As Metro applies its new, equity-focused framework, some North King representatives have questions

Northgate Station

Beginning last year, Metro developed a “mobility framework” that expressed the values that would guide service allocation. Alongside technocratic measures like ridership potential, the new framework considers notions of economic and racial equity to correct longtime disparities in investment. An “equity cabinet” of representatives of various disadvantaged groups would shepherd the production of derived documents like the service guidelines.

Those derived documents don’t exist yet, but the framework clearly points to substantially more investment in places like South King County. And here the framework collides with the ongoing North Link bus restructures. Specifically, the 47,000 hours that used to operate Route 41 between Northgate and Downtown, now entirely obviated by North Link.

Some of those 47,000 hours are disappearing into a less ambitious Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) that cuts taxes, and diverts resources to fare subsidies and West Seattle Bridge mitigation. But much of the rest is likely to end up in South King County. In response, Proviso 6 of the current King County budget legislation, introduced by Councilmember Rod Dembowski, withholds $5.4m (47,000 hours) from the Metro budget until the Executive produces a service plan that deploys those hours “in the project area” and meets several goals:

1.  Maintaining the span and frequency of transit service in the project area to implement the goals for restructuring service in the King County Metro Service Guidelines  adopted by Ordinance 18301 (“the service guidelines”) that “service restructures will have the goals of focusing frequent service on the service segments with the highest ridership and route productivity, creating convenient opportunities for transfer connections between services, and matching capacity to ridership demand to improve the productivity and cost-effectiveness of service”;

2.  Enhancing transfer connections to Link light rail to implement the service guidelines’ goal that, when transfers are required as a result of a service restructure, “the resulting service will be designed for convenient transfers” and that “travel time penalties for transfers should be minimized”;

3.  Restoring and enhancing east-west transit connections to facilitate travel within and through the project area and transfers to and from Link light rail; and

4.  Including Seattle-funded transit service hours approved for the project area to the extent possible.

This proviso applies technocratic service allocation metrics, but does not mention equity, and all within the guardrail of not moving service hours out of the neighborhoods getting North Link.

In Tuesday’s Budget Committee public comment, transit activists came out against Proviso 6. Anna Zivarts, member of the Equity Cabinet and representative of Rooted in Rights, said that “we should be prioritizing providing service to the transit-reliant… this often means prioritizing service to areas historically underserved by transit.”

Katie Wilson of the Transit Riders’ Union said that it doesn’t “make sense to restrict these hours to the area around North Link” and that Proviso 6 set a “dangerous precedent” by blowing up a new framework that “balances ridership, regional growth, and equity” and avoids “struggle every time there are services to allocate.”

Kelsey Mesher from Transportation Choices Coalition added similar sentiments.

In an email yesterday, Mr. Dembowski said he intended only to require a report to explain the guidelines, not to actually retain the hours in his district, and that he would revise it today to be clearer. On the other hand, he clearly isn’t happy about losing the hours: “That’s a loss of about 10% of the service hours for the project area. It runs directly contrary to the equity goals in the mobility framework and pits economically disadvantaged and BIPOC communities in one part of the county against those same communities in another part. I believe that is oppressive and racist and I’m having a real problem with it.”

Dembowski added that “I strongly support the equity direction for providing transit service,” and that “The longer term solution is to bring more funding to the system and not pit communities in need against each other.”

His colleague, Councilmember Claudia Balducci, tried to strike a balance but pushed back against reserving service for particular areas.

“As we build out a very robust light rail system, I believe the restructure makes sense, as it eliminates duplicative routes and adds great local service around stations. That said, this discussion should happen in the planning process, when we have public input and can judge the proposal in its entirety, and not in the budget. We will have a discussion about updating the guidelines this summer. We should not make arbitrary cutoffs to keep hours in an area, but use the guidelines that apply to all of the county.”

Claudia Balducci

There are four separate issues here: (1) the propriety of throwing sharp elbows to win resources for a district; (2) the re-injection of Council politics into specific service changes, rather than high-level planning objectives; (3) the relative merits of foregrounding racial equity, or more technocratic measures as the proviso does; and (4) the correctness, whatever that means, of transferring resources from Northgate to South King County in the context of broad service cuts and a ripening Link investment at Northgate. The last is muddied by the fact that the planning guidelines for the new framework are not complete.

The Budget Committee will take up this legislation, including the proviso, at 9:30am today.

43 Replies to “KC Council quarrels over Metro service guidelines”

  1. #4 sets a bad precedent. Why should anyone support service restructures in their part of town again, if the outcome is to ship service to somewhere far away? When the service stays local, you can sell it as a tradeoff where you give up a one-seat ride, but gain frequency and span.

    As an example, I supported the 255 service restructure in Kirkland, my part of town, in large part because the service-hours stayed local and I got greatly improved weekend frequency out of it. If the result were the same 30-60 minute service we had before – plus the Link transfer – with the saved service shipped to South King, I probably would not have supported it.

    1. I would disagree that all restructured service areas have to stay in the same area, whatever “area” means.

      I would also disagree with using none of the restructured hours for the area.

      That said, there were some east-west portions of the first Northgate Link restructure draft that seemed a little wierd, like N 85th St corridor backtracking to Northgate Station. I think that part died not because of less funding, but because of tepid interest in the route change.

      Restoring east-west service does not mean having route 45 continue from Roosevelt Station to UW (thought that is already happening). But it also better not mean bringing back routes 71, 76, or defending route 64 if ridership on the latter becomes a dud. That also does not necessarily mean defending the long route 62. Hopefully we will have some east-west routes that really are east-west, and don’t terminate at the stations.

      And, oh, BTW, route 50 is an east-west connection still waiting for its investment from either Metro or the City after the southeast Link bus restructures. Route 60 does east-west, and has gotten investment, mostly from the TBD and from Metro during the bridge closure, not from the long-ago restructure. Route 50 finally has its bridge over the reliability-killing BN&SF train track, but I would also recommend considering not having route 50 get off the Spokane St Viaduct between Delridge and Beacon Hill. Shorten it and make it more frequent. It’s main Link connection is at Columbia City Station.

