Double talls on the Stewart offramp
Double-decker buses on the Stewart Street offramp from Interstate 5

A few months ago, we mentioned that Community Transit was considering a truncation for many of its commuter routes to Northgate Station in 2021 to re-use bus hours for frequency. The second phase proposal for the restructure was presented to the CT Board on Thursday and is now available for online public comments.

The changes are tentatively scheduled for Fall 2021 and would largely be budget-neutral, using the reallocation of service hours to boost frequency on commuter routes. The 800-series routes serving the University District, along with most of the ST Express routes, would be truncated at Northgate Station. The 400-series routes and ST Route 510 would continue to serve Downtown Seattle via the express lanes. Each of the proposed changes will be described after the jump.

The bus trips serving Northgate Station would have synchronized schedules that would have trips leaving and arriving according to Link departures and arrivals. CT lists an average wait of 3 to 7 minutes for southbound trips (from bus to train) and 3 to 15 minutes for northbound trips (train to bus). The light rail ride from Northgate to Westlake is expected to be 14 minutes.

Community Transit states that it is still working on traffic modeling for the bus pathway from the transit center to I-5 with Metro and the City of Seattle, but travel times are expected to be longer in the southbound/inbound direction due to the configuration of the interchange. The final allocation of space at Northgate Station is also under development, but there is anticipated to be enough space for the proposed CT/ST changes alongside Metro’s own restructure.

In its first round of survey comments, CT said that they found riders were willing to transfer from bus to rail to improve the speed and reliability of their commutes. About 16 percent of UW riders and 26 percent of Downtown Seattle riders preferred to have a direct bus ride to their destination, while the remainder preferred a bus to Northgate or were willing to use whatever network was fastest or more reliable.

Map of the proposed 2021 network (Community Transit/Sound Transit – click for detail)

ST Express routes

  • Route 510: Adding stop at Mountlake Terrace TC
  • Route 511: Truncated at Northgate Station, adding 19 trips
  • Route 512: Truncated at Northgate, boosted to 10-minute weekday frequency and added weekend trips
  • Route 513: Adding stops at Ash Way and Lynnwood TC, bidirectional service, and additional frequency

Routes 511 and 513 would provide a combined 6-minute frequency between Ash Way and Northgate, which would replace some 800-series service. While Route 510 would not stop at Northgate, riders would be able to transfer at Mountlake Terrace if they need to reach the U District or want a faster path to Link.

Route 512 would get a major boost, with buses every 10 minutes at mid-day and early in the evenings on weekdays as well as on Saturdays. Sunday service would also be improved to 20-minute service. The freeway stop at Northeast 145th Street would be skipped due to low ridership and its impact on reliability, allowing buses to remain in the HOV lanes from near-Northgate to Ash Way.

The added stops and bi-directional service for Route 513 would allow it to function as a commuter route for Seattleites and South Sound residents who work at Boeing on first shift or at other workplaces in the Seaway area. The new service pattern would also enable a better journey from Link to Paine Field, with only an additional transfer to the Swift Green Line, which runs more frequently than the current Ash Way corridor buses that are used to reach the airport via Mariner.

It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that Sound Transit has provided direct service from Everett and Lynnwood to Northgate. Routes 505/506 had limited bi-directional peak service from park-and-rides in South Everett and Lynnwood to Northgate until they were eliminated in 2003 because of low ridership.

800-series routes

  • Route 810: Mid-day and evening service added with 10 trips; no longer serving Lynnwood TC
  • Route 821: Adding 17 trips
  • Route 855: Eliminated in favor of other options from Lynnwood TC
  • Route 860: Adding 8 trips
  • Route 871: Adding 7 trips
  • Route 880: Adding 8 trips

The university routes would have an evening frequency of every 15 minutes, with the last northbound trips leaving just after 6 p.m. Route 810, which serves as a late milk run to many park-and-rides, would have 15-minute service beginning after the last 800s trips and 30-minute service until after 9 p.m. The route would also have a boost to morning service, with 20-30 minute frequencies and the last southbound trip at 11:15 a.m.

Route 855 would be eliminated in favor of directing riders to the combined six-minute frequency of Routes 511/513. Another option from Lynnwood TC would be Route 821, which would have 17 new trips and a morning frequency of 20 minutes between buses.

The online open house for the Northgate Connections proposal is open until May 6. A public hearing is planned for May 7, but is subject to change based on the COVID-19 situation. The CT Board will vote on whether to move forward with the current proposal during their June 4 meeting.

67 Replies to “Snohomish County express buses to be more frequent under Northgate truncation plan”

  1. Overall I think this is a missed opportunity. CT could consolidate the 4xx and 8xx routes and truncate all of them at Northgate (incl. ST 510), which would provide fast, frequent connections to light rail. This would reduce the transfer penalty and thus make Bus+Rail even more competitive against having busses stuck in traffic on I-5. I hope that there will be very aggressive bus priority in Northgate — all of the roads here are wide car sewers – there’s plenty of ROW for dedicated bus lanes all of the way from I-5 to the station.

