Metro map of planned route 160, which is also a preview of the future RapidRide I Line.

Metro service in South King County has been the unsung hero of Seattle-area transit for many years, serving lots of lower-income people in mostly unwalkable communities but never quite getting the service improvements even Metro admits it deserves. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted further the importance of the South End network, with virtually every South End trunk route on Metro’s list of routes most important to essential workers. It’s always welcome when Metro takes a fresh look at this critical service.

Recently, Metro has been engaged in a Renton-Kent-Auburn Mobility Project, thinking about how to improve the all-day network, centered around Kent Station, that serves the Green River Valley and Kent East Hill. Metro produced a proposed restructure last fall, and then made minor refinements after receiving public comment. The King County Council is now considering the result, which is likely to be adopted and take effect in September 2020.

The proposal is centered around a new route 160, which is intended to use the same routing as the future RapidRide I Line. The route would be effectively an extension of current route 169, absorbing the portion of current route 180 between Kent Station and Auburn Station. For now, route 160 would be scheduled at similar frequencies to route 169, with further improvements coming with the RapidRide I Line conversion in 2023. Other changes are complementary, and described later in this post.

Of course, Metro is in an environment of major operational and financial uncertainty as a result of COVID-19. The planned frequencies in this proposal do not reflect Metro’s temporary Reduced Schedule or any permanent cuts that may be necessary as a result of COVID-19 financial impact. If COVID-19’s economic effects continue, what riders finally see on the street in September 2020 may look significantly different from what follows after the jump.

Kent Station All-Day Network

The heart of this service change is a new all-day network centered around Kent Station. Most all-day routes serving Kent Station change somehow, and many places get more direct connections and frequency improvements. The following are the major routes in the all-day network.

Route 160: Renton-East HIll-Kent-Auburn

As described above, this is the central route of the restructure, and is intended to solidify a frequently used connection between Auburn Way and Kent East Hill. The route is a combination of current route 169 and the Kent-Auburn portion of current route 180. It would improve weekday daytime service along Auburn Way to 15 minutes, addressing a capacity need and providing more reliable connections to route 150 to Seattle. Other parts of route 180 would become their own services, further described below.

Route 165: Green River College-East Hill-Kent-Highline-Burien

This new route is a combination of current routes 164 and 166, with minor modifications to both, resulting in a mostly straight east-west corridor between Lake Meridian and Des Moines.

On the East Hill, the route would no longer serve the area around Kent-Meridian High School (which is well-served by other service), instead providing new all-day coverage to the commercial area north of Lake Meridian at 132nd Ave SE and SE 240th St. (This service would largely replace DART route 916, which would be deleted.) Current route 164 riders would also receive Sunday service for the first time, which has always been a puzzling omission given the route’s high and growing ridership. On the negative side of the ledger, a few riders along James St who are currently accustomed to 15-minute service on the combination of current routes 164 and 168 will see their service drop to half-hourly during off-peak hours.

In western Kent, the route would replace a poorly used detour via Reith Road, already mostly served by route 183, with service to The Lakes and a new planned community off Veterans Dr on the other side of the river. The new full-time service to The Lakes would replace route 913, an hourly, weekday-only DART shuttle.

Other portions of the route, including the Des Moines-Burien service, would remain unchanged.

Route 168: Kent-Covington-Maple Valley

This is an existing route that gets straightened, losing its turns in Kent East Hill and becoming a nearly straight shot down SR 518 516 between Kent and Maple Valley. (The one hiccup is the detour to serve Timberlane, which remains.) The change will shorten trips between Kent and Covington for riders displaced from deleted routes 158 and 159, who will now use Sounder to get to Seattle. It will also increase effective frequency between Kent Station and the area around Kent-Meridian High School, a heavily used connection. Finally, night and weekend frequency will improve to 30 minutes with a much longer span of service, significantly improving access to Maple Valley and Covington.

Route 161: Kent-SeaTac-Burien

This new route is mostly a straightforward replacement for the northern half of route 180 between Kent and Burien, operating at similar frequency and (wide enough for airport workers’ crazy hours) span. There is one change, though. Between Kent Station and S 212th St, the route will use Central Way and 84th Av S, rather than 64th Av S. This change, which is most likely an attempt to avoid congestion on James St, results in duplication with a part of route 153. But it may be possible (although there is no sign of this in the materials Metro prepared) to stagger routes 153 and 161 for 15-minute service along 84th Av S during midday hours on weekdays.

Route 914: Kent-East Hill DART

Kent has long featured a constellation of infrequent DART routes that are intended to provide lifeline service to a number of areas otherwise not served by transit. Two of the three routes, 913 and 916, would be deleted, with their service being mostly replaced by some combination of the all-day routes described above and a slight revision to the surviving route 914. In exchange, route 914 would get half-hourly frequency on weekdays, significantly improving access to the areas it continues to serve.

The only area to lose service entirely would be the Riverview area in northwest Kent, which has generated near-zero ridership on route 913. Any riders there would have to walk some distance to access either route 161 on S 212 St or route 165 on Veterans Dr.

Kent-Seattle Peak Service

The persistence of several Kent-Seattle commuter routes despite the presence of Sounder, even though most of them directly pass a Sounder station, has been a minor curiosity in Metro’s network for years. It is also a testament to riders’ power to stop change if they are well organized.

This restructuring makes the routes more efficient, but does not delete them altogether.

Routes 158 and 159 are combined into a new route 162, and lose their meandering tails through Kent East Hill neighborhoods as a result. (Nearly all of their coverage is replaced by all-day routes serving Kent Station.) Route 162 is a straightforward express between Lake Meridian P&R and Seattle, stopping on the way at Kent Station and Kent-Des Moines P&R. Increased frequency on route 162 also spells the death knell for route 192, a poorly used express serving the Kent-Des Moines P&R and Military Rd S in west Kent. To further replace route 192 service, buses on underused route 190 between downtown and Star Lake will now stop at Kent/Des Moines P&R.

