On Thursday, Sound Transit staff presented a revised draft 2021 service plan, which the ST Board will vote on in November.
Three routes have changes in the revised draft, vs. the original draft:
- Link Light Rail would be upgraded to 10-minutes off-peak headway, as compared to the long-term continuation of 15-minute headway in the first draft. Late evening headway would be 15 minutes instead of the originally-proposed (and current) 30 minutes. These upgrades would take place as part of King County Metro’s March service change.
- Route 555 (Northgate to Bellevue), currently suspended, would continue to be suspended after Northgate Link opens. Metro route 271 would be expected to handle the reverse-peak ridership on the corridor.
- Route 586 (Tacoma – UW), originally slated for elimination with the opening of Northgate Link, would continue on, with a stop added at Federal Way Transit Center. The presentation did not specify whether the new stop would be added in March or September of 2021.
One of the themes from feedback was summarized as “Reduced off-peak service frequency reduces usefulness of Link, particularly when making transfers.” As I wrote Friday, the frequency upgrades could make a lot of transfer waits longer, since Metro has established 15-minute off-peak headway for eighteen Link connector routes.
However, the off-peak headways on Metro’s four most popular (i.e. highest ridership) Link connector routes — 7, 36, 44, and the A Line — still match the pre-2020 10-minute off-peak headway on Link. Route 44 has some periods of 12-minute off-peak headway, but that could easily be upgraded to all 10-minute. Bringing routes 8, 45, 48, and 49 back up to 10-minute mid-day headway could be a possibility, especially if Seattle voters pass Proposition 1.
The decision to continue route 586 was partially due to the strongly negative response to 586 elimination from the 26 respondents to the Pierce County portion of the draft service plan. Per the presentation, “Equity analysis identified disparate impact and disproportionate burden.”
That burden includes time involved in transferring in downtown Seattle. Keeping those riders and the buses they are in out of the Central Business District could help marginally during the period of maximum constraint. If all the suspended service comes back with the September 2021 service change, less the routes proposed for cancellation, downtown traffic congestion would get noticeably worse. Allowing riders who use to ride the now-suspended Metro route 197 to hop on the 586 Express would enable a few more buses to not be downtown during the peak period.