    ST should also reconsider not adding frequency on the Northgate -> SODO segment of link in 2021. This was clearly under serious consideration as there was material published saying this would happen (before ST corrected it). This would further reduce the transfer penalty.

    1. I’d love to see the logic behind this, but I fear CT Planning is going to do what they wanna do… I’ve had sometimes stressful dealings with that office.

      I’m also not going to file a public records request during a shelter-in-place so the mom of 3 kids can come into the office and risk getting deathly ill to satisfy a public need for data & logic… but that’s my conscience, compassion and debt of honor all talking at once.

      Fumigating and moralizing done, I’m just genuinely grateful we will have some kind of link to light rail at Northgate in 2021. I just wish both the 510 and 512 would terminate at Northgate Station and it was understood both we the North love transit AND we’ve been paying into this spine destiny for some time now.


    2. But the buses which CT is continuing won’t be “stuck on the freeway”. The 400’s and the 510 all use the reversible lane HOV system.

      Grant, once they leave the freeway they’re stuck in Downtown Seattle traffic. But they eliminate the loop-the-loop at Northgate, a transfer involving two level changes, and four intermediate stops. So the time from leaving the Park’N’Ride to the office will be better on some days and worse on others, but broadly equal.

      Plus, almost anybody who prefers the train ride can catch an 800 and change at Northgate.

      But most important is that nobody knows how much in-Seattle ridership will shift to the train. There may not be sufficient capacity to carry everyone from Snohomish County until East Link opens.

    3. Given that all the 400s are planned to be truncated to Lynnwood just three years later, it’s better to have only half of trips get truncated. Not to mention there would not be enough layover space at Northgate Station to fit all the 400s, and Lynnwood is being designed with a lot more layover space than Northgate.

  2. Speaking only on the CT portion of this plan, I too am disappointed with the direction my local agency is taking here. I had hoped that the saved service hours would be reallocated toward increasing frequency on the non-commuter routes. Outside of the two Swift corridors, the local routes, many of which serve as feeder routes to the commuter routes (which themselves are placeholders until SnoCo finally gets its long-awaited light rail service from ST2), need a lot more attention on the frequency front. While I recognize CT’s longstanding position of prioritizing coverage over frequency, I had been hoping that this balance could be adjusted a bit with the hours freed up through the impending commuter route truncations invested back into local route frequency improvements. Hence my disappointment.

    1. 1) I’ve learned there is a lot good with CT, but the planning director doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. In part for the reasons you give.

      2) I wish CT would link up Seaway Transit Center with the WSF Mukilteo Multimodal Terminal for multiple reasons also. I know it’s frustrating having coverage issues to address when frequency is what really draws choice riders to transit – but there are genuine coverage issues once you get outside of Seattle City Limits in this region.

    2. The 2024 restructure will be much bigger, so it doesn’t make much sense to have “back to back” network redesigns. This 2021 restructure wasn’t originally considered, but the delay in Lynnwood construction made it palatable.

      1. Restructures should happen about every couple years. In this information age, it isn’t hard to find out about routes, or make your feelings felt about a change. Changing the routes every couple years gives agencies a chance to improve the system based on newfound knowledge (what works and what doesn’t) without being especially disruptive to riders. In most restructures there are still routes that stay the same, so a lot of riders wouldn’t even notice.

        In this case, it wouldn’t be a two year gap, but a three year gap (chances are, it will be more like four). Lynnwood Link probably won’t open until 2025, and any delay to Northgate Link (due to the virus) will result in the same delay to Lynnwood Link, meaning Northgate Link might open in 2022, and Lynnwood Link in 2026. No matter what, there will be plenty of time between Northgate Link and Lynnwood Link.

  3. So, I’m not sure if I fully understand. This looks like the 510 and 513 will not be truncated. That seems like a bad idea, but before I offer my opinion, I figure I would ask for clarification.

    1. My reading is that the 513 gets truncated, but not the 510. Disappointing, but something we can live with for two more years.

      1. OK, I’ll assume that is true. It matches the little diagram. That means the 510 is the only ST bus that isn’t truncated at Northgate.

        I’m not sure how someone connects to Link from Everett in peak direction. For example, let’s say I live in downtown Everett (a growing community) and work at the UW, 9-5. How do I get there?

        There are a lot of Community Transit buses that used to go to the UW, that will now go to Northgate. These include places like Marysville, Mukilteo, and the McCollum Park and Ride, serving Mill Creek. (I really wasn’t trying for alliteration, it just happened). But there are none from the heart of Everett. The only ST bus that serves downtown Everett is the 512. But right now, the 512 does not run during rush hour, in peak direction. That leaves some possibilities:

        1) The 512 runs at the same time as the 510. That’s good for the riders, but that sure seems wasteful. The 510 isn’t that crowded. It doesn’t carry that many riders, and given its length, is not a good value. Running both the 510 and 512 at the same time means splitting some of the riders, making it an even worse value.

        2) Riders from Everett take the 510, and backtrack.

        3) Riders have a three seat ride. They take the bus to Mountlake Terrace, then take a bus to Northgate, then take the train to one of the two UW stations.

