KEY UPDATE: This post was written several days before Metro confirmed service reductions beginning Monday. It is likely that the frequencies described in this post will be reduced, but we won’t know how they are being reduced until Metro makes a detailed announcement, which we expect tomorrow. Watch this space for an explanation of the service reductions once we know what they are.

In light of current events, you probably aren’t thinking much about agency service changes. But there is one coming this Saturday, March 21, and the agencies are going ahead with it. For Metro, this one is a bit different than we’ve usually seen over the last few years. Instead of spreading “peanut butter” service additions throughout the system, the agency is focusing only on one major restructure, with almost no changes anywhere else.

That restructure is the long-awaited North Eastside Mobility Plan, which arrives mostly in the form that Metro originally envisioned. The attention-grabbing headline is the redirection of route 255, Kirkland’s busiest core service, from downtown Seattle to UW Station. But there are also lots of changes to other local service in and around Kirkland, some of which will also affect riders in parts of Redmond, Bellevue, Kenmore, Bothell, and Woodinville. Details of the restructure are below the jump.

It’s worth noting that COVID-19 will likely hamper Metro’s efforts to communicate details of this restructure to the public. Metro told STB’s Dan Ryan that the “street teams” the agency had out in force at the start of the last couple restructures will not be present, in order to minimize the risk of transmission. Metro says it is looking at other ways to communicate with riders in real time.

The Route 255 Leap of Faith

Starting Saturday morning, no trips on route 255 will go downtown anymore. Headed toward Seattle, all trips will drop riders off directly in front of Sound Transit’s UW Station, next to Husky Stadium. Headed to Kirkland, riders will catch the bus directly across Montlake Boulevard NE from the station; they may cross either at a crosswalk at NE Pacific Pl or on the pedestrian overpass directly above.

The agencies expect that most riders headed downtown will transfer between the 255 and Link light rail at UW Station. Most 255 riders will be familiar with the Link stops downtown, as the 255 ran for many years in what is now the Link tunnel. Another option will be for riders to transfer to other downtown-bound buses at Yarrow Point or Evergreen Point freeway stations, including Sound Transit’s all-day route 545 and Metro peak service on routes 252, 257, 268, or 311. There is not much excess capacity on these services, however, and Metro is counting on plenty of riders to use Link.

In exchange for the additional transfer for many riders, Metro has improved frequency on the 255 at off-peak hours, especially weekends. Saturday and Sunday service will run every 15 minutes, instead of half-hourly, from roughly 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekday frequency will remain 15 minutes during midday, but improve to every 15 minutes between 7 and 10 p.m. Inbound service will extend later, with new trips leaving Kirkland during the 11:00 p.m. hour every day.

The change is likely to result in faster total trip times between Kirkland and downtown during peak hour, when current bus service loses a lot of time on I-5 and congested downtown streets. Link takes less than 8 minutes to get downtown from UW Station, and buses can spend 8 minutes waiting at the Stewart exit alone. But trips may get a bit longer at other times, when the current bus route is free-flowing. While 255 ridership is extremely peak-heavy, off-peak ridership numbers will be an interesting test of whether better frequency can drive ridership despite added transfers. The tradeoff has succeeded decisively in other Link-oriented restructures, but most of them did not create as many three-seat rides as this one will.

Of course, there are major benefits for non-downtown riders. The change represents a dramatic improvement in service between Kirkland and UW. (Routes 277 and 540 will be canceled, and not missed.) Connections from Kirkland to Capitol Hill, the Central District, and northeast Seattle will get much quicker. And there will be even more connectivity benefits once the Link system is built out.

There will also be a change to the north end of route 255, although it will affect many fewer riders. The segment of the route between Brickyard and Totem Lake (served by only half of weekday trips) will be replaced by new local route 239, operating with similar frequency. Seattle-bound riders can transfer to route 255 at either Totem Lake or downtown Kirkland, or alternately to Sound Transit route 522 in Bothell.

Peak Service to South Lake Union

Sound Transit will replace route 540 with new route 544 service connecting Overlake, South Kirkland P&R, and South Lake Union. The route will run every 15 minutes, in both directions, during peak hours only. While this is not a Metro service, it will provide significant connection opportunities at both South Kirkland P&R and the SR-520 freeway stops for people accessing SLU from throughout the north Eastside. It will also be a useful option for some route 255 riders who will no longer have a stop in the Denny Triangle area.

Other Kirkland Local Connections

The rest of the restructure consists largely of a rearrangement of existing local service, which brings some major improvements, although it also breaks a couple of key connections. The big picture is that service is straightened and reoriented to some degree around Totem Lake, which becomes a significantly more prominent transfer point and hub.

The key elements of the restructure are these:

  • Route 248 and the south half of routes 234/235 are combined into new route 250, linking the downtowns of Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond. This is a preview of a future RapidRide route.
  • North/south service in north Kirkland, including both the north halves of route 234/235 and the zigzagging routes 236/238, is replaced with three straightforward new routes:
    • Routes 230 and 231 together replace the north half of route 234 between downtown Kirkland and Juanita. From north Juanita, Route 230 continues straight north into Bothell, bringing new service to Waynita Way. Route 231 heads northeast into Woodinville along the route of today’s route 238.
    • Route 239 is a straight north-south route between Rose Hill, Totem Lake, Brickyard, and Bothell, mostly along the 124th Ave NE corridor. It replaces the entire north half of route 235, and parts of routes 236 and 255 as well.
  • A new route 225 provides an all-day connection between Overlake (i.e., the Microsoft campus area) and Totem Lake, today only covered by peak-hour routes 243 and 244. The route then continues northwest to Kenmore, replacing parts of routes 234, 236, and 238 covering Kingsgate and Finn Hill.
  • Route 930, connecting Totem Lake and downtown Redmond, gets all-day service.
  • The only major Kirkland local route left untouched is route 245.

The best news is increased frequency along a couple of key corridors. First, the current route 248 corridor serving Kirkland, Rose Hill, Redmond, and Avondale will see daytime weekday frequency doubled from 30 to 15 minutes. Second, the current route 234 corridor serving Norkirk and 98th/100th Ave NE in Juanita will see the same improvement. (A part of this corridor in Juanita is also overlapped by route 255. Lucky residents in that area will have 8 buses per hour to and from Kirkland. One might wonder about the equity of that result, when much more numerous riders in parts of South King County are still making do with half-hourly core service.) Finally, all-day service between Totem Lake and downtown Redmond will shorten a lot of trips.

