While there is a lot of lost service in the King County Metro network due to COVID-19 and its economic impacts, Metro has nevertheless managed to make lemonade out of lemons by assembling an increasingly robust network of buses connecting to Link Light Rail stations at frequencies that match Link’s temporary off-peak frequency of every 15 minutes. Link’s frequency is planned to be every 15 minutes during off-peak hours, until late evening, likely through 2021. Sound Transit is preparing for a long pandemic. The recent spike in new cases and deaths backs up their pessimism.
The following routes that serve Link stations outside of, or just on the periphery of, downtown have 15-minute off-peak weekday headway. (Link now runs every 8 minutes during the peak period on weekdays.) Unless otherwise noted, they also have 15-minute headway during the day on weekends.
- Route 8 (Capitol Hill Station and Mt. Baker Station), but 20-minute headway on Sundays
- Route 14 (all downtown stations and Mt. Baker), but 30-minute headway on weekends
- Route 21 (all downtown stations and Stadium Station), but 20-minute headway on Saturdays and 30-minute headway on Sundays
- Route 45 (University of Washington Station), but 20-minute headway on Sundays
- Route 48 (UW and Mt. Baker)
- Route 49 (Capitol Hill and Westlake Station)
- Route 60 (Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill Station), but 30-minute headway on weekends
- Routes 65 and 67, which are interlined (UW)
- Route 75 (UW), but 30-minute headway on weekends
- Route 101 (all downtown stations, Stadium, and SODO Station), but 30-minute headway on weekends
- Route 106 (ID/CS, Mt. Baker, Columbia City Station, Othello Station, and Rainier Beach Station)
- Route 124 (all downtown stations, Stadium, and Tukwila International Boulevard Station), but 30-minute headway on weekends
- Route 150 (all downtown stations, Stadium, and SODO)
- Route 372 (UW), but 30-minute headway on weekends
- The RapidRide F Line (TIBS)
- The First Hill Streetcar (Capitol Hill and IDCS), but 20-minute headway on Sundays
- The South Lake Union Streetcar (Westlake)
Just four routes serving Link stations outside of downtown still have better-than-15-minute off-peak weekday headway.
- The A Line (TIBS, SeaTac Airport Station, and Angle Lake Station), with 10-minute off-peak headway from morning all the way to late evening.
- Route 7 (all downtown stations and Mt Baker), with 10-minute off-peak headway on weekdays and Saturdays, and 12-minute headway on Sundays
- Route 36 (all downtown stations, Beacon Hill, and Othello) with 10-minute-or-better headway weekdays and Saturdays, and 15-minute headway Sundays.
- Route 44 (UW) with 10-12-minute off-peak weekday headway and 12-15-minute headway on weekends
Routes 8, 45, 48, and 49 had better-than-15-minute mid-day weekday headway before the September service change.
Route 60 just got bumped up to all-day 15-minute-or-better headway on weekdays, making it an excellent connector between Capitol Hill Station and First Hill medical complexes.
Other routes serving Link stations with worse-than-15-minute headway are 50, 107, 128, 156, 161, 255, 271, 635, and ST Expresses 542, 560, and 574.
In a case of perfect timing / bad luck, route 255 was re-routed to the University of Washington back in March, just in time for the World Health Organization to declare the pandemic, and schools to shut down. Route 255’s ridership was further sabotaged by the drop in Link Light Rail headway to 20 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends, up until the September service change. The route now drops to 20-minute headway mid-day, seven days a week. Hopefully it will be at the front of the line for a relatively cheap frequency upgrade now that I-976 has been struck down by the State Supreme Court.
Route 271 similarly comes tantalizing close to matching Link headway mid-day, but drops to 20-minute headway for part of it. A chunk of bringing it to 15-minute headway would be converting reverse-direction deadhead into two-way service. Weekends drop to 30-minute headway.
Route 161 may also be due some love since its predecessor, route 180, was the most ridership-resilient route in the system over the summer. The bump to 15-minute peak headway was a planned part of the South King County service restructure, not a reward for keeping 74% of its pre-pandemic ridership. However, bumping it up from 30- to 20-minute off-peak headway might not improve its utility as a Link connector, while doubling the off-peak frequency would be roughly twice as expensive as the move to 20-minute headway.
Largely-orphaned route 50 is unlikely to have justification for doubling its frequency without first doubling its frequency. However, it just returned to its regular path, but making use of the new Lander St bridge. So, now it has a much faster and more-reliably-timed path between West Seattle and SODO Station, along with support from camera-enforced bus lanes on the Harbor Island Bridge. We’ll see if the more direct and reliable path, along with the desire of West Seattleites to escape from the peninsula without going the long way around, will lead to a ridership uptick. The City Council could give route 50 some support from the Transportation Benefit District, and the chance to see what it could do with real frequency that Metro never gave it. But the upgrade would not be cheap.
The City Council could also use some of the TBD funding to make the 15-minute Link connector network more robust on weekends, and able to match Link frequency late into the evening. Just eleven routes connect to Link outside of downtown with 15-minute headway on Saturdays. Just nine do so on Sundays. Routes 8, 14, 21, 45, 50, 60, 75, and the First Hill Streetcar would be eligible for TBD bump-up funding to get them to 15-minute off-peak headway seven days a week.
Everyone in Seattle, please vote yes on Seattle Proposition 1 to keep funding the TBD, for these and many other reasons.