Route 157, a snaky oddball of a commuter route between East Hill, the Green River Valley, and Seattle that resulted from the combination of even more oddball routes 160 and 163 some years ago, will see a minor revision near Lake Meridian P&R to replace a small part of the deleted route 158, but will otherwise remain intact.

Auburn All-Day Changes

The other two cities in the mix, Auburn and Renton, each see less sweeping changes to their all-day networks. Auburn’s changes are more consequential than Renton’s.

North Auburn

In north Auburn, route 180 is replaced by more frequent route 160, described above. The increased frequency renders the majority of DART route 910 superfluous, and the route is eliminated. (The remainder of route 910 is replaced by increased frequency on route 917.)

South Auburn and Algona/Pacific

In the bulk of South Auburn, what’s old is new again. The portion of route 180 south of Auburn Station, which provides meandering local service to a variety of community institutions in the area before ending at White River Junction, is turned into its own route. This new route 184 will be recognizable to residents as identical to former route 151, which itself was split from route 150 in exactly the same manner many years ago, before being reorganized into route 180 some years later. Frequency remains half-hourly across a fairly wide span, except that weekday morning trips will now be timed to Sounder departures.

Across the railroad tracks in Algona and Pacific, DART route 917 sees a frequency increase to roughly half-hourly on weekdays to make up for the deleted route 910, and gains hourly Sunday service. It also loses service to White River Junction and its connection with route 184. Riders wishing to travel between Pacific and South Auburn will have to walk or make the indirect trip via Auburn Station.

Renton All-Day Changes

From the perspective of Renton riders, changes are minor and should mostly be welcome. Route 105 serving the inner Renton Highlands gains 15-minute peak frequency, mostly making up for the loss of deleted DART route 908. There are routing adjustments in Benson Hill, where route 148 is revised to serve the commercial area along 116th Ave SE, but drops service to neighborhood streets to the east. (The route continues to serve Lindbergh High and Fairwood.) The change allows straightening of DART route 906, which will travel along SE Petrovitsky Rd without detours between Valley Medical Center and Fairwood.

Effects on Each Route

The following is a listing of routes in the affected area, with a quick summary of changes to each:

  • F Line: No changes
  • 101: No changes
  • 102: No changes
  • 105: More frequent (15-minute) peak service.
  • 106: No changes
  • 107: No changes
  • 143: No changes
  • 148: Routing revised to serve 116 Ave SE in Benson Hill
  • 150: No changes
  • 153: No changes, but added service on route 161 along 84th Ave S segment
  • 157: Minor changes to routing near Lake Meridian
  • 158: Deleted, replaced by routes 162 (to Seattle from Lake Meridian P&R), 165 (north of Lake Meridian), and 168 (along SR 518 516)
  • 159: Deleted, replaced by routes 162 (to Seattle from Lake Meridian P&R) and 168 (in Covington and Timberlane)
  • 164: Deleted, but replaced and improved by new route 165, with minor routing changes in East Hil, improved night frequency, and new Sunday service
  • 166: Deleted, but replaced and improved by new route 165, with routing changes in West Kent and improved night frequency
  • 167: No changes
  • 168: Routing streamlined in East Hill, improved night and weekend frequency
  • 169: Replaced and extended by new route 160 (extended to Auburn on south end)
  • 180: Replaced by the following:
    • Kent-Seatac-Burien: New route 161, with routing change in Kent
    • Kent-Auburn: New route 160, with improved weekday frequency
    • South Auburn: New route 184, same as old route 151
  • 181: No changes
  • 183: No changes
  • 186/915: No changes
  • 190: Will now stop at Kent/Des Moines P&R
  • 192: Deleted, replaced by new route 162 and revised route 190 from Kent/Des Moines P&R
  • 906: Straightened routing in Benson Hill
  • 907: No changes
  • 908: Deleted, replaced by routes 105 (with increased peak frequency) and 240
  • 910: Deleted, replaced in North Auburn by increased frequency on new route 160 and in South Auburn by increased frequency on DART route 917
  • 913: Deleted, replaced by route 914 (in downtown Kent); route 165 (in The Lakes); route 161 (on S 212 St), and route 150 (along 68 Av S)
  • 914: Revised routing to serve areas served by deleted route 916. Service in certain parts of East Hill replaced by new route 165 and revised route 168.
  • 916: Deleted, replaced by route 914 (in downtown Kent and parts of East Hill), new route 165, and revised route 168
  • 917: Frequency improved to 30-40 minutes on weekdays; new Sunday service; White River Junction stop removed

63 Replies to “KC Council considers South End service change for September”

  1. I can’t find a map for this project. I hope there is one (and I just missed it). I found the map for the northeast King County changes to be very helpful. It even had a slider, so you could look at the network before and after.

    1. The downside of reporting on these changes when they are still before Council is that you usually don’t get the helpful materials Metro prepares for the public announcement.

  2. There’s an old joke where one guy asks another guy to ask him what the key to his comedy is. When the second guy is halfway through asking the question, the first guy interrupts and says “timing.”

    The timing on this couldn’t be worse. Previous plans should be put on hold. Let’s first get through a few phases of Inslee’s 4-Phase plan before there’s any talk of when a major service change should occur, especially one that’s just four months away.

    1. I think that it’s generally reasonable to consider waiting. However, I’m not sure how much of the change is desperately needed in this specific instance.