        If you are headed to Capitol Hill (which is the closest station to First Hill) or Northgate, then the situation is worse (unless they go with option 1). You have a two seat bus ride to Northgate (despite being the terminus to the mass transit system) and a two seat ride to Capitol Hill that involves backtracking in the congested downtown area.

        I can only assume that ST wants to run the 512 peak direction, thus eliminating one of the more elegant systems in the area, and spending oodles of money on what amounts to a handful of riders.

        I think that is a mistake. They should simply get rid of the 510. It is just not worth it.

      2. “I’m not sure how someone connects to Link from Everett in peak direction. ”

        I think the answer to that part is clear. The 510 is for people with cars that won’t ride any transit that’s not a one seat ride between their car and downtown. Bus connections for them are largely irrelevant.

      3. Ross, the map and text say that the 510 will stop at the MLT Station. So folks from Everett will be able to transfer to an 800 there.

      4. Ross, the map and text say that the 510 will stop at the MLT Station. So folks from Everett will be able to transfer to an 800 there.

        I mentioned that as option 3.

        My point is that unless ST runs the 512 peak direction, Everett riders are worse off at rush hour (and not as well off as folks from Mukilteo, Marysville, and other places that start with ‘M’). I think it is clear that ST will run the 512 around the clock now, and that is likely to cost them a lot of money for very few riders.

      5. You’re right; you did, and I overlooked it. So then why the angsty soliloquy about poor Everett riders? You constantly praise grid systems which have three seat rides as a feature not a bug.

        Why the double standard?

      6. You’re right; you did, and I overlooked it. So then why the angsty soliloquy about poor Everett riders? You constantly praise grid systems which have three seat rides as a feature not a bug.

        Why the double standard?

        Why the sudden attack because you couldn’t bother to read my post? Now you want me to defend your stupidass straw man AND repeat parts of what I wrote earlier, because you didn’t bother to read that either. OK, here goes:

        I never said three seat rides were a feature. I only said that quite often, they are better than the alternative. That is because avoiding transfers can often lead to inefficiencies. The riders on the express save time, but at the expense of other riders, who have to wait a really long time for their bus. This is a normal trade-off, and in some systems — where the buses are full, and they run often — it is a reasonable one. But, as I wrote earlier, the 510 isn’t that crowded. It doesn’t carry that many riders, and given its length, is not a good value.

        The obvious solution is to simply truncate the 510, just as the 511, 512, 513 and many other buses are truncated. That would save a considerable amount of service hours, while also reducing a transfer for many riders. The 510 could run more often, or extend longer into the day.

        But it appears that they won’t do that. Sound Transit will continue to run the 510 to downtown. That then leaves two possibilities: either the 512 runs peak direction, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t run peak direction, it means that service to Everett would be bizarre, to say the least. It would be both expensive and not as useful. It would mean that less populous communities in Snohomish County (Marysville, Mukilteo, and the McCollum Park and Ride, serving Mill Creek ) have better service than Everett. Trips from Everett to Northgate (and the UW) would be worse during peak demand, than in the middle of the day. I don’t know any system, anywhere, that does that.

        That is why I think it is quite likely that the 512 runs peak direction. I think this is a change they simply haven’t documented. This is fine for Everett riders — ideal, really — but as I wrote, not efficient. This means that some riders, somewhere, have a worse experience (lots of time waiting, or very limited hours for their bus) just because Sound Transit wanted to give a handful of Everett riders an express to downtown.

      7. The 512 doesn’t run peak direction because the 510/511/513 are running to the same destination, and the 8xx serve the 45th stop which they miss. Downtown to 45th is not CT’s concern or an ST priority so they just ignore it peak hours. (The express lanes don’t allow them to serve it, and they must use the express lanes during peak congestion.) All these will no longer apply when the routes are truncated. ST’s stated goal is to provide bidirectional all-day feeders to the stations, and the 512 is the main northern feeder, so it will probably run bidirectionally full-time.

        Regarding 3-seat rides, it makes sense for an express route from Snohomish County to go to the U-District, which is Seattle’s second downtown and the biggest destination by far in north Seattle, and buses fan out from there to the rest of north Seattle. It does not make sense to have additional express routes from Snohomish County to Ballard, Greenwood, or Lake City to avoid three-seat rides, because those destinations aren’t big enough. Ideally the 512 would stop at Northgate for the farther-north transfers but the transit center is too far from the freeway exit for this to be practical. Otherwise it probably would have stopped there all along, especially since it’s a future Link transit center.

      8. I agree with all of your points, Mike. Do you know why Everett doesn’t run an 800 series bus to the UW? That seems like an obvious omission, given the areas that do. Did they ever run one? (I could see them changing it up when ST started adding service).

      9. Everett Transit is local service only (i.e. within the city of Everett). Community Transit routes do not start within Everett city limits, and generally do not serve Everett (though there are a few exceptions I guess, like the 101 and Swift Blue). There are no downtown express commuter (i.e. 400) or UW (i.e. 800) lines that terminate within Everett city limits.