      The keeping-it-in-the-area argument was also used by the “2” lady (sorry, I can’t remember her name) to say Capitol Hill was “stealing” hours from First Hill. She yelled loud enough to get her way and destroy a good First Hill restructure.

      1. First Hill and Capitol Hill are close enough that it is effectively the same area. You can’t make that argument when comparing Northgate and Kent.

        In 13 years in the Seattle area, the number of times I’ve had reason to visit Kent/Auburn is nearly zero. There is nothing there that I can’t find much closer to home.

        The only times I can even recall passing through the area is in a car on the way to or from Mt. Rainier.

      2. I would disagree that all restructured service areas have to stay in the same area, whatever “area” means.

        OK, so consider this scenario:

        The 28 performs about average in our system. However, it only runs every half hour. It spends about half of its time getting from Fremont to downtown. So, as a cost saving measure, Metro terminates it in Fremont.

        But instead of running the 28 twice as often, we run the 101 more often. Sorry, but that’s nuts. People who use the 28 would obviously be pissed. Why should they be forced to transfer, while folks in the south end don’t?

        Likewise, it would be crazy in reverse. Imagine the 101 no longer goes downtown and folks in Renton have to transfer to Link to get downtown. Now imagine that instead of having more frequent service for those routes, service is transferred to the 28. Sorry, but that’s crazy.

        It makes sense to keep the savings that come from restructures in those places, at least initially. If those routes turn out to be dogs (if a truncated, more frequent 28 performs much worse than average) then go ahead and shift service back to some other part of town.

    2. “4. Including Seattle-funded transit service hours approved for the project area to the extent possible.”

      asdf2, Christopher Cramer and everybody else, a major part of both KCM’s and Sound Transit’s whole purpose was to make Seattle’s existence a benefit to the whole Central Puget Sound Region.

      Worldwide history of Separatist Movements is about like India right how. Not freedom on any side, but the richer participant becoming a permanently dysfunctional dictatorship, whose response to dissent is to keep rekindling the blame on whoever it got separated from.

      I wouldn’t doubt Finland’s been causing some problems about its peace-keeping troops west of 24th Northwest, but Ballard’s independence movement has never really been any serious problem for its decades-long union with Seattle.

      If the above two Agencies are not fulfilling their purpose, both of their replacement is certainly within the rights of all their residents. But because of the Tenor of the Times (not Mike Lindblom’s employer!) our own time might be better spent working out positive possibilities.

      Possible personal unifier: I doubt Seattle is the only municipality in Central Puget Sound whose arterial pavement can tear a tie-rod off a bus. Diesel, hybrid, trolleywire, or battery, equal opportunity destroyer. A campaign to forbid the repairs from also improving transit?

      This morning our Region could surely use a Worldwide laugh.

      Mark Dublin

    3. That said, there were some east-west portions of the first Northgate Link restructure draft that seemed a little weird, like N 85th St corridor backtracking to Northgate Station. I think that part died not because of less funding, but because of tepid interest in the route change.

      What change are you talking about? You mean the proposed 61? It doesn’t backtrack at all (the 40 backtracks — and has backtracked for years). It is a fairly straightforward east-west connection, with service from Lake City, Northgate, Greenwood and Crown Hill. It would provide an essential connection in that part of town, shaving a half hour off of dozens of trips.

      The 61 is off the table because of funding — not because of “tepid” support.

    4. I don’t understand #4. There has been a fear throughout the lifetime of Seattle’s TBD that Metro would use TBD-funded hours as an excuse to shift base hours out of Seattle, thus leading to the result that Seattle’s frequency wouldn’t improve and Seattle would instead be subsidizing suburban service. The contract between Seattle and Metro was written specifically to prohibit this. Metro responded by, in its restructures, identifying map of baseline-funded service in Seattle, and an overlay of Seattle-funded additions. These haven’t always been literal public maps or a list of additional runs, but Metro has at least published citywide or route-by-route percentages of the additions, and which routes went up from 30 minutes to 10-20 minutes middays, evenings, and Sundays. That gives us at least some picture of how well our TBD taxes are being allocated.

      The TBD expires at the end of the year, and the city will negotiate another contract, which it vows to make better for the city, in some unspecified ways. So hopefully it will include this provision, at least as effective as the current provision. And Seattle has shown some flexibility on city-suburban routes, so that critical routes like the 120 and E can get TBD funding, or cases where the suburb also adds to their part of the route (of which I know none).

      So does #4 contradict this? Does it allow the thing Seattlites feared? Does it override the Seattle-Metro contracts?

  2. Service should go where the demand – the ridership – is greatest. All these extra criteria are just attempts to get more service than deserved.

    If North Seattle or South King County (or anywhere else) want better transit, they could start by fixing their car-oriented zoning.

    1. Dembowski didn’t just get more service than “deserved” for northeast Seattle in the U-Link restructure. He also kept it from being used to optimize frequency on the highest-ridership routes in northeast Seattle, instead diverting the hours to lower-ridership routes.

      The less he is involved, the better the outcome will be.

    2. The problem is the politics behind it, as asdf2 pointed out. If you truncate routes and shift service to another part of town, you are bound to get opposition. This in turn, results in crap.

      This is not limited to Link. It has to do with restructuring. There are dramatic savings that come from replacing a spoke and hub system with a grid. However, a lot of trips would require a transfer. If we create a grid system in one part of town, and then simply shift the savings to another, it is a clear degradation.

      Part of the problem is that the restructure is too limited. We are saying that one part of town will have two-seat rides to downtown, while other parts of town continue with their poorly performing express routes. That is the part of this that doesn’t make sense. The 65 and 75 perform extremely well, while also providing service to a lot of low income users. My guess is you had a similar restructure down south, it would result in big improvements as well.

  3. [ot]

    So Good Luck, Equity Cabinet, which I don’t mean sarcastically. The very Troubled-ness of our Times is bringing you a lot of possibilities. Freedom of Speech means a lot of people have the right to bother you, but I know you can handle.

    Mark Dublin

  4. A tricky aspect of shifting hours is the different years that the various new Link stations open. Once Northgate Link opens, there will only be two new Seattle Link stations (Judkins Park and probably 130th) before 2030 and likely several years after. Meanwhile, by 2025 there will be 15 more non-Seattle Link stations in King County. There will likely be Stride service on the three new lines on I-405 and SR 522/3 too.

