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.
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
- 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