Way back in August, Frank told you about a raft of service changes that would accompany RapidRide I (Renton/Auburn). Although RapidRide will open in 2023, the Metro network revision will happen in September.

The status quo

The current Renton/Kent/Auburn corridor is far from the frequent grid ideal. There are two frequent routes. The 150 goes west from downtown Kent, then turns north on 68th Ave up to Tukwila and on to Seattle, The 169 goes east from Kent, then uses 104th and 108th Avenues before arriving in Renton.

Less frequently, the 153 and 566 run between the two, one on surface streets and the other on SR 167. Below Kent, it’s just the 566 and the 180, which starts in Burien, connecting Kent and Auburn. The 164 goes way out to the East while connecting the same two cities.

Three DART routes radiate out from Downtown Kent to do loops in the surrounding neighborhoods. A few more, plus the 181, do the same in Auburn.

There are a few genuine east-west routes. The 906 starts in Fairwood and almost reaching I-5 on S 180th St before turning north to Southcenter. The 168 shoots straight east from Kent to Covington and Maple Valley, while the 166 goes west to Des Moines before turning north to Burien.

The proposed change

Here is a pdf with maps of the proposed change.

The 169 and the Kent-Auburn bit of the 180 will combine to form the 160, which will eventually become RapidRide I. The 160 extends 15-minute all-day frequency to the Kent-Auburn corridor for the first time.

There are two improved long east-west routes: The 906 becomes somewhat straighter, and twice as frequent. Regrettably, a SouthCenter tail that largely duplicates the 150 remains, instead of making it an arrow-straight east-west line to the Seatac Link station. The new 165 combines the 164 and 166, going in both directions from Kent, west to Kent/Des Moines Station (and then north to Burien); and east for about 2 miles before turning south to Green River College. The western segment meanders through some pedestrian-unfriendly apartment complexes rather than taking the direct but unpopulated route on Kent/Des Moines Road.

There are three changes to long point-to-point routes. The Burien-Kent bit of the 180 becomes the 161 with similar frequency. The 183 from Federal Way to Kent gets more frequency. The 168 (Kent/Black Diamond) is a little straighter and gets more night trips.

Various short feeder routes suffer varying fates. The 105 to downtown Renton and 917 from Pacific to Auburn get more trips. The 180 tail south of Auburn Station becomes the 184. The 148 exchanges one squiggly, indirect path for another. A handful of DART routes cease to exist (908, 910, 913, 952) or consolidate (914, 916).

There are also significant changes to peak-only routes, but like all peak-only routes they have limited implications for the network. Notably, a proposal to truncate the peak-only 102 in Renton has died, and we’re back to a one-seat ride from Fairwood all the way in. Perhaps fittingly, the 102’s frequency is dropping.

What’s next

Metro transmitted the changes to Council on March 5. With County meetings canceled left and right, there’s not telling when the briefing will occur. The Council will review the changes and the service change should take effect this September.

27 Replies to “South King County changes to finalize this spring”

  1. I’m surprised that the new 184 doesn’t go up to Lakeland Hills. I’ve seen that as a long-range proposal, and the Pierce Transit 497 (which is 90% in King County) that it would replace had recently had a change in bus from a “short” bus to a “full size” bus to accommodate the crowding and high ridership. Furthermore, there’s yet another 300 to 400 homes under construction up there, with about 200 more in the pipeline. People up there love the Sounder, and many of them who travel via Sounder express buses midday for short work days or appointments end up using Uber and Lyft. The backup to make stoplights heading towards Auburn Station parking in the 6 am hour are LONG. Seems that getting improved bus service up there would help boost Sounder ridership, decrease parking garage crowding, and improve service to a growing neighborhood from peak-only to all-day. Maybe in a few years, I suppose???

    1. I agree. I think the calculation here is that you would definitely need new service hours, and this would be new service predominantly in Pierce County. It certainly seems fair to ask Pierce Transit to partially cover expenses here, though you could make the case that Pierce Transit does Metro’s job in southeast Federal Way (with routes 500, 501, and 402), so they could agree to have Metro serve Lakeland Hills and call it even.

      Since the 497 is high ridership, and because it connects to specific Sounder trips, that makes sense to keep during peak hours without the 184 extended. Just add larger buses. The 497 already connects to every peak direction Sounder trip other than the late morning/early afternoon trips that have low ridership anyway. If there are still capacity issues, then they may want to look at doubling up buses (two 497 buses serving one Sounder train, scheduled for the same time. The 580 does this on some trips. There are two westbound trips that leave at 5pm, and one of them is a short run). I’d probably add a 497 for the oddball Sounder trips.