Other unreservedly good news includes the first-ever service along Waynita Way, which has seen significant residential development in recent years but currently has no service. North-south travel in Kirkland, in general, will become much faster and significantly easier to understand. The helix-shaped geographic pattern of current service on routes 236 and 238 ensured perennial confusion and slowness, reflected in their abysmal ridership numbers.

Bad news from this restructure mostly consists of some well-used connections that will now require additional transfers. Perhaps the best-used of those is the connection on route 234 between Finn Hill and downtown Kirkland, which will now require a transfer at Juanita. Today’s connections to Bellevue from routes 234 and 235 will also add a step. Riders from Finn Hill headed to Bellevue will need to ride to Totem Lake, where they can transfer to route 532/535 express service at the Totem Lake freeway station. Riders from Juanita or Rose Hill to Bellevue will need to transfer at either Totem Lake or downtown Kirkland. New transfers will also be required for route 255 riders traveling between Seattle and points north of Totem Lake, and for a few riders making uncommon east-west trips on routes 236 and 238.

A few riders in low-ridership areas will lose local bus service entirely, and have to walk up to half a mile to reach a bus. Corridors losing all-day service include the portion of route 236 along NE 116th St; the portion of route 238 serving the front driveway of Lake Washington High School; and the portion of route 236 between Totem Lake and Brickyard. Metro is providing added “Community Ride” on-demand van service to select areas, including Bothell, Woodinville, and Juanita.

Grab Bag

The list of other changes in this restructure is extremely short.

  • Route 50 gets a richly needed stop consolidation program, which will remove 13-14 stops in each direction to improve speed and reliability. Most of the consolidated stops are in West Seattle and Lakewood/Seward Park, along corridors that have not seen any stop spacing revision in this writer’s memory, despite multiple service restructures. Stop consolidation will also affect some riders of other West Seattle service that uses SW Admiral Way or California Av SW.
  • Route 62 will use new routing southbound in Belltown, finally leaving the Bell St corridor and joining route 40 on Lenora St.

82 Replies to “Metro service change: All about the North Eastside”

      1. Agreed, the Sunday Service changes will matter little if the 25% service reduction that takes place on Monday is with us through the summer. I hate to say this, but everything that I am reading indicates companies plan on keeping their employees working from home until the fall, maybe longer. And schools are planning remote learning for the remainder of this year, and maybe even next year. Ridership on Metro will likely be a fraction of normal for an extended period of time.

      2. The tradeoff was supposed to be a transfer to Link in exchange for more frequent service. If the more frequent service disappears and doesn’t come back, that doesn’t bode will in terms of getting people to support similar service restructures in the future.

        Even without the virus, ridership boosts driven by higher frequency don’t magically appear overnight, but come gradually over several years. Metro has to be patient enough to wait for these long term effects before removing the frequency boost to “better match ridership”.

      3. I don’t think this accounts for how temporary the ridership decline from this virus will be. Some part of this will persist from people who will unfortunately not have a job to come back to after this COVID-19 shutdown is done, and people who will be more wary of transit because of health concerns generally, but I think that’s it. A 45% (and higher than that in peak) drop in ridership due to the Coronavirus measures is definitely not permanent. Even if Coronavirus measures remain semi-permanent, sooner or later people will start to travel again, simply because people have jobs and it’s not realistic to halt life for months on end.

    1. How should Metro make the 25% cut? Saturday schedule 7 days a week? Slash extra peak trips? Something else? And what do you do with those drivers? Send them home and pay them?

      1. I believe you should run a modified Saturday schedule and cut service hours with most routes ending at 9pm. This reduces driver exposure and helps reinforce the need to stay home. Workers that work after 9pm can coordinate car pools within their jobs. We must protect Metro drivers. Some routes like the 550, could run every 30 minutes from 8am to 8pm, given the ghost town that is downtown Bellevue.

      2. If you run a Saturday schedule, you eliminate a route like the 167 that connects the south end with UW Med Center. And what about the routes that don’t run on Saturday? This comment section said nurses have to get to work. How will they get to work if their route doesn’t run?

        And people, please, avoid the 255 if you can. It serves Evergreen Hospital, goes near Life Care Center of Kirkland, and is about to start serving the UW Med Center. Between the three, imagine all the patients and employees that are going to be riding that bus.

        Transit will spread and prolong the virus. That’s why I’m in favor of shutting everything down for a month.

    2. 25% is comparable to the recession cuts. The all-day baseline frequency will probably continue. The last one or two trips of the day may be suspended. Peak service may be halved to match current volumes and lack of congestion. If peak service shrinks to all-day levels, that’s still a bus every 15-30 minutes, which is adequate for getting to work. (Notwithstanding my usual complaint about 30-minue service.)

      When you look at “Why do the 212, 214, and 218 exist?”, it’s because of volume and congestion. The 218 is full; they won’t fit on the 554. Congestion on the 554 turns a 46-minute trip into a 71-minute trip. (4th & Lenora to Issaquah Highlands.) The 218 partially restores the off-peak travel time, coming in at 61 minutes. On other routes like the 15X it fully restores off-peak travel time. But of these reasons evaporate in the current situation: volume is low and congestion is nonexistent. The 554 alone may be sufficient peak hours, or it may need only a couple Metro runs to supplement it.

    3. Yes, I’ve updated the post to reflect that frequencies will likely be cut.

      If I had to guess, I’d guess major peak frequency reductions on routes that have <10 minute peak service, and probably frequency reductions on some night and weekend service where ridership has not yet caught up to recent frequency improvements.

      1. Idea. Don’t keep unused 60 foot buses from canceled trips at base. Swap them, when able, with 40 buses, to give people extra room.

    4. As for routes that may be completely suspended, look at the 78, 74 local, and 47. I wouldn’t expect routes like the 27 or 14 to be suspended, or the 226 on the Eastside.

      1. I doubt local coverage will be taken away anywhere. I expect routes to be completely suspended are (a) U-District and school commuter routes and (b) express routes like the 15 or 18 where local service running in a reduced-traffic environment is likely sufficient.