    There is a tendency to think of the service allocations as fixed in time. However, service allocation questions will continue to change and more restructures are going to happen each of the upcoming several years. Perhaps the best approach is to first examine allocations as if 2026 Link is operating today, and work backwards with a category of interim “pre-Link/Stride” service hours added back.

    Let’s also not forget that most King County taxpayers are also ST taxpayers. ST funds both capital and operating expenses and Link is a much higher frequency than ST Express is. From an equity standpoint, what’s fair if the subsidies to both systems are considered (rather than just Metro)?

    1. This goes back to what I wrote up above. I think this is the stronger argument: a restructure should keep service within the area being restructured. That’s it. It really doesn’t matter why the area gets restructured.

      For example, the greater Central Area should have a restructure after Madison BRT. New routes should be created, and other routes moved around. If the service savings from those restructures are suddenly put in some other part of town, then the restructure will fail. Of course, if those other parts of town also restructure, than those other parts of town will save money, and there will be no need to shift. Having one part of town restructure, while other parts of town continue with their inefficient system is one thing. But then shifting service hours from the efficient to the inefficient is a bad idea.

      1. Keeping most (not all) of the saved service hours in the “area” is good. Letting Dembowski mess with the specifics is bad, as you may have noticed with the hash he made of the 2016 restructure. Let the professional transit planners do their job.

      2. BTW, those service hours on the old 41 between downtown and Northgate Station are not all savings suddenly available to move wherever. Running the trains to Northgate Station is going to require service hours, lots of them, to cover the increased frequency. Different agency, same drivers. I’m sure you don’t mean to expect South King County riders to give up more service to cover the new service on Link.

        And then when East Link opens and the frequency on the north section doubles, where are those hours going to come from?

      3. KCM has too many drivers and not enough money; opposite problem from last year. I don’t think ST pulling over a few drivers into Link is going to impact KCM’s ability to deploy service hours.

      4. There was a norm that the agencies could tell riders “hey, the new rail station means a lot of your one-seat rides are becoming two-seat rides. But that’s good for you because the rail segment is fast, and all the saved bus hours from the rail segment are being re-invested back into your neighborhood to get you to the trains with greater frequency and to get you better service in other ways”.

        It’s understandable that NE Seattle riders would like that deal too. The context, though, has changed. When UW Link opened, Metro was flush with dollars to reinvest locally and to make progress on everybody else’s wishlist at the same time. Now the fleet is smaller and headed toward being smaller still, so the formerly easy decisions become very zero-sum or even negative-sum. There’s not enough buses left to meet the equity goals and also to reinvest the 41 hours in NE Seattle.

        The 50k hours Metro is putting toward a first round of equity investments this biennium is very nearly the same number of hours the 41 is shedding. If transit ridership comes back, Dembowski will again have crowded buses in his district on productive routes, and no path to relieving the overcrowding because Metro will have fewer buses AND a lesser emphasis on productivity.

        Then again, Dembowski is the most vocal proponent of “electrify and let’s not pretend there are no service hours tradeoffs”, so he’s particularly poorly positioned to complain about service levels.

      5. That doesn’t actually make sense though. If South or Central Area didn’t have light rail they would have gotten more bus routes. Under your logic when the light rail was built they should have kept even more bus routes now. Why would the area around North Link get to have both light rail and lots of busses. It seems to be just excuses for them to have their cake and eat it too.

      6. ST may have enough drivers now, but when the pandemic is over, there are going to be regrowing pains. Metro never caught its staffing tail after the recession until the pandemic hit. And now, we’re back in hiring freeze mode.

        The restructure isn’t just competing with adding service in the poorer and most underserved areas of the county. It is also competing with the restoration of suspended service.

      7. Now the fleet is smaller and headed toward being smaller still, so the formerly easy decisions become very zero-sum or even negative-sum. There’s not enough buses left to meet the equity goals and also to reinvest the 41 hours in NE Seattle.

        Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. The restructure is not automatic. As with every restructure, it is worse for some riders.

        Imagine if Metro just ignored Link, and kept running the 41 (and other express buses). If there are cutbacks in service, then they would be spread out in the region. There is no reason they would aim the axe at Northeast Seattle, especially since the 41 (and other buses) performs quite well (in terms of ridership per mile, and equity). Instead, all 47,000 of these hours are coming *just* from Northeast Seattle. Northeast Seattle will suffer because they are willing to restructure.

        It would be one thing if they cancelled just the buses that run from Northgate TC to downtown, but that’s not the plan. Instead they will truncate *all* 41 buses. That means the vast majority of riders will have to transfer, and there won’t be anything to show for it.

        I also think you are are also mixing up fleet size with service. Fleet size is about the total number of buses on the street at one point. I don’t think there is any objection to that number for Northeast Seattle. In fact, I would argue there are too many buses (as I wrote before, I would kill off the new express buses).

        What is extremely disappointing is that service sucks. In the middle of the day, there will be dozens of buses sitting idle — or perhaps running with very few passengers in express mode in South Seattle. In the middle of the day, Northgate Way, east of Roosevelt Avenue will have no service at all. Riders of the old 26, on Stone Way, won’t have a quick ride downtown, any time of day. The region is asked to take *more* than its share of the cutbacks, all because it has Link, skirting only a handful of spots the region. It is quite likely that ridership will do down *more* in the area that now includes Link than it does in other areas. Riders who used to endure a 12 minute direct connection to downtown won’t be too excited about waiting 15 minutes for a bus, then waiting 10 minutes for the train.

        The restructure, as it now stands, offers nothing. Some long-overdue fiddling around with the pairings in the U-District. The infrequent 26 will now be just as infrequent as ever, and the most productive part of its route will be gone. There will be new infrequent coverage on NE 75th, while parts of Northgate Way lose their frequent coverage. Parts of Lake City Way also lose their connection to Northgate in the process. Those who live in the apartments on 5th NE — the people who make up the bulk of the population density in the Northgate area — lose frequency (from the combined buses), as well their one seat ride to downtown. Likewise, those that used to take either the 41 or 75 to get from Lake City to Northgate have to get buy with just the 75 (which ran every 15 minutes before the pandemic).