      Off-peak, when demand is lower, I would run the 184 beyond where the 180 ends along the 497’s route.

    2. I thought the same thing, although the 184 routing in the valley is different than the 497’s- The 497 takes a direct route on E Valley Hwy/A St SE while the 184 wibble-wobbles around. That said, I think it would make sense to run the 184 entirely on M St SE to both simplify the route and not duplicate the 497 – and then someday the 184 could maybe head up Kersey and cover Lakeland Hills from the other side. Such an extension would be either 100% in King County or mostly in King County, depending on the exact route chosen.

      1. Yes, that is why I think the 497 (an express of sorts) should remain only for Sounder runs (as today), but (midday-only) extend the 184 farther down A Street to Lakeland Hills, to provide off-peak lifeline service. It’s not the fastest or frequent, but it’s there for students, people who can’t afford a car, people who want to start driving less, etc.

    3. You mean this area: https://goo.gl/maps/q95UqhLdAnZLzjyE6? Meh. It is low density housing, with the exception of one elementary school. At least the rest of the 184 goes by some apartments, shops and a couple middle schools. It is hard to see how extending the route up the hill makes it more cost efficient (quite the opposite). You would end up watering down the route, making a route that is already infrequent even more so, while picking up very few additional riders.

      It makes more sense to carve out a new park and ride along the 184 route. As it is, I’m sure sure there are people who make a de-facto park and ride by parking along the route (e. g. https://goo.gl/maps/bpQAB1euxkGtT9zZA if you want a short bus ride, or https://goo.gl/maps/2iThMSH4Exzmoey48 if you want a short drive).

      1. Ross,
        Check out this low-density neighborhood:
        Okay, now this one:
        See what I did there?
        It is probably higher density than parts of Seattle that are single family. A lot of the forests surrounding the neighborhood are in the platting process. Three grade schools, and a high school, plus the district-owned parcel for a future middle school.
        Look, we are paying taxes in to the systems just the same as everybody else. As the neighborhood grows and develops, it WILL need to be served by all day transit just the same as any other dense suburban neighborhood. That time is coming. Maybe it’s now, maybe it is in a few years. But if you want voters who will cast “yes” votes for better transit, you need to provide service more on par with closer-in legacy suburbs. If all they see is expensive car tabs and a wimpy shuttle that is peak only and standing room only, most people won’t ride it (even if it is “convenient”), and will, in turn, vote against transit. It’s chicken-and-egg, man.

      2. See what I did there?

        Not really. If your point is that Lakewood Hills has very low density, while Maple Leaf does not, then OK. Or maybe your point is that Lakewood Hills has basically nothing, other than generic, I-don’t-want-to-be-around-people and don’t-wanna-pay-no-taxes houses, then again, OK. Maple Leaf has one of the finest Chinese noodle restaurants (a mix of Mandarin/Szechuan-style cooking) in the entire state. They also have good bars, other restaurants, plenty of apartments (https://goo.gl/maps/bNvMWwV5zeRvQHxLA) along with a really cool playground and other amenities. Maple Leaf, with all its flaws, is a place where many, many people want to come *and* go, all throughout the day. In the middle of the day, who the heck wants to go here: https://goo.gl/maps/9W4oJN32Qc7npkDo8. A maid? A gardener? OK, sure, maybe in an ideal world we should provide such public transit services for those people, but in reality, once you build a suburb completely, entirely, 100% based on the car, “the help” will have to use one, too.

        Oh, and the main reason why Maple Leaf has decent transit is because it is “on the way” to places with even more people, and very close to places with lots of people (the UW). Can you say the same about Lakeland Hills? Of course not. It is “out there”, which is, generally speaking, who it is trying to attract.

        Auburn is down the hill. That is where the people are. That is where the apartments are, and it is where most of the shops, and most of the schools are. It is where you live if you think you might not be able to afford a good car. Seriously, as an engineer, you should be able to do the math. Who do you think is more likely to walk to a bus stop, and wait to catch a bus if they have a problem with the alternator on their 2007 Ford Fiesta? Someone who lives here: https://goo.gl/maps/Q8guhyaG7CvkdssZ6 or here: https://goo.gl/maps/XEcrDoWdXqFTunMk9.