      2. Yeah, basically the approach to take is treat rush hour like it was the middle of the day. That means that a bus like the E runs every 10 minutes, not every 4. Or split the difference, and run every 7, transitioning to 10. There are a lot of buses like that (41, 312/355, etc.) as well as the express buses like you mentioned (15, 18, 5 express, etc.). I’m sure there are huge savings to be had by making cuts of that nature, and the penalty for riders would not be as extreme as going from 15 minute to 30 minute frequency, let alone completely killing off a route. The main reason those buses run that frequently is to deal with crowding (not to reduce wait time) and that is a minor issue now.

    5. If Seattle TBD-funded routes are reduced, that will leave unspent money that can’t be used for non-transit purposes. What should Seattle do with it? Save it for future service? Expand the free-pass program? I lean toward saving it, especially with the TBD expiring next year, the county measure withdrawn, and we don’t know what things will look like in November.

      1. For now, I’d say save it. If Eyman wins in court and the city is given 30 days to issue $40 million in refunds, it might need it.

        Otherwise, it can be used for future service improvements, once the coronavirus recedes.

      2. If the Seattle VLF goes away with back-dating to the election, and this is now the likeliest outcome, then the TBD will have burned all of its reserves and perhaps a little more by the end of 2020.

    6. CT is looking at a similar reduction, everything from implementing daily Saturday service to a tailored schedule route-by-route. Source: an internal email.

      1. The elimination of the 208 is going to hit towns east of Issaquah hard. Instead of eliminating peak runs (the 628), the only available runs will be peak. I wonder why they chose to do it that way while reducing peak runs almost everywhere else.

      2. This is great news! Flatten the curve and save our drivers, mechanics, and staff. If we can’t flatten the curve, cut more service!

  1. One thing that would be helpful here with more north Kirkland riders being required to transfer at Totem Lake, would be more frequency on route 535 off-peak (route 532 along with 535 provide plenty of frequency during peak). Sound Transit is planning on upgrading this route to Stride in 2024, but it’s a shame that it wasn’t given funds in ST3 to boost existing service frequency to 15 minutes ahead of the Stride launch. 535 is still hourly after 7:30pm, and lacks Sunday service. A solid all-day connection to Bellevue would make the restructure here a bigger win, as the 535 is much faster than the old 234/235 arrangement (even during peak).

  2. Thanks, Dave, for some positive reading to start the morning with. If I’m reading right, King County Metro Route 238 continues to connect Kirkland, and the rest of the world, with my alma mater:

    Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Quick check tells me that in addition to their excellent programs in manufacturing technology and motor vehicle skills, their syllabus also includes what could be a trade that’s not only extremely well-paid, but by its nature eternally (literally) in demand: Funeral Services.

    Combine these trades with precision machining and some art-oriented sculpture courses, and, possessed of an ORCA pass, artists will finally be able to earn a living. When word gets out, 255 will be meeting 238 artics on fifteen minute headways.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s disappointing to see LW Tech so poorly served by transit. In addition to the post-secondary programs, there are plenty of Running Start/WANIC programs from local high schools that could be using transit if the campus had better service. LWHS loses its direct connection with LW Tech in this change. Of course, the Tech campus has the academic buildings and the bus stops separated by an ocean of parking lots, so that also is a major deterrent to improving transit ridership.

      1. Of course, the Tech campus has the academic buildings and the bus stops separated by an ocean of parking lots, so that also is a major deterrent to improving transit ridership.

        Yeah, and that isn’t the only problem. Consider a walk between the bus stop on 124th Ave NE and the west building (more or less the center of campus). That would be a reasonable walk (about 5 to 7 minutes) if there was a pathway extending NE 116 to the college. But there isn’t, which means the shortest way to a bus stop on 124th Ave NE takes about 15 minutes, involving a walk along the side of the street (

        In general the greater Totem Lake area is very difficult to serve. It has several good destinations (like the college) but they are hard to connect, hard to serve without multiple routes, and have large swaths of nothingness in between them (car lots, greenbelts and warehouses). The only corridor that can serve LW Tech has apartments on the north end, but then low density housing on 132nd Ave NE. To be fair, the housing avoids the worst of the cul-de-sac design — there is good access from a house to the road — the problem is that there just aren’t that many houses there (let alone apartments) to justify very frequent service.

        It is a tough area to serve. The only thing I can think of is maybe the college itself could be the terminus of a bus route coming from the freeway. So a bus could go from the UW to Totem Lake, then continue, go through the mall area (which has a lot of housing now) keep going and stop at the college ( That would connect to the other bus routes in the area quite well, while serving a lot of apartments (old and new) and the college at relatively little cost. You would probably keep the new 225 (for coverage and as a connection from Totem Lake to Redmond) but the bus I propose would likely run a lot more frequently.

  3. Actually 231 (Woodinville-Kirkland) will mostly be replacing 236. 231 won’t be going through downtown Bothell or North Creek like what 238 currently does.

  4. Seems like essentially a soft rollout. Those on the 255 headed downtown will likely transfer to the 545. The 545 is currently just about as frequent as Link (and often more frequent) while traffic isn’t an issue. That is the faster way to go, for now.

    Eventually they will finish the Connect 2020 work, and eventually traffic will build again, to the point that driving downtown is slow and taking Link there will be competitive.

    I assume it will be years, though, before they have the HOV ramps from 520 to Montlake Boulevard. That section of the project is supposed to be done by 2024 (, but it may be that the HOV ramps will be done sooner.

    1. Depends on the time of day. Rush hour, you’re probably right. Weekends, the 545 runs only every 30 minutes, so it’s kind of luck of the draw.

      Ideally, the restructure could be delayed until Connect 2020 finishes, but I guess, with ridership decimated the virus anyway, it doesn’t matter much.

      1. I didn’t check the weekend schedule. On weekdays the 545 is pretty good and not just during rush hour. At worst it gets to 15 minutes — the same as Link right now. Late at night is like weekends, every half hour. Oh, and that doesn’t include the time walking to the platform, or the possibility of the bridge delaying you.