        The only significant improvement from Metro are the poorly performing express buses (that run rush-hour only). These buses, by the way, completely contradict your “fleet size” theory. If this is a problem with not enough buses, why are we running express buses from Link Stations to various parts of downtown when they are needed most?

        If not for Sound Transit’s shift of service on the 522, the degradation in service would be dramatic. Running a bus from Lake City to Roosevelt is long overdue, and will be the main way that people get around in the region. My guess is if they adopt these changes you will see Metro ridership go down, while ST ridership goes up, and ridership in the region as a whole stays flat. Given the enormous benefit that is Northgate Link (finally completing what is arguably the most important section of Link ever built) that is pathetic.

        It shouldn’t be that way. The elimination of the 41 is more than enough to pay for all-day service on the 61. At noon, it takes an hour for the 41 to get from Lake City to the southern end of downtown. The 61 should take 45 minutes (based on the schedules of the 75, 26 and 45). Even if it ran at the same frequency as the 41 (every 12 minutes) we could at least view this an overall improvement. They could do all that *and* have a ton of money left over (thus absorbing the overall reduction in service). Riders trying to get from Link to Lake City would choose between two buses, with a combined frequency of around 7 minutes. In contrast, if this is implemented as planned, riders will get off at Roosevelt, and transfer to the 522, running every 15 minutes. Unless the goal is to transfer money into the hands of Uber drivers, this sucks.

        In terms of service savings, that doesn’t even count the killing of the rush-hour only extra buses that only went from Northgate Transit Center to downtown. Those can certainly go to some other part of town. Likewise, I have no qualms with sending the money saved from truncating the rush-hour 312s to other parts of town. Ideally that money would go just along that corridor (with the 522 running every ten minutes) but the 522 running every 15 minutes is a least a significant improvement.

        As the current plan stands, though, northeast Seattle is getting screwed. Dembowski’s attempt to rectify the situation may be clumsy, but it is justified.

      8. That doesn’t actually make sense though. If South or Central Area didn’t have light rail they would have gotten more bus routes. Under your logic when the light rail was built they should have kept even more bus routes now. Why would the area around North Link get to have both light rail and lots of busses. It seems to be just excuses for them to have their cake and eat it too.

        [I assume that comment is for me, not one of the other comments.]

        You are confusing the restructure with Link. The two aren’t automatic. Consider this (admittedly awkward) example: The 7 could be truncated at Mount Baker Station. That would save a considerable amount of service. Riders would then transfer to the 106, or Link. The money saved could then be put into other parts of the system.

        Except that would suck for those in Rainier Valley. The 7 wouldn’t be more frequent, and everyone has to make a transfer. That is why *they didn’t do that*. Nor did they do anything like that in the Central Area. There were no big truncations in those areas. If there were, then of course they would have done something *in those areas* to compensate.

        A restructure that involves a truncation means a sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if it is Link related, or any other restructure. But it also comes with savings. It is unfair to signal out one area, and say they should restructure, while other parts of the city don’t do anything like that *and* reap the rewards from the savings.

        Our system has dozens of potential restructures — some involving Link, some not. Yet Metro timidly makes these changes only around Link. That’s fine. But if other parts of town aren’t willing to restructure, then there is no reason to shovel money towards routes that perform poorly in comparison. (The 41, by the way, performs *extremely well* — better than four of the RapidRide lines).

  5. Good edit, Martin. Lifelong, my public participation has always needed a sharp red pencil, a reverberating gavel, and a Sergeant at Arms who should ideally be a decorated Marine. Fatigues and all.

    But given this morning’s title “Topic”, What I seriously would hate to see is for the very unity both KCM and ST were created to create, to turn the Equity Cabinet’s “Minutes” into a “Quarrel” over the very definition of the word.

    Like the song says about Beauty being skin-deep, for far too many of our ridership, the anatomical location of its opposite is emphatically “To The Bone!”

    Like a Republican President once declared about Iraq’s alleged weapons, for any transit-oriented improvement at all, the present division of wealth and power among the King County Council’s whole electorate “Can Not Stand.” Any more than I can stand it.

    So to me, it’s also very seriously “On Topic” that the same pandemic that’s doing transit so much damage can also deliver recovery measures that’ll provide the King County Council’s every voter with the income that’s always been Inequity’s most effective vaccine to prevent.

    “Quarrel” is always the same sound effect as two dogs with their paws dug in and their teeth in the same slipper. Which, since their tails are traditionally wagging, proves it’s their favorite use of their time.

    Their voters’ time? Customary rolled-up newspaper really shouldn’t be The Seattle Times.

    Mark Dublin

  6. Shock and surprise: the wealthier Seattle neighborhoods object to their transit taxes being reallocated to someplace else based on some discretionary political definition of “equity”, which has replaced global warming as the transit cause du jour. I think I predicted the same thing two days ago when it came to Ballard’s desire for rail.

    This is the entire reason behind ST subarea equity, and why ST 2 and 3 would have never passed without subarea equity. Cities and neighborhoods want to see the specific projects before voting, and want those promises kept, despite the transit/political cause du jour. ST is building huge park and rides on the eastside because those were part of ST 3, and the cities are holding ST to its promise. It is their money, not ST’s. ST has never raised a dime. The eastside would never give King Co. or ST a blank check, certainly not for equity.

    There is never going to be ST 4, and by the time a ST 4 could be placed on the ballot Pierce and Snohomish Co. will have withdrawn from ST, and the eastside is already bored with East Link now that it has its new toy, working from home, three years before East Link is to open.

    The eastside had to spend its subarea reserves someplace, and of course demanded rail despite a lack of density because the eastside is not a second class citizen to Seattle, and if Ballard of all places got rail (and Ballard is not even Laurelhurst) …

    About the only possible eastside “density” was Bellevue to Redmond, so that is where East Link is going, although like I said the eastside has no intention of giving up cars for rail. Rail is more like an amusement, expensive, but like mandatory withdrawals from your 401k at age 72 the eastside has to spend the money someplace. I know some Seattle folks think cities from Bellevue to Redmond will upzone those neighborhoods to create riders out of whole cloth, but don’t hold your breath. East Link does not need riders to survive financially, but upzoning is very dangerous politically on the eastside.