        Auburn is also where the growth will be. Those nice looking houses up above are pretty much maxed out. They aren’t going to squeeze in any new houses there, let alone apartments. Auburn, on the other hand, could easily add an apartment complex here or there. Because Auburn don’t care. Or rather, Auburn isn’t concerned about the aesthetics of new apartment buildings close to existing housing. I would be willing to bet that Lakewood Hills adds nothing, except sprawl; sprawl that is hard to serve with transit and not at all concerned about transit. There is no reason for the county to bend over backwards to serve it. Sorry.

      3. There is a principle in the realm of transit planning called “be on the way”. What it means is that areas with relatively weak demand can still get good bus service on production routes if they happen to be “on the way” between two areas of higher demand. An extreme example of this is Medina, where, in spite of very low density homes to very wealthy people, with half the walkshed taken up by a golf course, it gets not only service, but fairly frequent service on the 271. Such service does not exist because of people in Medina riding the bus. It exists because of people riding between downtown Bellevue and the U-district. Without downtown Bellevue and one end and the U-district on the other, you’d expect a level of service more akin to the 246, a few blocks over, or maybe even just rush-hour service or even no service at all.

        Lakeland Hills may have a residential density similar to other single-family home neighborhoods that get better service, but a quick glance at the map reveals that Lakeland Hills is “on the way” for nobody. A bus from, say, Puyallup->Auburn could not serve it without making a colossal detour that would waste huge amounts of everybody’s time.

        One of the reasons why Seattle’s single-family home neighborhoods are better than most at being “on the way” is that, unlike the newer suburbs, Seattle has a functional street grid. A bus from Northgate to Ballard automatically serves Crow Hill, a bus from Lake City to the U-district automatically serves Wedgwood, etc. Not only does it have a functional street grid, but the grid lines are close enough together than you can just run buses down every arterial and everybody is within walking distance to something.

        Now, consider Auburn. Outside of a few blocks downtown, the streets don’t really form a grid, nor are there any real destinations to the south or east of Auburn Station to serve as an “anchor” (e.g. provide the demand to fill up the bus, even if ridership is weak in the middle). Lakeland heights is one of the worst of the worst places for bus service. The only ways to serve it are to either 1) run a special bus route just for Lakeland hights, 2) add a Lakeland Heights tail to some route that meanders through the neighborhoods to the north, 3) add a giant detour to a route like Sumner->Auburn, just to serve Lakeland heights.

        1) and 3) would require far too many service hours to serve far too few riders, plus 3) would piss off a large number of existing riders and lead them to stop riding. 2) isn’t as bad from a service efficiency standpoint, but provides the worse experience for people in Lakeland Heights, as you have to sit on the bus for half an hour of meandering, just to get to Auburn Station, from where it’s an additional 30-60 minutes to get anywhere useful…This is the kind of service where, even if somebody’s car breaks down (those who don’t have a car won’t live there to begin with), they still won’t ride the bus. They’ll rent a car, get rides from friends and family, ride Uber/Lyft – anything but the bus. So, you have to ask yourself – what’s the point.

        Yes, I get that the South Sound, in general, is a transit desert, but Lakeland Heights is not the area to focus on to alleviate this. Instead, the focus should be adding density near the existing activity hubs (e.g. Sounder Stations, plus Federal Way and Kent) and running buses to connect them at reasonable speed and frequency. But, trying to provide and least some service to every corner of the South Sound is a fool’s errand.

        Yes, that means that people in certain outlying areas, ill-suited to transit are paying taxes into the system, but not getting any service in return. I believe the problem with that is not the service, but the tax structure. Simply put, the county is too big for everyone in it to pay transit taxes at a uniform rate. Ideally, it would be some kind of sliding scale where inner areas that deserve more service pay more and areas that deserve less service pay less. (To make this work, you would likely need taxes on car sales to be assessed based on where the buyer lives, not where the dealer is located, as car dealers provide a lot of sales tax revenue, but are often in terrible locations for transit).

      4. I agree with all of your points asdf2, except the bit about funding. Transit is a public service that serves the public good, regardless of whether you use it or not. Everyone should chip in.

        I just want to add (and I know this is piling on) but complaining because the Pierce County bus spends most of its time in King County ignores the nature of this (and similar) bus routes. This is almost 100% a bedroom community, which means that transit demand here is almost entirely commuter based. The only stop down in the valley is the Sounder Station. It is (rightly) designed to get (mostly) Pierce County residents to their jobs in the morning, and back again in the evening. In that respect, it is no different than dozens of Snohomish County buses that do the same thing.

      5. Lakeland Hills is in Metro’s 2040 plan, implying it’s not with Federal Way (2025) but with Tacoma Dome (2030). I see two possible reasons:

        1) Budget limitations. The 2025 budget is full with higher priorities.