        So basically on weekends and late at night the train could be better, while the rest of the time the bus is better. Coming back from downtown, the process seems pretty simple. You can walk to the 545 bus stop, see when the next one is expected, and then decide to just take the train. Going the other way is tougher. You have to figure out the schedule (maybe by looking at One Bus Away) before you know what bus stop to use.

  5. The 255 and 544 schedules should be timed to provide a quick connection at South Kirkland P&R for commuters that currently use the 255 for downtown Seattle. The 255 schedule should be more reliable now that it drops all service north of Totem Lake. The 544 is a new route and may have some quirks, but the 255/544 connection seems preferable to catching the 545 at one of the 520 freeway stops.

    1. Sorry, ignore most of my previous post. The 544 may work for commuters in the northern half of downtown and Belltown, but not for the southern half of downtown.

    2. I don’t think the S. Kirkland stop on the 544 is primarily intended for transferring to the 255. That can be done very easily on one of the two 520 freeway stations before the bridge. I’m guessing they were maybe thinking about connections to the 250 and 249, or drivers parking at S. Kirkland.

    3. During the limited hours that the 544 actually runs, the 255 is every 6-8 minutes, so the connection should be pretty quick.

      Still, at least for the morning commute, there is no reason to make the switch at South Kirkland P&R. You can nothing to lose by staying on the 255 a little longer to Yarrow Point, in case a 545 shows up first. The only people who really gain by the 544 serving South Kirkland P&R are those who drive to the P&R (capped by the number of parking spaces) or connect from the 249 (which runs very infrequently and has very low ridership).

      The afternoon commute is slightly different. If you’re on the 544 heading out of SLU, connecting at South Kirkland P&R is slightly better for you, in that you have the additional option to ride the 250 instead of the 255, should it happen to come first. If your stop is Kirkland Transit Center, the two routes are completely interchangeable.

      1. Is the 544 bidirectional during rush hour, or is it peak direction (towards downtown)?

        If it is the latter, then folks like William, as well as folks from connecting buses and the park and ride don’t get that much out of it. I’m sure it is wonderful if you are headed to South Lake Union, but a lot of riders would end up taking the 255 initially anyway. If the 255 shows up, then you might as well take it, and catch a ride to a freeway station. At that point, you could take a bunch of downtown buses (545, 252, 257, 268, 311) unless you are going specifically to South Lake Union (and even then, you could walk, or take another bus).

        It does have some value for those who don’t want to get up off their seat, and can time the bus just right, but it really doesn’t save any time. It is quite possible that some people will take a 255, and end up on a 544 anyway.

        In contrast, I think it will save riders from Redmond to Kirkland some time. Otherwise riders are looking at the slow (and infrequent) 249, or backtracking via Yarrow Point freeway station (which requires going up and over). I really think it is designed for those users. As to whether it is worth it or not is another story.

        If it is bidirectional, then it is a different story. Riders from Kirkland (like William) as well as those connecting from a bus, or those that drive to the park and ride would have a fast ride to Redmond in the morning, and a fast ride back after work.

      2. The P&R detour is probably for drivers and those going to SLU. I can’t see many people taking the 250 or 255 one or two miles and transferring to the 544, not when they’re accustomed to driving everywhere except peak-express buses. But the ability to drive to the P&R and get on the 544 will depend on whether the 544 is full by the time it reaches Kirkland.

      3. Thanks David. I think the “detour” makes a lot more sense then. I’m guessing the time savings for someone going from Kirkland to Microsoft is pretty big.

        But the ability to drive to the P&R and get on the 544 will depend on whether the 544 is full by the time it reaches Kirkland.

        It also depends on whether the lot is full. If it is, then you don’t really achieve anything. You’ve maybe gained a rider because it is easier to get to South Lake Union, but you’ve lost a potential rider somewhere else. Spending extra service hours for no additional riders seems like a bad idea, especially since it will cost other riders some time. To be clear, there are other potential riders, but assuming the park and ride lot is already full, then you gain nothing by going by it.

      4. The time savings is big from South Kirkland P&R to Microsoft, the that’s essentially limited to people living next to the P&R. There’s one apartment complex and a couple of condominiums, maybe a couple hundred people total. And not all of them, of course, work at Microsoft.

        From further north, you may as well just take the 245. It stops a lot, but at least moves in a relatively straight line and runs every 15 minutes weekday daytime hours.

      5. From further north, you may as well just take the 245. It stops a lot, but at least moves in a relatively straight line and runs every 15 minutes weekday daytime hours.

        Yes, definitely, from north of 70th, and south of Kirkland Transit Center, on 6th. But that is a tiny slice of the city. Riders on Lakeview Drive or 108th Ave. NE will just take a bus south (250 or 255 respectively) and then take the 544. Even on Market Street, further north, staying on the 255 and then taking the 544 might be the best choice.

        In the evening, some riders have extra choices. They just take the first bus — the 245 or 544 — then take another bus to get home.

        It seems to add value for a fair number of people. I think it makes sense to see how many people actually use it to determine whether it is worth it. Complicating matters is that some of the riders are bound to be park and ride users, which is a zero sum game.

      6. South of 68th, it’s pretty much all single family houses and waterfront condos until you get within a block or so of the P&R. The real density appears north of or very close to 68th, right where the 245 picks up.

        North of 68th has better transit options all around, plus much better opportunities to walk to local businesses. This is part where someone who doesn’t want to drive much is going to choose to live.

        The people in between 68th and South Kirkland P&R get good bus service because of Jarrett Walker’s Be On The Way principle, not because they actually ride the bus.

      7. Oh come on. There is plenty of density in places south of the 245:, No, it isn’t Brooklyn, but neither is the area served by the 245.

        You also have Market, where there are apartments and (relatively) small lot houses along with Juanita (the most densely populated place as of the last census). Riders there will ride the 255 south, and transfer to the 544, saving them quite a bit of time over the transfer to the 245.

        I’m not saying the delay is worth it — but it is quite possible that what is a detour to some riders is a major improvement for a lot of others.

      8. You’re proving my point. The first link is a full de sac with a couple of mansions on it. When the 234/235 buses go by there, they also never stop. The second link is a block’s walk from the 245 (just cut through the Google campus). The second link is also my own neighborhood, so I know what’s there. When I catch a bus, I choose between State St. and 6th St. based on which one has the bus going to where I want to go. Which street is 3 minutes shorter to walk to is irrelevant.