    2. It takes six month to get a service change heard and approved at the council, design the run cards, assign drivers and train them. If we postpone this until late summer or fall, then it will be next year before it can take effect. The primary issue seems to be the council’s time. Earlier the council withdrew an August TBD measure saying it didn’t have time to work on it in March and April due to the coronavirus emergency. If it’s now considering a Metro service change, then its time has been sufficiently freed up. There’s nothing wrong with making a strategic decision now of what direction they want the network to go, and then possibly amend it closer to the start date if necessary. The main part of the debate will be over by that point, and they can just make small changes. One purpose of this reorganization and why it should be decided now is it prebuilds the corridors/service/ridership around RapidRide I, And it straightens out some long-substandard detours.

  3. I have very limited experience riding buses here, but I did ride the 168 once to Maple Valley. The route just kept turning and turning and took forever. The thought of it being literally the only transit connection, outside rush hour, between Maple Valley and the outside world made me wonder just how anybody over there is expected to put up with it.

    While the straightening of routes is welcome, the biggest thing missing is an all-day express bus route between Kent Station and DT Seattle, shadowing the Sounder, when Sounder is not running. Otherwise, it just takes too long to connect with the outside world.

    1. I agree. The 150 takes over an hour, and that’s too slow.

      I’ve long thought that ST should redirect the 578 to Kent and replace the current routing by having the 594 stop at Federal Way, but that might require additional trips on the 594 for capacity.

      1. I don’t think the problem is capacity, I think it’s travel time. If you’re coming from Lakewood, then riding the loop through downtown Tacoma takes a long time. I used to take it on Sundays, and I thought of it as the “nap bus.” Adding a stop would make travel time even longer (though probably not longer than 2030 Link, come to think of it).

        This could be fixed by swapping the Tacoma routing between the 594 and 574 (have the 574 loop through downtown, and the 594 only go up TDS).

      2. I agree. I’m also skeptical that any ST Express bus should be slogging through downtown Tacoma. Just serve Tacoma dome with the express buses and run Tacoma Link more frequently for that downtown Tacoma connection.

        Even on a Sunday, I’ve seen the 594’s downtown Tacoma slog take as much as 20 minutes. Tacoma Link is much faster than that with it’s dedicated right of way. ST is just too cheap to run it often enough to be worth waiting for, in part because of all those service hours sunk into running buses down that same path, for the sake of the one seat ride.

      3. That may be a good idea. The complication there is that Tacoma Link has a unique operating pattern because it’s partially single-tracked. The reason it runs every 12 or 24 minutes is that it runs every 24 minutes with one train in service, and every 12 minutes with two. It can’t run more than two trains in service because the two trains need to pass each other in the middle of the line.

        A 12 or 24 minute train does not connect well with a 30 minute bus. The right answer is probably to add 6 minutes more layover time and run trains every 15 or 30 minutes. Maybe getting rid of the downtown loop will provide enough service hours to run two trains on the line 7 days/week.

        One thing that would be nice here (though nice to see more of in general) is a timed but guaranteed transfer (like there is with Sounder connectors), whereby the northbound 594 is timed to leave 3 minutes after the Tacoma Link arrives, but will wait longer to leave TDS if Tacoma Link arrives late, ensuring that everyone will have time to transfer. There is of course an issue with creating reliability chains like that, but the dedicated ROW of the train helps.

      4. Most Pierce Transit routes serve 10th and Commerce, not Tacoma Dome Station. Forcing 594 riders to transfer to another bus or Tacoma Link before they can reach their connecting route would incur a significant time penalty. Given most of the local routes are at 30-minute headways during weekdays and 60-minute headways the rest of the time, this would put transit-dependent users at an unacceptable disadvantage.

        The 590/592/594 routes were a creation of Pierce Transit several years before Sound Transit even existed. They shouldn’t be cannibalized to serve South King County.

      5. I’m also skeptical that any ST Express bus should be slogging through downtown Tacoma. Just serve Tacoma dome with the express buses and run Tacoma Link more frequently for that downtown Tacoma connection.

        I disagree. The Tacoma Dome is nowhere. Other than the rare show, there is nothing there. It would be like running buses to SoDo, long before there was Link, or even a bus tunnel. You pretty much kill all walk-up ridership or force Pierce County transit to take what little money they have and use it to send buses to the middle of nowhere ( As T. K. mentioned, you are introducing three seat rides. You are taking Tacoma, and treating it like a giant suburb, where everyone just drives, and will use the big parking lot to catch the bus into the city.

        This would especially absurd for buses to places like Kent, or Auburn. Other than rush hour (when Sounder is running) why would you ride the bus? Instead of driving to the park and ride, just drive the whole way. If anything, there should be more buses through Tacoma, as it makes a solid tail.

      6. I’ve wondered why not try things out during this time. Have 574 run to Burien after SeaTac & 594 drop by Federal Way. Rework the 592 to cover Hawk Prairie, temporarily. I know there’s issues in this and I’m well aware politics take part in this but I know it’d be possible even on an weekend (Only Saturdays & Sundays) limited basis.

      7. By the way, for the 594, the stops in downtown Tacoma are used by about 350 people. The stops in Lakewood and Dupont are used by about 80, and about a quarter of those are people who get off in downtown Tacoma.

      8. “Most Pierce Transit routes serve 10th and Commerce, not Tacoma Dome Station.”

        Then it’s really those routes that should be extended to Tacoma Dome Station.

      9. I’ve long thought that ST should redirect the 578 to Kent and replace the current routing by having the 594 stop at Federal Way

        In general, I would say that makes sense.

        I think I would start by getting rid of midday service to DuPont. Sorry, but there were only two riders from Dupont on the 594. I would then send the 574 to the Lakewood Park and Ride (after the Lakewood Transit Center) thus serving all three stops in Lakewood. I would then truncate the 594 in Tacoma. I would add a stop to the 594 — probably Kent/Des Moines. That is one of the fastest to serve and strategically located (as noted later). That means a two seat ride to downtown for someone heading from Lakewood to downtown Seattle. Big deal — as mentioned, the current routing is very slow, and not used that much. I would also kill off the 586.