        I don’t think any of us can speak as to “why” this is the situation, though. It just seems to be how it is set up. If you live in Everett and want to go to UW, right now you either take one of the ST buses (likely the 512, or drive to Ash Way and get the 511) or you go to one of the park&rides that the 810 serves. I did not do a lot of this when I was a UW student but I did a bit of it, then moved closer as soon as it was feasible to do so.

      10. Everett Transit is a small-town network. The furthest it goes is Mukilteo and Mariner P&R. Running an express to Seattle would probably double its expenses. This interview says Community Transit used to serve Everett, but then it asked for compensation because Everett residents weren’t paying into the tax district, and they never came to an agreement. Then Initiative 695 slashed CT’s funding so it withdrew from Everett.

      11. @Mike Orr
        That too is my recollection of the history of CT service in Everett and the failure to strike an interlocal agreement. CT made the right call imho.

      12. OK, that all makes sense. Basically the agencies have different priorities. This is unlikely to change (unless the two agencies merge).

        The more I look at, though, the more I don’t like the proposed change for Sound Transit buses. Just a bit of background: The 512 serves several places close to the freeway before ending in downtown Everett. The 510 and 511 are similar in that they serve a subset of those stops and only run peak direction. The 510 skips Ash Way, while the 511 terminates at Ash Way. Thus the 510 and 511 complement each other. They also complement the 512, because the 512 does not run peak direction. Someone who is headed to Everett can take the 510 or 512, but since they don’t run at the same time, there is no confusion (no wondering whether it is better to wait for the express). Meanwhile, the 513 serves Eastmont and SeaWay (in Everett).

        ST has decided to truncate the 511 and 512, but not the 510. The 513 added Ash Way and Lynnwood as a destination, slowing it down, but likely adding riders. During rush hour, Ash Way riders can take the 511, 513, 413 or 415 to Northgate (and thus the UW). During rush hour, Everett riders won’t have a direct bus to Northgate. This is bizarre, to say the least. In peak direction, riders headed to SeaWay and Eastmont have one seat rides to Northgate, but those in downtown Everett do not. Trips from Everett to Northgate get *better* after traffic (and demand) dies down.

        Everett retains express service to downtown Seattle, yet it is more confusing. Imagine you work late, and are waiting for a bus. Right now, you might see the 512, and be a bit disappointed. There goes your express. But you still have a simple choice — you take it, and head on your way to Everett. Now you have to check your phone to make sure the last bus hasn’t left. If it has, you have to walk from the bus stop to the nearest train station, and catch the train north.

        Furthermore, you can’t do the opposite. It is common for folks to avoid the speed of an express bus, and choose the frequency of Link instead. I have a friend who does that. In the morning, he stands on the corner of 65th and 25th (in Ravenna) and waits for either the 372 or 76. The 76 is faster, but he usually ends up taking the 372. In the evening, he simply takes Link, then the 372. Thus even though it is one of the worst transfers in the system, he doesn’t want to wait for a faster trip. Someone in Everett downtown doesn’t have that option (unless they want to take two buses to Everett.

        This also misses the entire point of the three routes, and why ST didn’t just run the 512 more often during rush hour. Serving Ash Way to or from Everett is very time consuming during rush hour. It has HOV ramps headed south, but not north. Thus the 513 — right at the time it is getting additional service — will be significantly slower.

        The 513 should serve Lynnwood (which has bidirectional ramps) but not Ash Way. The 510 should be truncated at Northgate. The savings from the 510 truncation and skipping Ash Way (on the 513) would pay for additional runs for the 510 and possibly the 511 (the latter making up for the fact that the 513 would not serve it). It isn’t clear whether that is even needed, given the fact that the 810 and 880 will also serve it.

        That would lead to faster, more frequent service for a lot of trips.

    2. It’s also odd that if the purpose of the 510 is to make the one-hour trip from Everett as short as possible by skipping intermediate stops and not terminating at Northgate, those with an even longer trip from Marysville and Stanwood don’t get that. Is Everett getting an unwarranted advantage?

      1. I think the idea is that:
        1) Everett has more ridership and more buses than points further north
        2) Those from further north can always drive to the 510 in Everett, so it serves them too.

      2. The 821 runs from Marysville to the U-District. It will be truncated at Northgate, and have an additional 17 trips. That seems very good for Marysville.

      3. I’m sure Community Transit and Sound Transit try and complement each other. It explains why CT doesn’t have any 400 or 800 series buses to Everett Station or South Everett Park and Ride. There is obviously demand (more than the demand from places like Mukilteo) but if one agency is covering it, the other one won’t.

        Since ST won’t cover Marysville (it is outside the district), CT will. Given the size, density and distance, it is covered really well with express service.

        Stanwood doesn’t have great service, but Stanwood is a very long way from Seattle and not very big. My guess is demand is very small. As of today, the express from Stanwood to downtown Seattle has only two bus runs a day (each direction). My guess is it stops at the Marysville stops just so it can fill up the bus. If it skipped Marysville, it would be one of the least efficient rush hour buses in Community Transit’s system.

      4. @RossB As I recall, Community Transit explicitly does not cover Everett (Everett Transit does). They do serve some park & rides in the Everett area, notably Mariner and McCollum, but I believe that both of those are outside city limits. When I was living near Silver Lake I had to take an Everett Transit bus to either Eastmont (for the ST bus, at the time I think both 510 and 513 stopped there) or to Fred Meyer on 132nd to catch the CT route 412.