      9. Juanita, I suppose, needs a transfer to get to Microsoft anyway, so you’ve got the choice of switching to the 245 or switching to the 544. I *think* during peak hours, the 544 option would be faster, but it’s still going to be a much slower trip than driving, so I’m not sure how many will actually do that.

        Also, I’m sure if it’s the case, but there might be a Microsoft Connector shuttle option somewhere around Kirkland as well.

      10. The first link is a large apartment/condo project. There are apartments/condos and townhouses north of there as well. I can’t link to a zoomed in view, but this is a good property map of the area: It takes a little bit of effort, as sometimes a unit is designated with a little circle, while other times you have to click on it and see the number of units. For example, here is a walk from a 39 unit apartment building to the nearest 245 bus stop ( That is a pretty long walk for a slow bus, considering the bus stop for the new 250 is right around the corner (adjacent to 22 row houses).

        The second link is not to an apartment a block’s walk from the 245. I chose an aerial view, which was probably a bit too vague. I’m talking about the apartments and condos west of State Street. They have an extra ten minute walk over to 6th ( I highlighted a different complex, but here is walk from a 12 unit condo to the 245 ( You can also walk north, but I believe the shortest walk is still over ten minutes:

        The point is that Kirkland just isn’t that spiky in terms of density. The most densely populated parts aren’t that dense, while there are little bits and pieces of density here and there. The 245 doesn’t do a perfect job of picking up all the little bits and pieces of density, which explains why in terms of performance, it is nothing special — even for a suburban bus (a category which means it doesn’t go to the UW or downtown). It is the main bus connecting Kirkland to Redmond, yet it doesn’t perform especially well, even during rush hour. That is because it is pretty slow, and doesn’t cherry pick the densely populated parts of Kirkland. It is pretty much impossible to do that.

        Keep in mind, this is a commuter run. I’m not talking about a place with all-day demand. So while many of the apartments, condos and townhouses will only have peak demand — that is exactly what this detour will serve.

      11. Just to be clear, I’m not completely sold on it. But Sound Transit is very forthcoming with their stop data. So if the stop does have decent demand (lots of people getting on and off both directions) then it should be kept. If not — if it is like the 145th bus stop for the Snohomish County ST buses, then hopefully they remove it, and find some other way to serve those riders.

      12. I get the point. But, even with the 544, the two seat bus ride still won’t be attractive to anyone with a car. The problem is that 15 minutes is still not all that frequent, plus the 250 could be bunched with buses coming all the way from Redmond. And you still have to wait in line for the 40th St. exit with all the cars, anyway.

  6. It’s funny to see commenters who lectured me that truncated bus routes to Link stations are the future, are now scheming how to avoid the UW Link transfer by switching to another bus on 520.

    1. The basic premise – that a transfer at Husky stadium is time neutral or faster – is patently false, even with the improved bus stop location. There is at least 10 minutes cost between when the 255 enters the Montlake offramp and before you can be on the UW Link platform. Then there is 1-15 minutes wait for a train to leave. Then there is 8 minute ride time. Meantime you have lost access to the Denny/Stewart stop for SLU access as well as several other Stewart stops. In good traffic, which is what we will have for the foreseeable future, it takes the present 255 less than 10 minutes from Montlake offramp to Stewart/Denny.

      The 255 will be rendered a shunned bus, just like the 540 was. Any rider who thought that the UW transfer was a good idea could have done so using the 540 yet no one chose it.

      The 255 truncation is a major ridership killer for Kirkland and S. Kirkland P&R.

      And it is ludicrous that it wasn’t the peak-only expresses that were truncated, while leaving the all-day and off-peak service going downtown. The 255 could have still been terminated at Totem Lake to save those service hours for the restructure.

      This will go down as a bad unforced error on the part of our transit establishment. The only reason that it won’t be painfully obvious in ridership is because of the CoVid-19 pandemic. How long before the promised frequency improvements evaporate and Kirkland really gets screwed long-term?

      Great way to destroy more electorate support for transit in the County – make the bus inconvenient and irrelevant.

      1. It will definitely eliminate many discretionary trips. I was thinking about taking a 255 to Seattle to get some Britannia jeans at Jay Jacobs, and look for a puka shell necklace. Not anymore!

      2. I think the Link connection will be fine, once Connect 2020 ends. If you already have an Orca card, and can skip the ticket machines, offramp to platform is about 5 minutes, when there isn’t peak traffic. I’ve done this by doing 271->Link several times.

        As to the 540, the limited hours it runs is when the Link transfer is most useful. The problem with the route isn’t the Link transfer, it’s that the 540 is infrequent and has terrible reliability, and lacks real time info on OneBusAway because it’s operated by Pierce Transit. To the point where even when the 540 is available, I still took many trips between Kirkland and UW by transferring between the 255 and 541/542.

        Obviously, in the short term, a transfer to a train that runs every 15 minutes without a schedule sucks. But, it’s going to get better soon. In a few years, it will get even better as the Bellevue line opens and trains run twice as often and the Montlake lid opens with an HOV exit ramp.

      3. For the last year or so I lived in Kirkland, I actually did the 540-Link transfer most of the time. In the morning, it was often faster than the 255, and way more reliable. In the afternoon, it was slower than the 255, purely because reliability on the 540 was so terrible. With proper layovers instead of a live loop, and much better frequency, the afternoon 255 won’t have that problem.

      4. Normally, I walk to work. But, when I had jury duty, I did 540->Link, in spite of the 540s poor frequency, because it seemed most reliable and it was early enough in the morning that the 540 would likely be on time.

        Going home, I put up with the 255’s endless slog through downtown because the wait time for the 540 was too unpredictable. Afternoons, I have sometimes seen that bus arrive 30+ minutes late. When real time info was lost for that route on OBA, I nearly stopped riding it.

      5. No, it’s not going to be fine, especially off-peak, and even more especially late in the evenings. Today you have scheduled departure times when you can reliably get on a bus at 6th & Union or Olive & 8th or Olive & Boren and reach S. Kirkland and Kirkland promptly. The Olive & Boren folks are largely screwed unless they are near Broadway. How much extra time do you need to allow to reach Link and wait for Link?

