takes 80th to NW 8th Avenue and heads down to NW 65th Street, ultimately terminating in the heart of Ballard via 24th.

    This is as straight across as you can get with the impediments of the lake and portions of NW 65th that are too narrow for buses. The good news is that cars also have to navigate around the lake so this detour isn’t as onerous for transit riders as it might look initially and avoids the much nastier congestion on the Market/45th corridor.

    This route would connect the dense and rapidly growing north end of the Ballard Urban Village to light rail, Green Lake and the many other connections at Roosevelt Station. Ballard really deserves more than one way to get across town and 65th is 10 blocks north of Market so nicely spaced.

    It connects adjacent neighborhood centers that can be very cumbersome to reach on the current transit network. As an indication of how many neighborhood centers this connects, there are 5 libraries near the route.

    And how about this for equity- connect North Seattle residents to the Goodwill on 8th and 65th. One of the last affordable places to buy clothes around here.

    1. On a previous post, I suggested something similar: I called it the 46 (on the “All Day Bus Routes”) section. Metro doesn’t have that, but does have the northern section as the 61.

      Connecting it from the south (65th) by extending the 65 east looks good on a map, but would likely get way fewer riders. 65th itself has a lot fewer people than Northgate/Lake City, which means fewer people heading west. As I wrote above about moving the 45, North 80th is not as good as 85th. It has fewer people, and you lose the value of consolidating service.

    1. And as far as consolidating service on 85th, I am assuming that 85th would have a ton of service with the 45 and some sort of connecting service to Lake City, at least from Greenwood. In that case, I don’t think you would need to run this this route an extra 10 blocks out of direction from all the connections around Roosevelt Station, not to mention all the other bus connections to UW, U Village, ChIldren’s etc. Also, the 45 would still come down to create a consolidated route around Green Lake. The combined frequency of two routes around Green Lake will be extremely useful for all the short trips to/from light rail.

      1. I assumed that this would replace the 45 west of the freeway. Otherwise sure, that routing looks ideal, but I’m not sure where you get the money for it. It costs money to create new routes, unless you take service away from somewhere. You could run it infrequently, but then there isn’t much point, especially for a bus that mostly is about connecting to other buses.

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