    I can’t think of any better way to undermine a future transit levy for Seattle only then to begin changing the promises in past levies based on “equity”. Seattle likes to think it is progressive, although it has the second highest percentage of K-12 kids in private school. As Metro is running out of money it has figured out a way to alienate all the wealthier and white neighborhoods for another transit levy. My guess is any new transit levy in Seattle will have to have the same iron clad subarea funding and projects as subareas demanded for ST in order to pass.

    Now, wait until ST tells West Seattle and Ballard it really doesn’t have the money for rail to their neighborhood, even though rail makes sense to Ballard. That will be fun.

    1. I feel that the county council is, in general, taking the “equity” stuff too far. People need bus service everywhere, but the ridership potential is highest in Seattle, which has the best street grid, complementary rail service, and transit-supporting populace.

      Seattle should not be shipping its tax dollars down to Kent.

  7. I don’t think its the same thing. North Link is getting a rail line and in exchange some bus routes are being rerouted. It’s not as if its actually losing service

    1. It’s not as if its actually losing service

      Yes, they are. Look at the restructure: Now compare it to the current map: There are areas that used to have service, that won’t have any.

      There are also areas that used to have a nice, fast, one-seat ride to downtown that won’t. Very few people live within walking distance of Northgate Transit Center. Most live on 5th NE, in the apartments that line the street. Or they live on 8th (the backside, if you will, of the area). These are all people who walk a short distance to catch the 41, and get downtown fairly quickly. Now they will make a transfer. This is a degradation. Not only will this not be a quick transfer (the station is quite a ways up) but it won’t be that frequent, either. It’s not like the trains going to run every couple minutes — last I heard it would run every 10 minutes in the middle of the day, which means it is quite likely it will be worse than that at night. In contrast, the 41 runs every 12 minutes in the middle of the day, 15 at night and on weekends.

      So yeah, some people are losing service.

      1. When I raised this complaint about ST’s bus intercept system on the eastside that will increase commuters’ commute from 2 to 3 seats for those areas not served by East Link (including driving to the park and ride since there are no feeder buses) you said “tough luck”. But if a commuter from Northgate has to go from a one to two seat commute it is a loss of service. Why the double standard when the eastside subarea clearly has the funds to run express buses to Seattle after East Link opens?

      2. It’s not perfect, not everyone wins with service changes, but the link to northridge mall would still provide a very fast service. Was the 71, 72, and 73 not reduced (or cut) when the link to university was added?

        Additionally I’d sympathize with the loss of the direct bus a bit more if it wasn’t for the fact that once the bus is on the freeway it doesn’t stop anymore. You’re labeling as if this only has negatives, now you can also easily reach University District, Capitol Hill, the Airport and other light rail destinations faster too. Yes losing the direct downtown connection isn’t the best but it can’t be expected to be kept for every bus route that goes to downtown on the freeway, etc..

        When the Bellevue link is constructed the 522 and the 255 will be cut as well, but perhaps some peak service can be kept, similarly for the 41

      3. The issue is not that people have to transfer, it’s that the feeder frequency is substandard. The longer the Link segment, the more a transfer is justified. I put the threshold at three miles, chosen specifically to justify the transfer at U-District, the premier reasonable transfer in the region. It does not make sense to force transfers and three-seat rides just to terminate one or two miles short of a major node. But at three miles, it does make sense. The remaining one-seat rides from north of 45th to downtown are the 62 on Meridian/Stone Way and everything west of it. (The 26 on Latona will be truncated.) That translates to a one-mile kill zone west of the station in an urban area. I postulate that as the threshold of reasonableness. In a suburban area the kill zone may be two or four miles; that’s more debatable. I consider the 150 and 101 reasonable. The 70 and 49 still provide a bus alternative to downtown. They don’t go much north of 45th so they’re not subject to the kill zone.

        As the Link segment gets longer, it becomes more justified to force-transfer a larger percent of people. Northgate is five miles from downtown and its cachement area is lower density than the 45th corridor. Bellevue is ten miles from downtown, and Lynnwood and Federal Way is further. By that point it makes sense to force-transfer everybody, and to not have a single local shadow over such a long distance.

        However, I still support a Kent-Auburn express and I can see Metro’s reason for keeping the 101. Those areas are so far east of Link, and south Link has such bad travel time that north and east Link don’t have, and their populations are high, they have many industrial jobs, are high in equity score, and a 60-90 minute travel time is not reasonable for those conditions.

        Similarly, I don’t think we should truncate the 11 at Capitol Hill Station, not have a Broadway route that goes beyond the streetcar’s ends, or say that the Madison Valley and Park don’t need the 11 (that the 8 and G are sufficient). That’s gratuitously forcing a transfer in less than two miles out of spite, and ignoring the major trip patterns (between Madison Valley and Pike/Pine).

        Given the above, the South Bellevue/Mercer Island intercept issue seems like a reasonable case for a forced transfer. But the 554 should be more frequent. It’s unreasonable to force a transfer and the 554’s infrequency and sometimes a three-seat ride on Issaquah, the Highlands, and Snoqualmie. And probably Sammamish; I don’t know Sammamish well enough to evaluate it to that extent, or compare a northern alternative (to Redmond).

      4. I don’t consider “driving to the P&R” a transfer leg. Otherwise, walking from your house to the bus stop makes every trip a 2-seat ride. There’s no transfer penalty because your car is able to depart immediately. Also, assuming sufficient funding, no one should be losing their feeder buses; the feeder bus might be directed to a different destination, but they should still exist.

        @Mike – distance is a good rule of thumb, but it’s really travel item. UW isn’t appreciably closer to Westlake than SoDo, but Link from UW to downtown is much faster than bus, while a bus isn’t that much slower than Link coming from SoDo.

      5. Was the 71, 72, and 73 not reduced (or cut) when the link to university was added?

        Yes, and the buses in the area were dramatically improved. Instead of running buses every half hour, they ran every 10 to 15 minutes. It was a trade-off. Lots of people lost their fast one seat ride to downtown. But in return, many people — people in that same area — got much more frequent service to the UW (a major destination in its own right).