        Of course, ST covers Everett, too, but that’s a separate thing.

      5. That’s correct. The hypothetical problem of the (city center) Everett rider that RossB entertains in this thread really highlights the gap in Everett Transit’s mediocre service more than anything else. I think the onus is on that agency to work out a solution. Now with that being said, with the possible incorporation of the ET service area into the SnoCo PTBA, CT would most likely make the light rail connection for said rider when Lynnwood Link opens in 2024/2025.

      6. As I recall, Community Transit explicitly does not cover Everett (Everett Transit does). They do serve some park & rides in the Everett area, notably Mariner and McCollum, but I believe that both of those are outside city limits.

        Simply not true. Here is a map of the Community Transit system: You can see that buses go all over Everett — it is a major hub for lots of the system, and the most frequent buses go through there (the 201/202, as well as both Swift lines go through Everett). However (to your point), there are plenty of streets in Everett that aren’t covered by CT but are instead covered by Everett Transit. Everett Transit doesn’t venture out of Everett, either. Thus Community Transit is more of a regional service (with plenty of express buses to Seattle) while Everett Transit is for local service. Since this discussion is all about regional service, Everett Transit is irrelevant.

        The hypothetical problem of the (city center) Everett rider that RossB entertains in this thread really highlights the gap in Everett Transit’s mediocre service more than anything else. I think the onus is on that agency to work out a solution.

        You mean Everett Transit should run an express bus to Northgate? Not gonna happen. Everett Transit is focused on city service. It is also hurting for money. It sends a lot of buses to Everett Mall in part to improve its source of revenue (sales tax). Unfortunately, the mall was having a tough time even before this pandemic. It is far more likely that the two agencies merge (something they have been talking about).

        I could see Community Transit running express buses to Northgate, but that would be weird. It would be the opposite of the rest of the system, where Sound Transit runs buses to Northgate while CT runs an express to downtown. Every place where there the two agencies combine to run buses to Seattle, that is the approach. In Ash Way, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace you can take the 511, 512, 513 to Northgate or take a 400 series bus directly to downtown. That doesn’t mean they can’t do the opposite, but it would be strange.

        I do find it strange that there is no 800 series bus from Everett to the U-District. Did there used to be, before Sound Transit started adding service?

      7. Everett opted out of the Community Transit benefit district. The 201/202 run express from Marysville to Everett CC (for county students), Everett Station (for regional transfers), 34th Street (I don’t know why), and Mariner P&R outside Everett. The 270/271/280 stop at Everett Station for regional transfers. Swift Blue is a joint venture between Community Transit and Everett Transit, so ET pays CT for the Everett segment.

        ET has repeatedly refused to merge with CT, citing its lower fares and local control over routes and level of service, and large number of low-income people who can’t afford high fares. Although didn’t somebody post recently that ET is open to it now?

      8. “You mean Everett Transit should run an express bus to Northgate?”

        ?? How odd. To answer your question succinctly, no. There are other ways to solve the problem that the hypothetical Everett city center rider faces that don’t involve going outside of SnoCo. And I’m of the opinion that the onus for that solution is on ET and not CT. If the former finally wakes up and sees the benefit of joining the SCPBTA and merging into CT then that changes the equation entirely.

        “Since this discussion is all about regional service, Everett Transit is irrelevant.”

        Sorry,that’s not how I see this discussion at all and excluding the discussion of ET’s role in your hypothetical case just seems self-serving to make a point. The bottom line is that the city of Everett is excluded from the CT district and thus it’s not CT’s role here to serve all of the city’s transit needs.

      9. The bottom line is that the city of Everett is excluded from the CT district and thus it’s not CT’s role here to serve all of the city’s transit needs.

        “You mean Everett Transit should run an express bus to Northgate?”

        ?? How odd. To answer your question succinctly, no.

        You are saying that CT should not run buses from Everett to Seattle, but at the same time, you are saying that Everett Transit shouldn’t either. That leaves Everett without express service to Northgate during rush hour — an obvious flaw within the system. Not only does that mean that other, smaller, and even more distant cities have service to Northgate, but it means that service from Everett to Seattle is *worse* during rush hour. That is bizarre, to say the least.

  4. The effect of virus-related work stoppages could have lots of impacts. I suspect that we will see systemic longer-term changes to demand by October 2020 or later.

    I think these three big things are up in the air:

    1. Will the Coronavirus work stoppage change opening day for Northgate Link opening?

    2. Will I-5 return to pre-Coronavirus levels of congestion?

    3. Will ST decide to rebalance service to match demand, and how? (There is a two-year wait until the second line for East Link opens, doubling service on the Downtown to Northgate segment.)

    I think it’s very appropriate to not expect any transit agency to commit to major frequency revisions until late this year or even well into 2021. We should be patient and trust the staff to monitor and adjust bus operations several months from now.

    In the meantime, it would seem to be prudent to have a range of scenarios about travel needs rather than just one. Things will not return to the “2019 normal“ demand for at least a few years and maybe not at all — and we have no idea what a new normal will be.