        But it gets worse. Sound Transit has announced that today’s unscheduled 14-minute headway on Link is going to be maintained indefinitely. So how can you plan on the 255 schedule? And will the 255 schedule be maintained? It’s on the list that Metro published to get service reductions. This is set up to become painful outside of peak periods and maybe even during the peak if ST truly implements 14 minute service as the indefinite service pattern.

        As to the 540, it started off as 7 day/week 18 hour/day span of service. Guess what? No one goes to UW on weekends, so it became 5 day/week. And no one goes there evenings, so it became weekend only. And not enough want it mid-day, so it became peak only. In terms of connecting to Capitol Hill, well the Stewart/Denny stop (and Olive/Boren) serve the western part of that pretty well, and otherwise, connect to Link at Westlake.

        As to reliability – I don’t know where the 255 will layover, but it has its first timepoint at 15th Ave and Pacific St, so when there is congestion on Pacific St, why will it become reliable? And also, why don’t all the buses that are heading across 520 follow the same path? Looks like ST 541/542/566 and MT 167, 271 won’t make the loop, at least eastbound.

        And as for the 255’s current bad route downtown – before the tunnel that bus followed the same path as the 545 and it should follow that again. The path down 5th/6th was designed by someone who wanted to supress ridership prior to this service change so that the ridership loss would not seem to steep.

        Mark my words, the 255 will have abysmal ridership during off-peak hours, and the promised frequency gains will not be maintained and Metro will have killed off a productive route. The 540 should have been a warning. The deviation across the Montlake bridge involves too much backtracking, too much service unreliability (events and bridge openings) and the alternative of the direct route to downtown should have remained compelling. Heck, they could have live looped the 255, say at Union Street, and chopped off the southern tail, and saved essentially same service hours. And not dealt with the Montlake Bridge and U-District traffic.

      6. As I understand it, it’s 14 minute headways on Link during weekday hours, weekends will be every 30 minutes. Expect some of these cuts to go deeper and permanent, as the county loses hundreds of millions in revenue. With record unemployment any transit tax measure seems unlikely.

      7. In the short term, yes, it’s going to suck. The 255 restructure was not intended to happen while Link is running every 14 minutes without a schedule. There is reason why it planned to take place *after* Connect 2020. Given the unforeseen delays in Connect 2020, the 255 restructure should have probably been postponed. But, long-term, it definitely needs to happen.

        “As to the 540, it started off as 7 day/week 18 hour/day span of service. Guess what? No one goes to UW on weekends, so it became 5 day/week. And no one goes there evenings, so it became weekend only. And not enough want it mid-day, so it became peak only.”

        That all happened before UW Station opened, when the 540 was useless for getting downtown. By the time UW Station did open, nobody wanted to ride the 540 because it had bad frequency and insufficient layover time to maintain decent reliability. There is hard evidence of people willing to transfer to Link from a 520 bus, as route 271 got a noticeable ridership bump after U-Link opened. Unlike the 540, the 271 operates a decent enough frequency to make the connection tolerable.

        I have also done some timing with a stopwatch using the 540 and 271. From the ramp to the station entrance is about 6 minutes using the existing stops, so should be about 4 minutes with the new 255 stop right in front of the entrance. From there, it’s about 2 minutes to descend the escalators, slightly less if you take the elevator. So, exit ramp to platform is 6 minutes. Throw in 5 minutes wait for the train and 6 minutes ride time, it’s 11 minutes from the Montlake exit ramp to Westlake Station. Which is about the same as what the current 255 takes to get to 5th/Pine on a good day. Of course, temporarily, it’s going to be worse, but that’s only temporary.

      8. Carl, the 255 will lay over on Boat Street – one of the 255 drivers mentioned this to me a while ago. So it will have to turn right onto Pacific, which should be better then the left hand turn most other buses are having. My concern is the lane change necessary to get onto Pacific Place and to the new bus stop.

      9. And so it begins this weekend:
        Route 255 riders heading toward downtown Seattle can transfer to Link at UW Station, then to a Link shuttle bus at Capitol Hill Station, or to ST Route 545 on SR 520 at Evergreen Point Station, to continue into downtown Seattle.

        Do we seriously think anyone would think this is even remotely convenient or time-efficient. I can already imagine what the service will be during Husky football games – that the 255 will go north on I-5 to NE 45th St. and then dump people somewhere like Campus parkway and expect people to walk to UW station. Isn’t that what other buses are doing?

        A creative and more useful solution would be that during Montlake Bridge closures, Link closures, and Husky stadium events, that Metro bring the 255 to Westlake station, e.g. exit I-5 and Union St and live loop on 4th Ave to Olive – or follow today’s 545 root and loop at Pine or Union.

        Just like a more creative solution would have been to delay the route 255 truncation to Monday. This weekend’s service is close to useless

      10. You can’t just postpone the 255 in isolation: the other Kirkland routes depend on the service hours gained by not having the 255 go downtown. So you would have to postpone the Eastside restructure and most of the service change. It takes months to plan a service change and restructure driver shifts; you can’t just restructure it again a few days before rollout. Metro always does service changes on a Saturday to get the kinks ironed out before the Monday rush. Now that there’s no Monday rush that reason has diminished, but they didn’t know three weeks ago that there would be no morning rush. Since ridership has fallen 50% there are fewer people impacted by the change.

        Connect 2020 is over Sunday night. The remaining 14-minute reduction is for the conronavirus. Husky games won’t matter until fans return to the stadium, which may not be until next year.

        As for Link weekends being 30 minutes, I’ve seen no official indication of that. It’s unclear what any of the agencies’ frequencies will be, but a 30-minute light rail line would be really unusual. The only ones I’ve seen are VTA’s SJ-Mountain View line weekends, and reports of Denver’s system which is more like Sounder (highway medians to the suburbs with few inner-city neighborhoods). A light rail line like Link would require several bus routes so it has the combined ridership of all those routes. I can’t see 30-minue service as enough for that. 14-minue service is comparable to extending the post-10pm service to full time. It’s not ideal but many American light rails have 15-minute service on each line like MAX.

        I don’t remember the 540 ever being full time. Maybe it was.