        That is a fair amount of savings, so hopefully you could bump up the frequency on the 574 and 594 to every 20 minutes. You would try and time the two buses so that they reach Kent/Des Moines opposite each other. That would enable a good, fairly error-free transfer. Meanwhile, if you are in Kent (likely having arrived by another bus) and just miss that express bus to downtown Seattle (the 594) you take the bus to SeaTac, and take Link from there. Likewise, if you are going the other way, and headed to Tacoma, at least you can get to the Tacoma Dome.

        At that point, yes, I would definitely send the 578 to Kent before it goes to downtown Seattle.

        The big piece that is missing from the South Sound network is Tacoma to Auburn and Kent. Sounder covers this quite well during rush hour, but the two seat rides outside of peak are not ideal. Other than maybe a frequency bump, this isn’t much better. It is better from Tacoma to Kent, but worse to Auburn (although if they did manage a frequency bump, that would more than make up for it). If they got a grant, or somehow Sound Transit found some money in the seat cushions, I would run a bus from downtown Tacoma (not just the Tacoma Dome!) to Auburn and Kent. That would actually be a pretty fast bus, traveling on freeways almost the whole way. More than anything, the area needs a few more regional buses, and less of the light-rail-is-always-the-best-choice fantasy.

      10. “Most Pierce Transit routes serve 10th and Commerce, not Tacoma Dome Station.”

        Then it’s really those routes that should be extended to Tacoma Dome Station.

        No. Just no.

        Look, most north end buses that go to Seattle (D, E, 41, etc.) end downtown. But the 50 goes to SoDo. So should all the buses just run to SoDo, to make that connection easier? Of course not.

        Again, the Tacoma Dome is nothing more than a giant parking lot. You are asking a cash starved agency to spend a fortune to connect to a handful of Sound Transit buses that carry a fraction of the riders, while simultaneously serving a giant parking lot.

        If you extend all the Pierce County bus routes to the Tacoma Dome, you save a small percentage of the riders a transfer. If you extend a Sound Transit line to downtown, you save a very high percentage of the riders a transfer. Because, for the most part, that is where they are going. It is where the people are — it is where the business are. It makes sense for a transfer point for that very reason.

      11. I think the Tacoma Dome area needs both a station area TOD plan and an intermodal circulation plan. The ST station plans thus far are not intended to make all transfers friendly, so I’d expect the City of Tacoma to analyze things more fairly.

        I’ve often pointed out that the closer the TD Link platforms can get to Pacific Avenue the better connections will be possible. I am less concerned about Sounder transfers as I am transfers between Link, Tacoma Link and the buses as these will occur at most hours of the day.

        A circulation analysis should count the distance in feet between each boarding place, and the number of stair steps between each boarding place. Only with looking at measurements like these can the evaluation be properly framed for the public in assessing trade offs.

      12. “most north end buses that go to Seattle (D, E, 41, etc.) end downtown. But the 50 goes to SoDo. So should all the buses just run to SoDo,”

        In Seattle Link and Sounder are downtown so the buses don’t have to go to SODO. In Tacoma, if the ST Express routes stops going to downtown Tacoma, then Tacoma Dome is the only connection to the outside world. Forcing people to transfer twice in the space of a mile, or running the ST Express rotues to downtownTacoma in order to avoid extending the PT buses to Tacoma Dome, both sound unreasonable. There’s a huge cost to having the 594 serve downtown Tacoma: it forces it to loop around in a circle on different highways than a straight shot would take, on a slower way, and that adds significantly to the travel time between Lakewood and Seattle

      13. In Seattle Link and Sounder are downtown so the buses don’t have to go to SODO [to connect to the 50].

        It is similar in Tacoma. There are several buses as well as the streetcar connecting downtown Tacoma with the Tacoma Dome. It is just that not *all* Pierce County buses go to the Tacoma Dome. Asking Pierce County to send a bunch more buses there is a waste of resources for what amounts to a relatively small number of riders (those going from city to city). It would also mean a lot more two-seat rides. That is because downtown Tacoma is *the* destination in the South Sound. The buses aren’t all sent there to make transfers easier — that is a side benefit — they are sent there because it is where people want to go.

        running the ST Express routes to downtown Tacoma in order to avoid extending the PT buses to Tacoma Dome sound unreasonable.

        Why is it unreasonable to send two buses to Tacoma, but reasonable to send dozens of buses to the middle of nowhere?

        From a transfer standpoint, it is the same either way. But there are two big reasons why sending the ST buses to downtown Tacoma is better:

        1) Riders on the ST buses get a one seat ride to downtown Tacoma.
        2) It is cheaper overall.

        There are a couple advantages to doing the opposite:

        1) Riders on some PT buses get a one seat ride to the Tacoma Dome.
        2) Riders in places further south have to transfer, or get a slower trip to their destination.

        So it is a basic trade-off. Here is the thing, though. The Tacoma Dome Station is basically a giant parking lot, with long distance connections. It is a means to an end, not a destination itself. Meanwhile, downtown Tacoma has way more riders than the stops to the south in the middle of the day.

        There is only one all-day bus that goes from Lakewood and Tacoma to Seattle in the middle of the day — the 594. Here are the northbound boardings for it:

        DuPont/Lakewood/SR-512 — 213
        Downtown Tacoma — 369

        As I wrote up above, I think the 594 should simply be truncated in Tacoma. That would mean that Lakewood and SR-512 would have to make a transfer (from the 574). If the 594 skipped downtown Tacoma, then lots of people in Tacoma — who right now walk to the 594 — would have to make an extra transfer, all to save time for a relative handful (most of whom drove to the SR 512 parking lot). It is backwards. The people who should transfer are those from Lakewood.

      14. “In Seattle Link and Sounder are downtown so the buses don’t have to go to SODO [to connect to the 50].”

        “It is similar in Tacoma. There are several buses as well as the streetcar connecting downtown Tacoma with the Tacoma Dome.”