        2) The ridership growth curve is later. Potential ridership will increase after it grows out more and highway congestion gets worse. This is the same argument as postponing Renton-Bellevue Link: its growth curve will be after Issaquah-Bellevue-Kirkland.

        I assume #1 is most likely: there are too many higher priorities near-term.

  2. I think the only big flaw is the one you mentioned — not sending the 906 to SeaTac. There are several advantages to doing that:

    1) SeaTac is a big destination — as big, if not bigger than South Center.

    2) Connects to more routes. The proposed routing connects to the F Line and the 156. If they sent it to SeaTac, it would connect to Link, the 156, 180, 560 and 574. That is a much bigger, wider area that people could get to with a single transfer (from UW to Tacoma as well as Burien, Federal Way and lots of other places).

    3) The routes it connects to are a lot more frequent. The A line is just as frequent as the F line. Link is more frequent than both. Link is also more reliable. If you make a transfer to a 30 minute bus (which is what the 906 is) then you want the connection to be both reliable and frequent, otherwise you will inevitably be stuck waiting a really long time for your transfer, and you will just skip it.

    4) Gives Metro the opportunity of expanding coverage in SeaTac. The 156 could stay on 170th longer, since there is nothing special about Military Road between 170th and 176th.

    I think sending it to South Center is a mistake. I don’t know the traffic patterns, but since 178th crosses I-5, but doesn’t have any ramps to it, it is probably not bad at all. In terms of travel time without traffic, it is about the same. There appears to be layover space by SeaTac (used by the 574) so I don’t think that’s the problem. I think they just favored the wrong connection.

    This is not a purely residential route — it covers a fairly large medical complex (surrounding Valley Medical Center). Employees and patients get very little out of the one seat ride up Southcenter Parkway, since there are very few homes there (if any). Those coming from Renton will just take the 169. In contrast, folks from all over can get to SeaTac, and then go across. That is the better route.

    1. Also, I don’t think the 574 actually has a layover by SeaTac Airport station. I think it has to go back to 188th to layover, and then head back up to 176th when it’s time to start its next run.

      1. The 574 often lays over at 180th. It isn’t a layover zone, just a bus stop. The drivers do it anyways.

    2. As a frequent IKEA patron via bus, I would love to see the 906 continue to SeaTac!

    1. A lot of these route changes are the Auburn/Kent area and Angle Lake doesn’t have any good road connections down to the valley because of the giant cliff.

  3. Related, City of Tukwila’s got the missing link of Strander Blvd in the works for 2020. That will allow the F Line to through route, serve Tukwila Station, and not do a half-mile detour to the north via Longacres Way. I wonder if Metro will take advantage of this.

  4. This looks great! I’m pretty excited about the new 165. It really connects everything across the valley: Birch Creek, two major East Hill shopping centers, Kent Station, Green River, The Lakes, Link, and Highline all on one seat.

  5. Ditching Southcenter is problematic. The 906 could stay on 180th, the F on 154th, and the 150 on Interurban/West Valley Highway. But Southcenter is the biggest pedestrian destination in the area. It’s not only the mall but the dozens of retailers around it, some carrying things not available elsewhere in South King County or even Seattle/Bellevue. People go to the airport once or twice a year while they may go to Southcenter once a month. Especially if they live in surrounding areas like Renton and Burien.

    I personally go to Southcenter for these unique things, and I take the 906 to IKEA. I suppose Link-SeaTac-906 is as good as 150+Southcenter+906, but this would have to be timed rather than assumed. I don’t like the idea of not having any direct access from Seattle or Renton to the mall.

    Link is really not competitive for transferring east to Renton, Southcenter, Kent, or Federal Way: that’s why the 150 and 101 still exist. it’s not like taking Link to Northgate or Shoreline and transferring to Aurora or Lake City. In the north end Link is (A) faster, (B) in the middle, (C) grade-separated, (D) goes directly to Northgate, (E) in an narrower area.

    1. People go to the airport once or twice a year while they may go to Southcenter once a month.

      SeaTac is a major employer, but more importantly, a major transit hub. It is a major transit center in all but name. Southcenter, in contrast, has merely the F and the 156. Either way the 906 connects to the 156. So the only additional connection you get from going to Southcenter is the F line. In contrast, going to SeaTac would connect to Link, 180, 560 and 574.