    2. “The basic premise – that a transfer at Husky stadium is time neutral or faster – is patently false”

      The other premise is that not everybody goes downtown. Some go to the U-District. Others to Capitol Hill or other areas Link serves. Others go south to the CD, and the 48 is much faster than transferring to the 2, 3, 4, or 12 downtown and crawling up First Hill. There’s also a major advantage in going up to 15 minute service full time. It’s currently hourly evenings. I occasionally go from Capitol Hill to NE 70th Street. Currently I have to go downtown and time it with an hourly 255. Transferring at UW between a 15-minute service and a 10-15 minute service beats waiting 45 minutes until the next trip.

      1. FWIW, I personally ride the 255 to the U district much more than downtown, usually on an evening or weekend, and consider the change a huge win.

        Going to the airport, if I’m going to be switching to Link anyway, I’d rather do it at Husky Stadium than downtown, to minimize the amount of traffic fighting on the bus.

        Downtown itself, it’s worth an extra 5 minutes for better frequency and peak hours, switching to Link is probably faster anyway and substitutes time standing on a crowded bus with sitting on a train.

        The only trip I sometimes make where the new route feels like a significant loss is REI, one block from Stewart and Denny. It’s something I’m willing to live with.

      2. I’ve compared the transfer to the airport. It is way, way easier at either 5th/Pine or at the ID station. At ID you just cross the station and go down one elevator or stairs. At 5th/Pine, you can enter the stairs/elevator along 5th Ave or cross over to Nordstrom. It’s way easier than at UW. It’s also 25c cheaper (another irrationality of our system is that the fare between the same two points depends on where you transfer.)

        I use Stewart/Denny to access most of SLU. I will miss that stop at alot. I don’t only go when the 544 will run.

      3. With the new Montlake triangle stops, the 255 will stop right in front of the Link Station, where it’s a single elevator ride down to the platform, with no stop-and-transfer-to-another-elevator at the mezzanine. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

        But, that aside, there’s another issue, in that you’re looking only at the walk up and down the escalators and ignoring the time it takes to slog through downtown on a bus, which is much longer than it takes to get through downtown on a Link train, and subject to random traffic delays, which could cause you to miss your flight. Switching to Link at Husky Stadium will very likely get you to the airport one train train earlier. In bad traffic, possibly, two.

      4. I can’t wait to see what the service pattern will be on Husky Game days, graduations, Hec Ed events, Montlake bridge closures. Will route 255 take us north on I-5 to NE 45th St? Is an apologist going to explain that that’s a good idea, too?

        Oh, and when you are trying to make your flight, or a medical or court appointment, are you going to allow for a Montlake bridge opening happening? The Montlake routing is a major source of un-reliability that is simply unnecessary on trips from the Eastside to downtown, including connections to Link.

        What about Link’s indefinite plan to operate 14-minute headways without a schedule?

      5. With Link running every 14 minutes without a schedule, it doesn’t work. That was why they originally postponed to the change to March 2020 after it had originally been planned for September 2019. Then came the Connect 2020 overruns, followed by the coronavirus. Ideally, this would be postponed yet again until Link can return to its regular schedule, but the way the bureaucracy works, once the new schedules are printed up, they can’t go back.

        The optimist in me says that once the virus is under control and everything returns to its original schedule, things will be fine. The pessimist in me sees the reduced schedule running far beyond the end of the actual epidemic to compensate for loss of sales tax revenue, due to the economic fallout, and by the time new money for service is available, Metro forgets about Kirkland and the money to run the 255 every 15 minutes instead get redirected to run some other route in some other part of town.

        That said, even under the pessimistic view, the 255 truncation could still be allowing the reduced 255 to run every 30 minutes in the middle of the day, rather than once per hour in the middle of the day. You can’t just assume that had the route gone downtown, it would have magically escaped the service reductions without pain.

    3. There are several things to consider:

      1) Going to the UW saves a considerable amount of money. It should be obvious to anyone who looks at the north Eastside that transit service, in general, is poor. As discussed up above, the Lake Washington Institute of Technology, which has over 6,000 students, only has buses running every hour. In contrast, Shoreline Community College (with about twice as many students) has several frequent routes. There are corridors with apartment complexes without any service at all. The only way to provide a decent level of service is to either raise taxes locally (unlikely) or make tough decisions. Compared to other options (e. g. killing off half the routes, and focusing only on the busy ones) truncating at the UW seems like an easy option.

      2) Carl is right — getting to the UW station takes a while. However, that will eventually get better. Eventually you will be able to continue in the HOV lane from the freeway right up to the edge of the Montlake Bridge. This will save a considerable amount of time during rush hour, as well as when the bridge is up. The delay for bridge opening is not the time spent waiting for the bridge to open and close, it is the huge traffic jam behind it (which buses will eventually avoid completely).

      3) Link will get more frequent.

      4) Link will also go to more places. As Mike mentioned, not everyone is going downtown. Some are going to the UW, and some are going to places like Northgate or Capitol Hill.

      5) As Carl wrote, it is crazy that they kept the express buses to downtown — it seems very inconsistent, and if anything, backwards.

      I think this change is a good one, it just that the main benefit right now is the first one. It might have made sense to just wait.

      But this happened before, in Seattle. Riders who used to take a bus like the 72 from downtown now take the train and then transfer, spending a ton of time getting from the station to the bus stop (heading up and over). There were plenty of people who suggested they just wait, and restructure those buses later (when Link gets to the U-District, Roosevelt and Northgate). I’m sure for many riders, their trip takes longer. But they have greatly improved frequency, not only during rush hour, but in the middle of the day. Trips that were rarely taken by transit are now common, because the bus runs often enough. That is the trade-off, it is just that it would have been easier to make it later.

      1. I commute regularly to Kirkland and I’m excited for the new 255 routing. I also know some folks in Ballard and Lake City who are tired of the 520 tolls and congestion who are going to try Metro instead (once Covid-19 is under control). With Metro’s surface routes (44, 45, 48, etc.) making the same stops as the 255, the trip from Kirkland to many locations in north Seattle will be much simpler and quicker. And $99 a month for an Orca pass saves a lot of money compared to $8.60 a day for peak hour bridge tolls.

    4. So true. Those of us who raised alarms about the 255 truncation long ago were mostly mocked by the self named experts on here!