  5. A few general thoughts mostly not brought up in my two replies above:

    a) The Community Transit Board discussed this a week ago – 16:26 of

    b) The Board Presentation is up on the CT Website for your review also.

    c) I may be – and am – grateful for a transfer to Northgate Link in 2021 option. That said, sure wish the 510 AND 512 linked directly to the light rail. As it stands right now, I may just choose to wait 35-45 minutes at Everett Station for that option as the first 100% Skagit Transit connections to Everett Station deposit me there at… 8:20~ AM. Not too wild about having to transfer at Montlake Station to another bus to get to light rail otherwise. The logic kinda escapes me.

    d) Why would I wait 35-45 minutes at Everett Station? I’ve learned from a Sound Transit staffer that I could be looking at 86 minutes and possibly more to get to Sound Transit HQ/Intl District/5th & Jackson versus a more reliable 61 minutes if I waited.

    Grateful I will be able to bypass most congestion, just going to be in a tricky spot. Hope Skagit Transit can connect my community – rather not say here which one – to an earlier 90X 100% via transit before autumn 2021 so I can not be in that unique dilemma.

    e) On a happy note… I hope for a STB Meetup Victory Party in Northgate. Let’s invite some transit heroes – and their families – to it also!

  6. If more northern routes are going to be truncated at Northgate, then the Northgate interchange needs to be made more reliable for transit. There’s room to add a third eastbound lane on Northgate Way between Corliss and 1st, by shifting the existing eastbound lanes to the left and removing the median space. This would reduce wait time at the Northgate-Corliss intersection by eliminating the yield, though there would still be some delay from cross-merging traffic on Northgate.

    1. I know it’s a different sub-area lock box but the idea of spending a kings ransom on a direct freeway connection at Northgate just seems like a way better use of $$$^3 than at NE 85th on the western fringe of Rose Hill. Jus-sayn’

      1. Would be of short term usefulness – the will likely be zero buses going from I5 to Northgate after Lynnwood Link opens. The I5 to Link direct freeway connections are being built (or already exist) further north. Truncations at Northgate are a temporary operational plan, not permanent.

        I’m sure staff is looking at minor capital improvements to facilitate bus movements, but given the short payback period, the budget would be quite small.

    2. SDOT said they were going to look at improving that area. It is worth noting that the 303 makes exactly that trip (I-5 south to Northgate in the morning, and Northgate to I-5 north in the evening) and functions just fine. Compared to the 301, it is just a bit more reliable in the morning (12% to 14%), and just a bit less reliable in the evening (22% to 20%). Neither are above Metro’s lateness threshold (there are some buses that are over 54% late).

  7. It sounds somewhat counter-intuituive, but I think there is a case to be made for having more direct to downtown buses for the afternoon commute than the morning commute (vs. having them be balanced). The morning commute, there’s almost no traffic around Northgate because most people don’t go shopping at 7 AM. Also, bus->train will tend to be less wait time than train->bus.

    Conversely, the morning commute, a direct to downtown bus gets stuck behind a long line of cars getting off the freeway at the downtown exit. Not the case for an outbound bus in the afternoon to that simply starts downtown.

    There might end up being a nontrivial number of people who take 511->Link in the morning, followed by a 400-series bus in the afternoon.

    1. Northgate will very soon be more than a place to go shopping. They’re redeveloping that entire area.

    2. Traffic to downtown in the afternoon is often worse than traffic from downtown. That is in the general purpose lanes. The HOV lanes are always better, and from Northgate, only work peak direction (with the express lanes). Thus the average time in a bus (or carpool) is much, much better going peak direction, rather than against it.

      That means that you would have a ride that is often slower *AND* doesn’t have enough riders to justify an express.

      The problems around Northgate are overblown. We’ve seen that with the 303 that buses handle that trip just fine. This is before the city adds whatever red paint they are going to add.

    3. I think you’ll actually see the reverse – bus into the city in the morning when buses are more reliable and Link-bus in the afternoon when downtown congestion is bad. This is what currently happens with Sounder, where afternoon ridership is higher than morning ridership because the time savings for full grade separation become more compelling in the afternoon vs 1-seat or ‘more direct’ (less miles travel) bus trips.

      Particularly for early commuters this makes good sense – if you are on the bus at 6am, you get a great bus trip straight down I5, but when you head home around 4pm congestion is bad and Link will be a compelling option.

      (Anecdotally, there’s also some carpooling involved here, where it’s easier to coordinate a carpool departure time in the morning, but in the afternoon work/personal schedules diverge, so no carpool and more commuters on transit)

      1. Also, the afternoon prak oncludes people making non’work trips that began throughout the day returning home for the evening meal.

    4. Another argument in favor of more truncated service in the afternoons: inbound (southbound) traffic is much much worse than the morning equivalent. Since many of these commuter trips require a deadhead from Snohomish County, the delays stack up, especially when going beyond the Northgate slimming (because of the express lanes).