        No, I’m talking about people from the rest of Seattle getting to Link and Sounder. In Seattle many routes go to Intl Dist, and those that don’t transfer to Link at Westlake. If we had the Tacoma situation then people from west Tacoma and north Tacoma would have to transfer twice: once in downtown Tacoma and again a mile away at Tacoma Dome. If Tacoma Dome is going to be the regional transfer point for all of Tacoma except the far south, then most Tacoma routes should go to it. That’s the way local feeders to regional transit work. It’s not all a waste. UW Tacoma is south of 9th & Commerce, and the Dome district will densify somewhat and should densify a lot. And it’s only one mile. You haven’t even given PT a change to come up with creative routes, through-routes, and layovers that minimize the overhead. Metro has done this several times recently: come up with innovative ways to join two routes that I’d never thought of until they proposed it. PT may be able to do the same.

        “That is because downtown Tacoma is *the* destination in the South Sound.”

        “The:” destinations for the metropolitan area are in Seattle and Bellevue.

        “That is because downtown Tacoma is *the* destination in the South Sound.”

        Do you have evidence for that. My impression is downtown Tacoma doesn’t have a lot of relevance to most of Tacoma, to say nothing of east Pierce. It’s not a major jobs center like downtown Seattle. Tacoma has suburbanized so much that outside a couple blocks of office buildings, there’s not a lot of difference between it and the rest of Tacoma. Not a lot to draw people to.

      15. Which downtowns are major destinations for their cities? Clearly Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond are. and to a lesser extent Kirkland. Most of the others have atrophied to the point that they’re not much more relevant than other neighborhood centers in the city. A huge portion of the population rarely goes to their downtown, and they usually have to go elsewhere because what they’re looking for doesn’t exist downtown. Lynnwood, Everett, Kent, and Tacoma seem to be in this category. Renton is almost in this category except the large amount of big-box retail that happens to be downtown, so people shopping there are “going downtown” even though the experience is un-downtown-like. Downtown Tacoma has some jobs and destinations but I wouldn’t say that many.

        Plus some of the people who take transit to downtown Tacoma are doing so only because that’s where the transfers are: they’re forced to go downtown as opposed to having a destination downtown. You often complain that too many Metro routes go to downtown Seattle that shouldn’t.

    2. Southeast King County has long been underserved. Most people don’t realize south King County has 800K people — larger than Seattle. Kent is central, has industrial jobs in the northwest, is very diverse, has a large share of working-class/poor/transit-dependent riders, and higher per-capita ridership than the rest of South King County and probably most of the Eastside. Yet it has been neglected, with 1970s infrastructure and 1980s-level transit service. (Plus Sounder.) The biggest problems in Kent I see are:

      1. The 150 takes an hour to get to Seattle and there’s nothing better off-peak.
      2. Link+180 also takes an hour (plus a transfer wait of up to 30 minutes).
      3. The 168 (Kent-Maple Valley) is hourly Saturday/Sunday/evenings.
      4. The 164 (132nd Ave SE) has no Sunday service.
      5. The 166 (Kent-Des Moines-Burien) takes 23 minutes from Kent Station to Highline CC due to its Reith Road detour.

      One good thing is the routes west and east of Kent Station are through-routed together, so you can get to Highline CC or SeaTac easier if you live on a through-route.

      The proposed changes would fix #3, 4, and 5.

      1. I wouldn’t call it underserved as much as difficult to serve. It lacks the density of Bellevue, let alone Seattle. It is fairly distant, and you get farther away from Seattle, it actually widens, in contrast to Snohomish County (which narrows). In short, it sprawls, in every direction, with very little in the way of a central core.

        Tacoma is the obvious cultural center, and we all want it to succeed, but even Tacoma is low density, even if it is — by far — the most charming place in the region. Secondary towns, like Auburn and Kent, also have their charms, but again, lack density. Culturally I wouldn’t call it a giant sprawling suburb, but in reality — in terms of the transportation pattern — it is. People in the area work in Tacoma, Fort Lewis, Puyallup, Kent, SeaTac, Tukwila, Burien, and of course, Seattle. Serving a giant, sprawling suburb like that is extremely difficult. It is the same problem that L. A. has, except without the density to support good transit. It is a very difficult challenge, to say the least. Spending billions on side projects (like Tacoma Dome Link) aren’t likely to help much.

        References: Population Density Map: Employment density map: (requires a search, such as “King County” or “Pierce County”.

    3. If Tacoma Dome is going to be the regional transfer point for all of Tacoma except the far south, then most Tacoma routes should go to it.

      But that’s my point. The Tacoma Dome is *not* and should *not* be the regional transfer point — downtown Tacoma is. The express buses into Seattle from the south don’t stop at SoDo. They don’t even stop at King Street Station (which is clearly part of downtown). They keep going, and go through downtown. Even the buses that come in from the north (like the D and E) don’t stop close to the station — they stop at Yesler. And Jackson is way more part of downtown than the Tacoma Dome.

      Do you have evidence for [Downtown Tacoma being the major destination for the South Sound]

      Yes, and I’ve already written about it twice! Ridership in downtown Tacoma is strong — a lot stronger than lots of other places in the region. It is pretty much the only place that isn’t a park and ride lot served by South Sound ST buses.

      But keep in mind, South Sound buses are a tiny part of overall transit ridership. For Sound Transit, the Tacoma Dome has about 2,500 riders on the bus, and another 1,200 on Sounder. Just the Pierce Transit 1 has 5,300 riders and of course, it goes downtown. Overall, there are 28,000 riders in the Pierce County bus system, and most of those buses go to downtown Tacoma. Of the buses that carry over a thousand a riders a day, about 2/3 go to downtown Tacoma. Only one of those goes to the Tacoma Dome, and that is mainly because it is on the way (between Federal Way and downtown Tacoma).