      The F goes to Burien, but so does the 161 and 560. The combination is similar in frequency (although not as regular) and a lot faster. The F goes to Renton, but so does the 169 (in the case of Valley Medical people, directly). The F goes to the Tukwila station, but I doubt someone is going to take a round about, three seat ride involving the infrequent train (good luck timing that). (That is best served with timed commuter runs). The only significant improvement to sending the bus to Southcenter is just that — it serves Southcenter. But you can still get to Southcenter via the fairly frequent 150.

      In contrast, it takes forever to get from various Link locations to Valley Medical (let alone other places on that route). It takes well over an hour from Beacon Hill, for example, and the first trip involves taking Link … the wrong way (https://goo.gl/maps/t2GBKRBKmYaSV89f7). Likewise, people in Rainier Valley have to deal with a slow bus to Renton (https://goo.gl/maps/t2GBKRBKmYaSV89f7). That bus is fairly frequent at least, but not as frequent as Link. Link simply goes to more places, faster, and more frequently.

      But it isn’t all about Link. Again, SeaTac is a major transit hub. The A Line serves way more people than the F Line (about twice as many) and unlike the F Line, there is no reasonable alternative to connecting to the destinations it serves. If I want to get from an apartment building on Pacific Highway South to one of the largest medical centers in the region, my only choice is a very long, very time consuming three seat ride (https://goo.gl/maps/Hg6BGEVhL8KNsK6o7). There are places in Tacoma and Federal Way that are similar (and that is before Link gets extended south). Sending the bus to SeaTac would make a huge difference for lots of riders.

      Sending the bus to Southcenter, in contrast, really doesn’t cost that many people that much time. At most you have a 15 minute wait. The main advantage is a one seat ride to a place that is only a little bigger destination than SeaTac. That isn’t worth it.

    2. Just to be clear, I wouldn’t mess with the 150 or F. They are fine. It is just the 906 I would change.

    3. “SeaTac is a major employer, but more importantly, a major transit hub.”

      You’re the one who said SeaTac is so unimportant Link shouldn’t go there or should have waited for a later phase.

      “Either way the 906 connects to the 156.”

      If your going from south Renton to Southcenter a 30-60 minute transfer doesn’t help. However, Google Maps says the walk from Strander Blvd to Baker Blvd is 3 minutes, so that’s OK. I thought Strander Blvd was further away.

      1. You’re the one who said SeaTac is so unimportant Link shouldn’t go there or should have waited for a later phase.

        I never said Link should go to Southcenter, either. SeaTac is a fairly distant destination, with very little between it and Rainier Valley. Spending billions to run a train there before sending a train to the UW was bad planning. It is not that big of a destination.

        But it isn’t a tiny destination either. The same is true with Southcenter, or for that matter, Valley Medical Center. I would never suggest that we send Link there, or should have sent Link there. But we should send buses there, without a doubt.

        Anyway, that misses the point. It is too late to play “what ifs”. The train goes there, and goes there frequently. Neither SeaTac nor Southcenter are huge destinations, but it is crazy to think that Southcenter is so much bigger a destination that we should ignore the obvious transit network advantage gained by going to SeaTac. It is this combination — SeaTac being a moderate destination AND a major transit hub — that makes it a better terminus.

        Either way the 906 connects to the 156.”

        If you’re going from south Renton to Southcenter a 30-60 minute transfer doesn’t help.

        You are missing the point. The only reason I mentioned the 156 is because you can still connect to it. I simply listed each and every bus connection in Southcenter. I did this to show the network trade-offs, i. e. how many buses you can connect to at Southcenter versus SeaTac. The point being that not only does Southcenter have very few, but you would still be able to connect to 2 out of the 3 buses.

        I wasn’t suggesting that anyone take the 156 to Southcenter. I was simply saying that if you transfer to the 156 now, you can transfer to it in the future. In most cases, as it turns out, your transfer will actually be better, since most of the 156 is to the south (greater SeaTac/Des Moines). But if you are going to Southcenter, you wouldn’t take the 156, you would take the fairly frequent 150 (as I mentioned elsewhere).

  6. I’m glad to see new routes connecting to Link. I expect to see requests to connect more routes once Federal Way Link opens, especially from Auburn. I can also see an interest for a non-stop express or RapidRide route to quickly connect riders between this valley and Link — rather than have riders sit on buses serving some of these meandering routes.

    1. Metro’s 2025 plan has a 181 RapidRide (GRCC-Auburn-FW-Southwest FW) and a 160 RapidRide (GRCC-Kent-KDM, without the DM-Burien tail). Since that’s only five years away and planning hasn’t started for them, I’d expect them sometime after that. It also depends on the countywide Metro measure, which is for less than the full Metro Connects, and Metro hasn’t said what would be left out.

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