        That isn’t happening with the north end. Not only are people losing their one seat ride, but they are simply losing service. We aren’t truncating the 41 — we are getting rid of it.

        Keep in mind, the 41 does not start at Northgate. It starts at Lake City. The section between Northgate and Lake City will be taken over by the 75. As a result, the route the 75 took between those two neighborhoods have been eliminated. There will be no bus service whatsoever here: There will be no bus service to Northgate here:, although obviously folks close to the 75 can take it. But that also means that people who right now have two buses from Northgate to Lake City only have one — right when Link is about to add a station there!

        Consider that for a second. Imagine they just leave the system alone. Now imagine you are coming from downtown, Capitol Hill or some other location on Link. With the current network, you exit the train at Northgate, and take either the 41 or the 75. Between the two you have very good frequency, all day long.

        But instead, you will have only the 75, the less frequent of the two buses. Outside of peak, at best you get 15 minute frequency, with 30 minutes at night.

        This is a clear degradation. It will be harder to get to Northgate, right when they add the station! I wasn’t joking when I said this will be a boon to Uber. A lot of riders who take the train from downtown or Capitol Hill will get off the train, check the bus schedule, and then call a cab. Not to some obscure place, but to Lake City!

        I’m not dismissing the value of Northgate Link (if you read my comment, you can see that). Nor am I arguing that we should continue with the express buses. I’m saying it is ridiculous that there disproportionate cutbacks in service to the stations, right as they become stations. That’s crazy.

        At least Sound Transit got it right. They are taking the truncation of the 522 and putting it into extra service along that corridor.

      6. When I raised this complaint about ST’s bus intercept system on the eastside that will increase commuters’ commute from 2 to 3 seats for those areas not served by East Link (including driving to the park and ride since there are no feeder buses) you said “tough luck”. But if a commuter from Northgate has to go from a one to two seat commute it is a loss of service. Why the double standard when the eastside subarea clearly has the funds to run express buses to Seattle after East Link opens?

        I’m pretty sure you are in violation of the comment policy. You aren’t supposed to slander other commenters. Don’t make up lies about what I wrote.

        I suggest you read what I wrote, carefully this time.

        First of all, I never called an extra transfer a “loss of service”. I wrote about how service along Northgate Way will be gone. This would be like truncating the Issaquah express buses in Mercer Island *AND* getting rid of the 219.

        I also wrote about the loss of frequency that comes from this cutback. Frequency from Northgate to Lake City will be worse, as there will only be one bus going between there (and that bus is less frequent than the existing one). These are what I have called a “loss of service”.

        A transfer is an annoyance. Of course it sucks. That is why, for example, I think the West Seattle light rail line is stupid — the majority of users will have to transfer, instead of riding their bus quickly into town.

        But I’m not arguing for BRT from West Seattle or the East Side. The train will be built.

        Nor am I arguing that these routes should stay the same. It doesn’t make sense to ignore Link, and send the buses to downtown. I’m arguing that at least some of the savings from those truncations should go to service in those areas.

        There are several reasons for that. First, those routes tend to be very cost effective. The 65 and 75 perform extremely well, despite the awkward connection with Link. The second highest performing bus in the south end (the 100 series) is the 164, which doesn’t go downtown. The 180 performs better in the middle of the day than half a dozen south-end express buses *at rush-hour*. Its not that these connector buses carry so many more riders, it is because they don’t spend an enormous amount of time slogging through downtown (or driving on the freeway, picking up no one). Increasing frequency on buses that both serve the neighborhood *and* connect with Link (buses like the 65 and 75) will increase ridership much more than throwing money into express buses to downtown.

        Another reason (already mentioned) is that it makes these changes easier, from a political standpoint. asdf2 mentioned this, right off the bat. If you truncate a bus and then give the neighborhood none of the savings, they aren’t likely to embrace the change.

        In this case, though, not only are the savings going elsewhere, but there are *additional* cutbacks as well. This isn’t about truncating the 41. This is about losing coverage on Northgate Way, and dramatically losing frequency from Northgate to Lake City.

        Its crazy, really. Northgate Link is arguably the biggest improvement in transit for the region, exceeding even the bus tunnel, built back in the 80s. Folks will be able to easily and quickly travel between high demand or high population areas, like Northgate, Roosevelt, UW and Capitol Hill. This is an enormous improvement while also providing excellent service to downtown, as well as places to the south (Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and the airport). Yet one of the largest communities in the north end — Lake City — will have a worse connection to Link than if they did nothing.

        Imagine if they just truncated the 41. This would be a huge savings in service hours. Now imagine they did nothing with that savings. That means the 41 still runs between Lake City and Northgate, but no further. It would be goofy, to be sure (that is a tiny route). But it would be better — much better — than what Metro has proposed. Metro is essentially proposing to make connections *worse* to the Northgate Station, just as it adds a light rail station.

      7. __That isn’t happening with the north end. Not only are people losing their one seat ride, but they are simply losing service. We aren’t truncating the 41 — we are getting rid of it.__

        The 41 route is where the 75 runs and the peak service 322/kinda 361 (which I will freely admin the peak service isn’t that good)

        Though what you’re asking for wouldn’t make sense either a bus just between northgate station and lake city on northgate way? I guess they could try extending the 40 into lake city, though it’s a pretty long route already.

        __Consider that for a second. Imagine they just leave the system alone. __ If we’re considering leaving the bus routes set in stone, I’m not sure honestly sure why we’re building light rail.

      8. If we’re considering leaving the bus routes set in stone, I’m not sure honestly sure why we’re building light rail.

        I’m not. I’m saying that it is ridiculous to *reduce* the bus trips to Northgate Transit Center, right when Northgate Transit Center gets a train station. I’m not sure how to make that statement any simpler.

        The 41 route is where the 75 runs

        Yes, and where the 75 runs is going away. Gone. In the middle of the day, there will be no buses there, at all. Nothing. Zero, Zilch.

        Though what you’re asking for wouldn’t make sense either a bus just between Northgate station and lake city on northgate way? I guess they could try extending the 40 into lake city, though it’s a pretty long route already.