      That is the problem — the Tacoma Dome is not on the way for most buses. It is well out of the way. The 1 (again, the most popular bus) would have to a do a weird detour (, saving some riders a transfer, but a lot of riders a fast ride into downtown. The 2 (the second most popular bus route) would have to do a strange loop de loop ( That is just a bad idea. Oh, and even after you do all that, somewhere around a third of your riders from the 594 are now forced to make a transfer, because they really were heading to the offices, museums, homes and major university that makes up downtown Tacoma.

      The buses that come in from the east already stop at the Tacoma Dome (e. g. the 501 to Federal Way). The 13 (from the north) already extends that far. Other than maybe the 11 and 16 — from the north — there are no buses to extend that far. But the 11 and 16 are minor buses, with a combined ridership of about 1,000. That isn’t where the riders are coming from. They are coming from the south and the east, and they are heading downtown. Extending the (relatively minor) Sound Transit express buses into downtown kills two birds with one stone. You avoid a transfer with a lot of riders, while making transfers easy for a lot more. If you tried to the opposite you would be forcing extra transfers, or very awkward routes on an agency that can hardly afford it.

      That would be putting the cart before the horse. In Tacoma, Pierce Transit is used a lot more than Sound Transit. When people do use the Tacoma Dome Station, they drive, since there is not much there but a gigantic parking lot.

      I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish that the Tacoma Station was like King Street Station, in that it was clearly part of downtown. Unfortunately it isn’t.

      1. I agree with you that Tacoma Dome isn’t the best end station.

        I really wish that we could trade the pretty useless East Tacoma Station for one just a little west of Tacoma Dome. That would eliminate the low-performing station at East Tacoma and put a station closer to Downtown Tacoma, Pacific Ave buses and UWT.

  4. North end: Please fix the route 40, it’s long and slow, and is over 90 minutes long. Metro: Multiple agencies are working on it. We’re going to redo roads, intersections, signals, etc. Travel times will be reduced by 10%.

    South end: Please fix the route 180, it’s long and slow, and is over 90 minutes long. Metro: Fine. We’ll break it into three different routes. True, it will take longer to get from Auburn to Burien, but it will feel less long since it’s broken up into pieces.

    1. Nobody rides the 40 all the way from Northgate to downtown. That’s what the 41 is for. In the case of Kent, you can’t make the same argument about the 150 because the faster alternative (Sounder) has such a limited schedule.

      1. Actually yes it’s a small number but there are some who do. I was one of them. I worked for the CVS in SLU. It was easier for me to just ride the 40 all the way there than take a 2-transfer ride to get to work/home. It meant I could sleep on the bus heading to work and when I got off, unless it was during rush hour going home, I could usually stretch out.

    2. Sam, you’ve got my curiosity up. Where exactly are you talking about going on the Route 40? If it’s Ballard, the D-line will take you Rapidly to a Route 44 transfer or five minute westward walk to the library.

      If it’s Northgate- really is a shame transit passengers couldn’t do the politics, starting with threats and Convention Center sit-in demonstrations to keep the 41 in the DSTT pending Link opening.

      But by the schedule, that’s still just a fifteen minute ride from Third and Pine. Somebody is doubtless playing a really dirty trick on you by shifting your transit inquiries to the Times Editorial Board desk that handles Seattle’sDying(tm).

      You might, though, want to always board a Ballard coach with not only your ID in your wallet, but a residential property image of your house with you standing in front of it. If your house is really little, though, can’t help you.

      Mark Dublin

    3. They aren’t saying that unless you mean the 150 instead of the 180. The 150 has significant end-to-end ridership like the 550 because it’s — wait for it — the primary route between Seattle and the largest city in south-central King County, plus the busy industrial area it serves. So end-to-end travel time really matters, especially because most Kent residents don’t live right in downtown Kent but in East Hill and beyond, so it’s only part of their trip.

      The 40 and 180’s riders are mostly overlapping shorter-distance trips. Downtown to Fremont, downtown/Fremont to Ballard, Ballard to Greenwood/Northgate. Auburn to Kent, Auburn/Kent to north Kent and SeaTac jobs and flights, SeaTac to Burien. Nobody takes the 40 from downtown to Northgate because the 41 is much faster. They probably don’t take the 40 from Fremont to Greenwood because the 5 is there. They don’t take the 180 from southeast Auburn to Burien because there’s little at each end to go to — certainly less than at Auburn Station, Kent Station, or SeaTac.

      The southern 180 was originally part of the 150. The northern 180 used to be its own route, and may have been combined or extended from earlier routes. The purpose of joining the current 180 was not so much to give an Auburn-Burien one-seat ride but to truncate the 150 so that it could be more frequent and reliable in its core service area. The 180’s segments just happened to be convenient to join, and it also gets Auburn workers to SeaTac when Metro started realizing that not everybody works in downtown Seattle.

      1. The smaller 180 was extended to Auburn years ago when the mayor there whined that the articulated 150 was dilapidating the streets there. He didn’t complain about truck traffic at the time.

      2. The 180 was carved out of the old 340 from Burien to Aurora Village via Bellevue (One zone fare even). It took over the Burien to Renton leg. The northern 180 wasn’t its own route.

      3. The 180 only overlaps a small part of the old 340 route between the airport and Burien, which was covered by the 140 until its conversion into the F Line. The portion of the 180 between the airport and Kent was entirely new routing introduced with the restructure that truncated the 150 to Kent.

  5. Call it a citizen-activist organization, a pro-transit-party youth wing, or Everybody Connected With Seattle Transit Blog, what’s needed is some ongoing hands-on understanding of what’s involved in planning and installing a single route.

    Any idea, David, how many hard-core drivers would touch this work with a 20′ pole? If the old Route 6 Aurora was back, I’d pick it night-shift lifelong rather than plan anything. Since precision machining and funeral services at Lake Washington Tech are probably full, Green River probably has room for a course on Route 150 Adjustment.