  8. Best thing about these plans, especially at this really shifty “point in time”: I don’t see anything that can’t be changed with a text, a bulletin, or a phone call. And problem intersections are exactly what a fleet-wide signal preempt mechanism is for.

    One thing I do think is already beneficially-obsolesced. Whatever survey results say now, when it’s all conjectural, the younger the passenger, the more they’ll choose to be standing aboard the train than the seated stationary counterpart they’re waving to as their Kinki-Sharyo or Siemens’ needle hits sixty.

    Subway window view, though, will bear attention. Because with MLK operating conditions at this writing, fender-bender or hurt pedestrian at Columbia City, Rainier Beach, Othello and all surface points ’til Boeing Access could really tick off a lot of Everett standees.
    Making Graham Street Station either a just-don’t, or like existing MLK grade-levels, it,s lucky “undercuts” are so well “understood.”

    Mark Dublin


     Bruce, I did what I could to get this exchange On Topic, meaning at least into the transit galaxy, let alone World. 
    Because I can’t afford to run my laptop through a shredder, no way I’m going to investigate the content any further.

    But for Seattle Transit Blog’s reputation, I think some serious editorial control is in order. Tried to e-mail you personally, but your address got kicked back to me as a no-go. Better lose this piece of garbage Действительно быстро!

    And keep up the good work. With those signal-preempts, Northgate will be fine.

    Mark Dublin 

  10. the Ross comments seem sound.
    note that the costly ST below grade garage and the remaining Metro park-and-ride spaces (the housing was delayed) will attract peak period traffic to the same streets that the connecting local and I-5 buses will need to use.
    I wish ST were also considering changes to routes 541, 542, 545, 555, and 556 in 2021; ST bus should feed Link. I wish ST would run Link more often at off-peak periods for shorter waits.
    bus layover will be very constrained at Northgate. minutes and hours going to and from distance layover spaces come at the cost of foregone service and shorter waits. perhaps all three agencies could consider extending routes past Northgate to other places riders want to go that are not served by Link (SLU?), live looping trips, or having operators fall back at Northgate.
    Lynnwood Link is expected in 2024, so the intense use of Northgate could be short term.
    I expect SDOT and WSDOT would have to cooperate on 1st Avenue NE.

    1. ST had to replace the Northgate parking spaces that it took for construction because they were owned by the mall, which had promised tenants it would provide them for their customers. If ST didn’t replace them the mall could sue ST. Metro did a survey of where the existing P&R drivers are coming from and found that most of them come from east and west of Northgate. So ST asked those communities whether the wanted more parking or more feeder buses and bike/ped improvements,. The majority said more feeder buses and bike/ped improvements, and they were only driving because it’s so hard to get to the transit center otherwise. That was a surprise because every other station area with an existing P&R strongly preferred a parking expansion. So ST isn’t building a major parking expansion at Northgate.

    2. bus layover will be very constrained at Northgate. minutes and hours going to and from distance layover spaces come at the cost of foregone service and shorter waits. perhaps all three agencies could consider extending routes past Northgate to other places riders want to go that are not served by Link (SLU?), live looping trips, or having operators fall back at Northgate.

      My understanding is that Sound Transit just parks all their 400 series buses downtown, with the riders taking a bus back up north. In other words, they don’t due much deadheading. That many buses just sitting there during the day would really add up, which may be another reason why they decided not to truncate all the 400 buses.

      I could see several possibilities to reducing layover demand:

      1) Go to 65th Park and Ride. Of course that assumes there is space there, since the 522 and 312 will be laying over there. This again gets back to park and rides. If you take out some of the parking, there is plenty of space. But my understanding is that there are laws against that (which is part of the reason that Northgate still has a park and ride lot). Then again, maybe the law only applies to selling off park and ride lots.

      In any event, the buses could provide service along 5th Avenue, which Metro has essentially decided to drop. During rush hour, there are bound to be some riders along 5th Avenue wanting to head south, to get to Link. If anything, service along 5th makes more sense than service along 15th.

      2) Head to Northwest Hospital. This would seem weird (since the bus would be backtracking) but this is how someone from Snohomish County would get to Northwest Hospital anyway. This would basically be an express to the hospital (taking the fastest route) and would likely get some riders without a lot of service time. You could layover a couple buses inside the hospital, and probably a whole fleet along 5th, where there is limited parking. The hospital itself would provide comfort stations.

      3) Live loop, as you suggest. This makes sense when the service is bidirectional (like the 513). I could see making some of the other routes bidirectional. Both Edmonds and Mukilteo could have some riders headed the other way (the latter as a way to connect to Boeing). I don’t think it would make sense for any of the other buses, though.

      4) Have Metro avoid laying over there. Here are some suggestions, based on the latest post-Northgate-Link proposal (

      4A) Send the 67 up 15th and layover where the 73 lays over. We could then get rid of the 73 (and increase frequency elsewhere).

      4B) Don’t have the proposed 25 serve Northgate. It can’t possibly be a good use of funds. I cover the southern half of that route (south of 45th) with a bidirectional bus to the UW (, but there are other possible options.