        I’m saying that if nothing else, that would at least keep the same level of service between Lake City and Northgate, instead of the major reduction that Metro has planned. As I wrote, it would be a silly route, but at least it would not make things worse.

        The obvious solution is to run the 61, as planned. As I wrote, there is the service hours — and then some. The 61 would be one of the most cost effective and critical routes in the north end. It is hard to imagine any route, or route improvement, that would be a better value in the Puget Sound.

  8. Whatever her shortcomings as a romance partner for Ballard, Daniel, ST never made us wait to not get transit.

    The last Monorail effort had every earthly hallmark of a protest vote by somebody that really really didn’t get a date.

    Obsolete rolling stock on giant rubber tires, a massive ugly structure whose presence would’ve rendered everything trackside unrentable, campaign furniture being folding card-tables.

    Under a project chief whom the Board elected by acclaim to save the cost of a talent-search, whose only experience was as a promoter of things as far from transit as was the proposed Monorail itself.

    All of which is a major motivation of my own to double my efforts to bring Thurston County into ST, for the most capitalistically selfish of reasons.

    I’ve got time-in-grade around Lake Washington Tech. But I’m mainly foreseeing a Post-Covid career that in the inevitable new industrial belt that’ll be served by the disused but existing railroad between Ballard and Fremont.

    Which, Hell No, we’re not going to dig up and sell for scrap to make sure those millions worth of roadbed are only used for both pot-holes and cars.

    Hate to sew suspicion, but are you absolutely sure that your fellow Mercer Islanders have leveled with you about all THEIR transit-related plans in that sector?

    Tell me you haven’t noticed ANY of them pleading with a Link driver to leave his little curtain open so they can also get to drive the train. And just think about it. Won’t be long now ’til with one IDS transfer, Ballard, Fremont and Mercer Island will be all be YOURS!

    Unless somebody you think is yours beats you to it. Because while profit and loss gets all the ($)NPR time this election, the balance sheet Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton used had grand 18th century scale in an ornate brass cage for VALUE.

    Mark Dublin

  9. When Seattle Transit was folded into Metro, there was an agreement that Seattle would keep its existing subsidy level, while the county level was lower. That led to generally half-hourly service in Seattle, and hourly service in the suburbs, with Seattle having a denser network of routes.

    Then the 40/40/20 rule came in to shift resources to the suburbs. This lasted for several decades. Any additional hours Metro got through higher sales-tax revenue or countywide levies were allocated 40% to the Eastside, 40% to South King County, and 20% to Seattle. Any reductions were subject to an inverse formula. I don’t remember the ratio, something like 60/30/10, but whatever it was the largest reductions were in Seattle. The intention of these rules was to gradually equalize the service level throughout the county. The low-density suburbs thought they should have the same level of service as Seattle.

    At the same time, Metro has subareas like “Southeast Seattle” and “Northeast Seattle”. When it does revenue-neutral restructures, as it did in 1990 for the DSTT and in one subarea at a time over the years, it generally keeps the hours in the subarea. That’s “their” hours, as inherited from Seattle Transit and modified by 40/40/20. That keeps a persistent balance of service across the county, which may not be optimal, but it’s at least predictable and fair.

    Throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s, Metro round-robined between subareas, restructuring one or two each year to respond to evolving needs and values. It kept service hours in the subarea. But the county council (when Metro became part of the county), routinely vetoed restructures or individual routes if one status-quo activist complained. These squeaky wheels wanted to preserve long, infrequent, one-seat rides to downtown, and little-used coverage routes, instead of consolidating redundant routes to frequent corridors that would serve the overall public better and make transit viable for more people and trips.

    Another factor is the Ride Free Area (RFA) in downtown Seattle. It was started in the 1970s to encourage shopping downtown and provide circulation for workers on lunch break. Later it helped the increasing crowd of downtown commuters get out of downtown quickly without blocking the sidewalk as much. For buses leaving downtown, fares were charged as you exit, and all doors were open for entrance downtown (?). For buses going through downtown, you paid before downtown and got a transfer to show when exiting after downtown. Seattle subsidized the RFA, and at first fully funded it. But over the years costs increased but the subsidy didn’t, so by the 2000s Metro’s base funds were filling the gap.

    Around 2011, Metro adopted new service metrics to guide future restructures. These mostly favored ridership and frequent corridors, while also giving some weight to coverage and equity, and preserving most (but not all) peak expresses.

    In 2012 both 40/40/20, routine vetoes, and the RFA ended. The 2008 recession had caught up to Metro, and it was going to have to cut 20%. The state offered a 2-year temporary authority to impose a tax surcharge to maintain bus service. The county council was debating whether to do it. Fiscal conservatives would vote for it only if the RFA ended. The council also realized it could no longer afford to veto restructures to please squeaky wheels. So there was a grand bargain to do all of these. The council instructed Metro to follow its new service metrics in future restructures.

    In 2014 the surcharge expired, and Metro planned four rounds of cuts and restructures over two years. The restructures mostly adhered to Metro’s service metrics, although it withdrew some groups of routes due to community pressure. (The 5 was not moved to Dexter, the 2 was not split, the 11 and 12 were not restructured.) The first round or two went through. That led to the final demise of the lowest-ridership routes like the 25 and 42, which had been propped up by status-quo activists. The 66 was also deleted, a duplicative but not as empty route. The remaining rounds of cuts were canceled as the economy started to recover and the council went on a limb predicting the recovery would be rapid and robust. It was, so they lucked out.

    This shift of hours from northeast Seattle to South King County has the risk of returning to the bad old days of 40/40/20. Not as a countywide formula, but as ad hoc decisions that accumulate, and that help and hurt arbitrary neighborhoods whenever those neighborhoods happen to be on the deciders’ minds.

    Northeast Seattle accepted Link and the restructure based on the promise that the new feeders and crosstown service would be more frequent and better than the existing bus-only service. Especially, that it wouldn’t get worse. Transferring is a negative, but the greater frequency and Link’s reliability was supposed to make up for it. At least for most people and neighborhoods. So if the subarea gets both additional transfers and either the same or reduced bus frequency, that’s a significant loss that contradicts the promises ST and Metro made.