      1. And the only reason you have half a point is because of a) East Link construction taking a bit longer than was planned and b) a novel world-spanning pandemic which is changing the calculus for everything worldwide, necessitating transit being drawn down some.

        Hardly a vindication of your screeds.

  7. “This is a preview of a future RapidRide route.”

    Less so now. The 250 is Bellevue-Kirkland-Redmond. RapidRide is Bellevue-Kirkland-Totem Lake. The Kirkland-Redmond segment will be some other route, and it’s unclear whether it will be as frequent. Oh, and the Stride station is on the Kirkland-Redmond segment.

    I don’t see a significant need to connect NE 85th Street to 108th Ave NE or Bellevue, so a transfer in downtown Kirkland may be OK. It would mainly be people going to the tech corridor or Bellevue medical district. If they’re going to downtown Bellevue, Stride is right there.

  8. Thanks for considerate indignation about Lake Washington Technical’s treatment of bus passengers, but its part of a tradition going back literally to the Founders’ first shovel-crunch:

    On a site with natural views of the Cascade Mountains and likely Lake Washington, main building was dug two stories deep into the ground, leaving narrow vista windows of sweeping parking lots.

    Not really worried. Precision-machining and funerals will inevitably result in the bequest, and remember how many years there are in the average Eternity, of a campus all the way to Mt. Baker. Which, being a volcano, is already pipe-fitted for an important ceremony.

    Worried even less about transit plans and policies for the foreseeable future, which at this writing seems to be about two days long. Do what seems right, to be changed when that changes.

    Really would like a to see a posting introducing our transit planners by resume and reputation. Given the opportunities for learning both civilian and military disaster management over the life of Link, likely no staffing shortfall. Power-company-owned fire-trap in California or the Turkish-Syrian border, ample training-ground.

    And let’s be edit-tolerant. Remember that manners themselves were invented by murdering dangerous warlords who hated being forced by face-saving into killing the very enemy they most needed to help them kill somebody else.

    But mainly, for Peace’s own sake, from here on consider ourselves Millenials. A thousand years’ Shelter-In-Place is plenty of time to work out every permutation of the 255.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Transit agencies all over the country are shutting down and or cutting service, due to dramatic drops in ridership and looming depression era cuts in funding. BART will now end from 5am to 9pm on weekdays and 8am to 9pm on weekends, with many stations closing earlier. We must do the same, shut link by 830pm to protect our funding!

      1. Sorry, our transit system is not only for commuters. Some of us actually need to go places in the evening, then come home later at night. 8:30PM? 10 at the absolute earliest.

    2. Bellevue College is another place that could be designed for good transit, but instead pushes transit to its periphery in favor of acres of parking.

      University of Washington should have had a Link station in center campus. Instead Regents worried about the kind of people that ride transit pushed the stations to Husky Stadium and Brooklyn Ave. What would have been wrong with a stop near Red Square?

      1. It was probably more to do with the construction than the permanent station – they didn’t want the ugliness of a construction site in the middle of campus.

        Of course, a construction site in the middle of campus, when its for a UW-owned building, rather than a light rail station, is ok.

      2. A stop near Red Square? There’s a giant parking garage there now. While I have no love for parking garages, there are logistical hassles involved in cutting/drilling into existing underground structures. The UW complained that the construction and trains would interfere with some esoteric nuclear physics experiments, so it couldn’t be done.

      3. My understanding was that the original plan was to have a stop at the HUB, but the UW didn’t want the railroad underneath that part of campus, as it would interfere with physics experiments (as A Joy mentioned).

        There are a lot of different options, and I don’t think it essential to go through campus or have a stop inside it. I think the basic layout is OK, but I would have added another station at about 40th and Brooklyn (for urban stop spacing). That would add plenty of riders, and make it easier to create a good bus network.

        The big problem is in the details. That has been the case with all the stations. Putting a station in the Mount Baker area is fine. Putting it across the street, abutting a greenbelt, forcing all transfers to cross two busy streets is not. The station should be in the triangle, where the little transit center is. That way buses on MLK and Rainier could serve it easily and those in the neighborhood would have a much easier walk to the station.

        The same is true with the UW Station. It should be in the triangle. There already is an underground walkway to the hospital. That means all you would need to build is a simple passageway north (to the rest of the campus). That would likely be underground, popping up on the other side of Pacific. You could add one more underground path to the stadium, but that is the least important. The only time a significant number of people go that way is during game day, when cops wave over the thousands of people that arrive by bus. Like Mount Baker Station, they put it on the worst possible spot. They also put overpasses to a subway, which is especially baffling.

      4. The UW station siting situation is certainly a stupid decision and exposes the hypocrisy of a past administration who was supposedly woke yet secretly hated transit. Still, we are about 15-20 years too late to do anything about it.

        At this point, the question becomes what to do about last mile circulation.

        Good fixes:

        1. A direct pedestrian path into the Medical Center without crossing traffic, preferably from the UW station subway mezzanine. If “:security concerns” are the issue, make it a paid fare area, put businesses or a security office in the tunnel and/or restrict the hours of use.

        2. An effective transit connection to the planned buildings closer to U Village that would operate like a sideways elevator. It’s crazy that UW is now planning its growth on the sites furthest from stations without connectivity.

        3. Address the vertical circulation challenges of the campus to expand the walkability of the area. Sure young students are usually hardier than most adults, but improving vertical access has universal benefit by expanding walksheds for people of any ability.

        4. Do an about face on the war against down escalators. Removing them entirely because of maintenance problems is like cancelling a bus route because the vehicles keep breaking down! We instead need more escalators at every station to provide redundancy during break-downs.

        When this virus crisis ends and things return to normal, I dream of a day when activity zones around stations get More money for access projects rather than spend hundreds of millions to placate whiners worried about views and property values but doesn’t help riders nor our regional transit investment at all. If we could give $500M in accessibility projects around the existing and planned Link stations, our urban environment could be so much better than what’s planned!

      5. There’s no Hub station because UW didn’t give ST permission to have a station on campus. That seemed mostly a “trains are ugly” reaction. The seismic vibration issue was separate and also affected the routing alternatives west of campus. A third issue that emerged was UW’s refusal to extend the Triangle Parking Garage tunnel to the station. There it cited additional security costs the university would bear if a lot of non-UW people were in the tunnel.

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