    The Post-COVID educational world will likely have a lot of openings like this. Sad. Along with my favorite south-end route the 107, because it ran along the lake from Rainier Beach South, I recall some good passenger rides on the 150 out of the Tunnel. Slow, but got me where I needed. No way to put it back temporary, is there?

    Mark Dublin

  6. I note that some of these routes will serve Link stations in 2024/5 — but many won’t. Stride on 405 could be running by then too. That may result in another major restructure.

    The route diagrams associated with the restructure generally aren’t showing all of the ST service. That includes nor showing stations that are open today, like at Angle Lake.

    I can’t say whether the several community routes planned here that don’t connect to either Stride or Link (noting that Sounder is only a peak service) will be embraced as anything more as basic coverage service. Meanwhile, we build very expensive parking garages all over these towns — as opposed to design a great feeder system to offer a reasonably fast choice besides driving to park at a Link, Stride or Sounder station.

    It implies to me that our transit operating agencies aren’t particularly pedaling on the same tandem bicycle so to speak. I hope that another restructure gets considered in five more years to do that better.

    1. This gets into the missing ST express bus from Kent Station to Seattle when Sounder isn’t running. Ideally, it would even be a STRIDE bus, with freeway stations for South center Mall and Tukwila P&R, which might be enough to allow a restructuring of the 150. Unfortunately, the construction cost would not be cheap, and it’s not in the ST3 plan. Sound Transit has consistently and completely ignored Kent except for rush hour. Even Puyallup gets a Sounder shadow bus (the 578), while Kent gets only the slow 150.

      1. @ asdf2 Let’s fantasize for just a moment: if ST were to incorporate an express bus from Kent, what do you imagine? I’m thinking of a bus that starts at Muckleshoot>Auburn Station>Kent Station>S. Renton (when the new facility opens)>Sodo Busway>Downtown.

      2. I think South Renton adds too much time, plus duplicates the 566. I would do it with freeway stations, like this:
        1) Kent Station
        2) Southcenter Mall freeway station
        3) Tukwila P&R freeway station
        4) downtown, 4th/Seneca

        This route could also be extended southward to Puyallup, replacing the 578, but only if a suitable alternative could be found for federal way, perhaps a stop on the 594, making up the time by skipping the downtown Tacoma slog.

        Of course, this requires some serious construction $$. Maybe, with malls dying, a Southcenter freeway station isn’t worth it, but the assumption is that something will eventually come up in it’s place.

      3. Let’s put some numbers to this:

        – Metro schedules put a 150 trip from Kent Station to Downtown Seattle at 64 minutes.

        – ST says that it’s 42 minutes from KDM Ststion to Downtown Seattle (Westlake?).

        That’s a 22 minute difference!

        A reasonable thing would appear to be to assign two or three buses to a (mostly?) non-stop shuttle route between the two stations running on SR 516. It could then run at 10-minute intervals and meet every Link train. A non-stop shuttle could probably make that trip in 10 minutes midday.

        It’s tempting to add route length to the west (Des Moines), east (East Kent Hill) or southeast (Auburn) but — but given the increased prominence of Kent Station as a hub — a quick shuttle could be the lowest cost strategic bus service option.

      4. The problem is half the 22 minute savings gets eaten up on the bus ride west from Kent Station, most of the other half on the transfer overhead. Although those headed north of downtown, that would need to transfer to Link anyway, would save a bundle.

        Continuing the bus route further east to allow at least some riders to avoid the transfer at Kent Station would also help.

        Such a route would also enable easy transfers to Link in the other direction, towards Tacoma. It definitely makes sense. But it still wouldn’t be as fast in getting to Seattle as a bus down I-5.

    2. Where are you finding the route diagrams?

      Metro has switched from ad hoc planning to long-term planning. It wrote a long-term plan in 2015 and this is a step toward it. Because some things aren’t in place yet, such as Stride or KDM Link Station, the routes may have to change again later. But generally Metro is trying to install the permanent future routes. Then future changes will be mostly focused on frequency improvements and street improvements rather than alignment changes. We’ve debated all these corridors for five years.

      Sound Transit sees its mission as primarily high-capacity transit (Link, Sounder, Stride), and ST Express offers some fill-in service between the primary urban centers. So Seattle-Bellevue-Everett-Tacoma have ST Express. Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Redmond are connected to Seattle as secondary centers. Auburn and Issaquah are connected to Seattle as third-level centers. But Kent and Renton are not. Why is that? It goes back to what South King County wanted in the 1990s.

      South King County wanted Link on 99/I-5 and Sounder in the central rail corridor. At the time ST told south-central/southeast King County that Sounder was so expensive that if they got Sounder they wouldn’t get much else. They said, “We want Sounder anyway”, and that was that. Never mind that Sounder doesn’t run off-peak. (Although a couple midday runs were added much later.) Without Sounder, Kent and Renton probably would have ST Express to downtown Seattle.

      So ST has its baseline ST Express service, and it’s up to Metro to fill in any more. Metro has additional peak expresses to Kent, Issaquah, and Kenmore/Bothell. And in Metro’s long-range plan there are two all-day Seattle-Kent expresses. The first, in the 2025 plan, is downtown-Kent-Auburn on 167. The second, in the 2040 plan, is West Seattle Junction – WV – Burien – SeaTac – Kent. (Thus picking up part of the 560 that Stride will abandon, and providing the missing Link-Kent express.)

      Kent’s location is also problematic. Link+180 can just barely match even the current slow 150, and that’s without the transfer wait to the 30-minute 180. Link to KDM+RapidRide to Kent Station will also take around an hour. The 180 is already pretty fast between Kent and Seatac, so an express can’t get much faster. the 158/159 take 45 minutes from downtown to Kent Station, compared to Sounder’s 20 minutes. So Kent is geograpically screwed even with all-day expresses and RapidRides — only all-day Sounder could really alleviate it.