      It is also possible there could be some combination. For example, the 345/346 and 347/348 are paired, to avoid laying over at Northgate. I could easily see the 347/348 “live loop” and just head back to where they started after serving Northgate during rush hour. Express buses (e. g. the 304) would serve the 347/348 instead. For Metro buses, this sort of change would be trivial, and noticed by only a handful of riders. If you tried to do that with Snohomish County buses it would be strange, and hard to pull off. It is one thing to have a Snohomish County bus venturing out of its typical territory, providing additional or redundant service (on 5th or to Northwest Hospital). That is normal, and common (e. g. the 800 buses go through the U-District). It is another thing to have a Snohomish County bus masquerading as a Metro bus.

      It is worth mentioning that Metro — in their proposal — sends a lot of buses to South Lake Union and First Hill. Layover space might have something to do with that. If so, they should make that clear. Otherwise, I can only assume they are simply favoring one seat rides (to those areas) even though the time savings for those riders will be minimal, and the cost exorbitant.

      There are better ways to avoid laying over in Northgate, just as there are better ways to serve South Lake Union and First Hill.

      1. “My understanding is that Sound Transit just parks all their 400 series buses downtown,…”

        Did you mean ST’s 500’s or CT’s 400’s? Perhaps the OP can correct this for you.

      2. I meant Community Transit, not Sound Transit. Sorry about the confusion. (I had the number right, but the agency name wrong).

  11. A few general thoughts:

    1) I’m very disappointed Community Transit is making noise about still having a public hearing in Early May at their main bus barn. I hope you all concur with me that the hearing should be delayed and relocated to a more safer, more inclusive time & location.

    2) I wish the 510 would also stop at Northgate. Grateful we at least have somewhat of a transit connection here. I’m not terribly happy about a 80-90 minute trip from Everett Station to Intl Dist Station/ST HQ and two transfers when there should be one respectfully. At least the 512 on the weekends makes the trip more around 60.

    1. I agree with you on the second point (as I said up above). The first is obvious, and the meeting will either be completely online, or be delayed.

      1. Thanks RossB.

        I hope for an online meeting or one at Everett Station at a later date.

  12. It’s still a waste of my tax dollars. My office relocated. For me to take transit to work I will spend 5 hours on the buses and with transfers and getting to bus stops I’ll be walking two miles. There is a bus stop half a block from me but it only could get me to the first transfer spot. Work was a 15 minute ride before.

    1. Transit, like transportation, is inherently collective. Even your car drives on public roads and other people’s property. The purpose of mass transit is to gather people in 20+-seat vehicles when they are all going in the same direction, and to provide transportation so that people don’t have to have cars. (The first focuses on ridership; the second on ridership and coverage.) But it can only solve part of the problem. It follows the 80/20 rule: spend 20% of the resources to solve 80% of the problem, and don’t spend 80% of the resources to solve the remaining 20% of the problem.

      I’d have to know where your home and office is to say how common this trip pattern is and whether we should do anything transit-wise about it. But a 1.5-hour-transit-plus-40-minute walk puts it in league with Maple Valley-Eastgate, South Park-Lake City, Puyallup-UW. These are epic transit commutes that exist but are a minority of commutes. The average commute is 30 minutes. There’s also a larger underlying issue that’s making your plight worse.

      In other industriialized countries like Canada, Europe, and Asis, neighborhoods and workplaces are built around transit hubs than ours are. So more people get good transit to work by default. The US turned against this after WWII and built car-dependent neighborhoods and cities. Pugetopolis has a lot of those. Even Seattle has them (some streetcar suburbs evolved into automobile suburbs). For instance, if you work at T-Mobile in Eastgate or any of the surrounding businesses, it’s very difficult to take transit to work from almost anywhere. Why is Eastgate like that? Because we built it that way. That’s not transit’s fault, it’s the county’s fault for not heading it off from the beginning when those office parks and strip malls were built.

    2. Even if you don’t ride transit and it’s not useful for your commute, you benefit because it brings thousands of people to work so that they can support themselves and pay taxes and don’t need social services and aren’t homeless, and can provide services to you. It helps tourists get around, and they pay taxes and patronize local businesses that you may want around. It’s there in case your car breaks down or your eyesight gets bad enough you can’t drive. And if you ever have children, they can take it and not be housebound. And transit-dependent people can get to the grocery store and library and medical appointments.

      1. +10. I share that same perpective. I view public transit like public education in that our society as a whole benefits. It’s just a tragedy that we don’t fund it accordingly.

    3. For me to take transit to work I will spend 5 hours on the buses and with transfers and getting to bus stops I’ll be walking two miles. There is a bus stop half a block from me but it only could get me to the first transfer spot. Work was a 15 minute ride before.

      Where are you, and where are you going? It sounds like you are complaining because your office moved to someplace inconvenient. That sucks — I know someone in the same boat — but it is hard to blame the transit system for that.

  13. This is a great opportunity to promote connections to rail beyond downtown, for instance for folks that live north of downtown who work at the airport and all along the light rail line going south, as well as for residents of, for instance, Sea-Tac, who work in the Northgate area or points north. It also opens up rail to Sea-Tac from points north, which should warrant consideration of retaining most of the non-ST bus connections on weekends as well.

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