Metro is in Phase 3 of the North Link Connections Mobility Project. They have proposed running several rush-hour buses past Link stations to First Hill and South Lake Union. This is a bad idea.
The Express Routes
Here is a listing of the express routes, and the number of trips each will take:
64 — Lake City, Wedgwood, Roosevelt, South Lake Union, Downtown (24 trips a day)
302 — Richmond Beach, Aurora Village, Northgate, First Hill (26 trips a day)
303 — Aurora Village, Northgate, First Hill (26 trips a day)
322 — Kenmore, Roosevelt, First Hill (37 trips a day)
361 — Kenmore, Roosevelt, South Lake Union, Downtown (31 trips a day)
All of the routes go by a Link station before heading over the ship canal. They only operate during rush-hour, when Link will be frequent. In many cases, these routes will spend more time getting to downtown than they do getting to Link. Since most of the riders will simply get off at Link, the ridership per hour will be far less than if the bus stopped at a station.
We can see today that the express buses generally don’t perform well. Even the buses that run to downtown Seattle lag other routes. The 372 performs better than the 312, and a lot better than the 309. The 65 and 75 dwarf the 64. It isn’t about total ridership, but ridership per hour. The 309 and 312 carry a lot of people, but those buses spend a lot of time getting to downtown, and traveling through it. It is much more efficient to just end the route at the station.
There are also issues with crowding. On some corridors (like Lake City Way) the buses are often full. It is common for riders to see a 522 or 312 go by before they can get on. Thus it is quite possible that many of the riders who want that one-seat ride to First Hill or South Lake Union will end up taking a 522 anyway. At that point, it isn’t clear if they get anything out of the express.
I don’t think there will be many riders that will transfer (or walk) to a bus headed to South Lake Union or First Hill. The main transfer point will be a Link station, where the train will be more frequent, and often faster. It would be crazy to take a train from the U-District up to Roosevelt or Northgate, just so you can catch a bus to First Hill, or South Lake Union. At best these buses perform similar to the existing 64 or 312 — subpar, and much worse than a truncated version of the same route.
I have no doubt that some riders will find these buses popular. I would like an express bus from my house to my work. But they simply aren’t cost effective, and make no sense when other service is being cut. It is hard to see why folks in Wallingford no longer have a fast one-seat ride to downtown Seattle (via the 26), but others avoid an easy transfer.
Link light rail will run frequently, and be able to carry plenty of riders. It doesn’t make sense to waste precious transit resources pretending it doesn’t exist. The money would be better spent increasing frequency in other parts of the network.