  7. Upcoming Confusion:

    To transfer to Line 1 on Link or RapidRide I just a few miles east of Link?

    It’s not featured yet, but I really wish Metro would give up on using an “I” as a RapidRide letter. “S” should also be off the table too — now that South Sounder will have that letter.

    1. Here, here! I have commented to Metro on each RapdidRide survey to change RapidRide I to something else.

      1. Good that you point this out!

        Now that the ST announced rebranding of Link from colors to using Line 1, renaming RapidRide I seems even more important than it was in February.

        As an aside, I think that It’s a useful result that the ST branding will have Line 1 to areas generally with Metro 100 routes and Line 2 to areas generally with 200 routes. I didn’t see that mentioned as intentional but it certainly will make it easier for future riders.

    2. Other cities have subway 1, bus 1, commuter rail 1. People usually know what kind of vehicle they’re looking for.

      1. Yeah, especially since many areas (like the south end) have only one commuter line, and one subway line. The letters/numbers of Link or Sounder will be meaningless to folks south of Rainier Beach. Direction and the correct vehicle are the only things to worry about (and if you are at the correct stop, you will get on the correct vehicle).

  8. Why this urge to delete the 180 and replace it with three routes? If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The solution to long routes is to fix the route’s layout, not to chop it into pieces. That’s literally why Metro has Route Coordinators on the payroll.

    1. Mostly because one part of the route has much higher ridership than the other two and Metro wanted to boost frequency on the high-ridership part.

    2. I used to live and work along route 180 and can attest that the majority of its ridership was between Auburn and Kent Station. Most of the bus would empty at Kent Station, indicating that customers would transfer to other services. Given that routes 150 and 169 are the most popular routes in that area, I think it makes total sense to combine the 169 and 180 so as to eliminate a transfers for many customers and greatly improve the customer experience.

      1. I currently live along the 180 line, and see most of its ridership empty at RTC. I see this split as creating transfers, not eliminating them.

    3. The change to the 180 is somewhat arbitrary, but it comes from Metro’s desire to bring Auburn into the planned Renton-Kent RapidRide and have one north-south corridor with one RapidRide line rather than two. For what it’s worth, there will be a one-seat ride from Auburn Station to Kent Station, East Hill, Valley Medical Center, and downtown Renton. Is that better than a one-seat ride from Auburn to SeaTac and Burien, also serving southeast Auburn? It’s hard to say. But it is a north-south grid, and that might be worth something. It will also complement the A on 99. And Metro plans other east-west RapidRides to complete the grid. The F is already running. A second is planned on KDM Road, and a third from Federal Way (181).

  9. Problem with Tacoma Link/ST594 transfer at Tacoma Dome: passengers need to literally run up or downstairs between present 594 stop and the streetcar tracks.

    I wonder if Link can’t give the streetcars the privilege of sharing their right-of-way and traffic signal preempts? Between the Convention Center and Historic Museum, which also houses the excellent espresso at Anthem Cafe, streetcar track will have to rail-grooved paving for the buses.

    Another solution? Move the 594/574 stop to where Link stops on 25th Street, right in front of the new future-train entrance to Freighthouse Square itself. 25th might be able to get busway treatment to Portland Avenue and I-5. Anthem might be amenable to partnering another outlet with existing espresso stand right at the door where Sounder stops. Present owner was there first, but could use some help.

    Mark Dublin

  10. I remember when route 150 ran all the way to Auburn and at 30 min intervals at most. It was horrendously late, even during non-peak hours and caused many a headache for transferees at Southcenter. I was glad when Metro truncated the bus at Kent Station and increased service to every 15 min. But they shafted Auburn customers with 30 min route 180 (Metro even started off with a 30-foot bus but shifted to a 40 footer in less than a week due to overcrowding).

    I’m glad to FINALLY see Metro come to terms with the great need for improvements in South King County and hope this is just the start.

    1. As somebody who drove that iteration of the 150, I can tell you it was a slog to drive. Ridership was high, the schedule was extremely tight, the Breda equipment was too slow for the fast roads along the whole length of the route, and breaks (while not the worst ever) weren’t all that long.

      1. Would like to see the term “Breda” kept on topic in same category as “COVID.” A sweeping project that could not have been better suited to the machine, its reputation ruined and its finances robbed.

        Only anywhere-approaching travesty was the way we well, “SEWAGE” -canned Neoplan’s excellent prototype because they would not give us a performance bond. A procurement this far from standard, workaround more than possible.

        Like credit, must accept a demerit where it’s due. A charter member of the Advisory committee, I publicly called for the Bredas to be kept and brought up to workable rather than repatriated to Sicily, as they should have been.

        My fear was that Metro would just go for bigger ventilation fans and run the Tunnel with standard diesel buses. Hybrid emissions, Dave…..did the compromise leave passengers with their lungs a slight shade darker?

        Lesson being that a publicly-owned agency owes its owners an enforcement hand to be sure that never again does a Project of the Century need another hundred years to recover from, in cost and reputation. I like the Transit Radical Youth-league (TRY?) idea, but there are doubtless others.

        And to be Whole, Truth demands one testimony more. Breda gave its supervisors coats with shoulder epaulets that should’ve relocated their offices in Benaroya Hall for an opera. One said to me: “We can’t get a single decision from the Council. THIS IS NOT A BREDA!”

        Making a Breda worse…tell me any worker-owned cooperative couldn’t have done better than THAT.

        Mark Dublin

  11. David,
    did the council take action on the ordinance last week, April 28?

    1. Embarrassingly, I’m not sure. The minutes aren’t up and I haven’t watched the video.

  12. This is a very informative and helpful write-up. Much appreciated.

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