    At the same time, South King County clearly has a major need for increased transit service. The county has neglected South King’s transit forever. South King as 850K people — more than Seattle, more than Snohomish County, and almost as much as Pierce County. It’s the lowest-income, highest-minority, and highest-essential-worker part of the county. Yet most of its transit is half-hourly or hourly. It takes an hour to get from downtown Kent to Seattle when Sounder isn’t running, 40 minutes from downtown Renton, and 45 minutes from downtown Auburn. It takes even longer and a transfer from the eastern neighborhoods where most of those cities’ populations live. South Link won’t help these one bit. It will still take an hour from Kent and 40 minutes from Renton. Auburn will get worse given Link’s travel time and the truncation of the 578. And intra-subarea trips are proportionately bad too. East Hill to SeaTac, Renton Highlands to Southcenter, east Renton to Valley Medical Center, etc. All these are less frequent and slower than they should be. Metro has some RapidRide and Frequent plans to partly address them, but those are unfunded.

    So South King has a lot of legitimate needs. But these aren’t just northeast Seattle’s or Seattle’s fault. They’re the entire county’s fault, and South King and East King voters who rejected countywide Metro measures that would have started to address this. So there needs to be a balanced countywide solution focused on increasing revenue, not just yanking service in Seattle because we weren’t serious about urbanism, frequent feeders, and transit mode share after all.

    Maybe northeast Seattle should give a few hours to South King County. But this needs to be balanced against keeping some minimum frequency and grid service in northeast Seattle. Northeast Seattle should retain the level of service its density, population, willingness to use transit, gridded streets, small blocks, small blocks, and limited/structured parking merit. Metro needs to define what that is so we can see whether it’s adequate, and stick to that floor. If it does that, then we can maybe shift a few hours to South King County. But not a lot of hours. The county needs to come up with a larger solution to South King County, while still preserving Seattle.

    1. Another thing about South King County. it may have more people than Seattle, according to the census, but it will never get the transit ridership that Seattle does because the streets and land use are much more car-oriented.

      Taking a quick look at Google’s satellite imagery, you can quickly eyeball the difference. In Seattle, there are tons of neighborhoods where you can walk to most local amenities. Down in Kent, the entire city is built with the assumption that every person will make every single trip in a private car, and for that one person who wants/needs to travel differently, that’s their problem to figure out how to make it work. You can see it with everything being spread much further apart to make room for giant parking lots around every parcel. You can see it in the lack of sidewalks and bike lanes on numerous streets. You can see it in the long gaps along arterial streets between one crosswalk and the next. And, you can see it in fences that needlessly force people on foot to take the long way around.

      The end result of all this is that, in Seattle, you get people living car-free by choice. That is, they could buy a car if they really wanted to, but the walk/bike/transit options are good enough that they’d rather spend the money on something else, such as a home that’s larger or in a better neighborhood, more travel, expensive hobbies, etc. In Kent, everyone that can possibly afford to have a car has one, leaving only “captive riders” on the transit system.

      While Kent might have a few more “captive riders”, simply because the rents are lower, it’s going to have essentially zero choice riders for the foreseeable future, which permanently limits the city’s ridership potential. Unlike Seattle, where increased frequency drives choice ridership in a big way, down in Kent, where everybody has a car, the ridership bump from upgrading the frequency of a line is much more muted. That’s because the city is still fundamentally car-oriented and, even with frequency upgrades, you’ll still have long’ish waits, especially on any trip that requires a transfer.

      I’m not saying Kent shouldn’t have any transit service – it clearly should (and probably a bit above current levels in an ideal world). I’m just saying that, if the end goal is to maximize systemwide ridership, the part of town with the most potential to do that – by far – is Seattle. And a transit network should consider that in it’s service allocation.

    2. I just wanted to say Mike’s post above was very well written and well thought out, and I appreciate him taking the time to write it. I learned a lot.

    3. I can see an argument that ST should be the transit agency that steps up and better connect Kent and Auburn (167 corridor) to the all-day regional higher-speed service network. To expect Metro to do it is already taking ST off the taxpayer accountability hook. The situation seems to suggest a new Stride line similar to SR 522 or 405 between Kent and Bellevue, and/or one tying to Link Line 1 somewhere south of Othello Station.

      I can also see an argument that South and East King service hours should be tabulated as a single area rather than two. Most of two areas are at the same general density and many lower-paid East King jobs are filled by South King workers. The trade-off shouldn’t be presented as between North Seattle and South King (different densities and trip lengths) but between East King and South King (more similar densities and trip lengths).

  10. This discussion has been on-going for 30 years. Before 2011 and the service guidelines, Metro used subareas and four financial rules: 40-40-20 allocated new hours by subarea with the context that Seattle had 60 percent of the existing service and that is still the case, so the suburban taxpayers are subsidizing Seattle riders and have yet to catch up; reductions would come from the the three subareas proportionally to the service they had; the hours of two-way routes that crossed subarea lines were split evenly (e.g., 101, 150, 194, 255, 271, 331); and, with restructures, hours would remain in the subarea of origin. The last rule about restructures is in play now. In 2009, the initial segment restructure hours were south and north. the oddest aspect was inside the north subarea, when Nickels asked for hours to shift to his goofy SLU streetcar; that was reverse race and social justice. IMO, Seattle officials were too focused on 40-40-20 and did not realize the importance of the redeployment rule. in 2016, with U Link, no hours were sent south. The F line was a product of 40-40-20, as during the recession new service subsidy was needed to advance RR.

    the basic solution is to increase the size of the pie. In the early 90s, when the issue arose, there was the notion that the HCT project would have local service funding. that never happened. it did not happen after the 2009 agreement on the deep bore either. south King County has a great need for more transit service. but so do East King County and the North Link area. the Council will have to settle it. They are good at this allocation; sometimes it has to go across functions; the water taxi only benefits district eight; the flood control district has concentrated benefits; district three has little transit. perhaps districts one and four should not be asking for water taxi.

    as RossB has pointed out, the routes on I-5 duplicate Link. that is true of current routes 41, 522, 64, 63, 74, 76, 77, 316, 301, 303, 304, 308, 309, 312, and 316 or proposed routes 64, 302, 303, 322, and 361.

    ST has their own version of subarea equity.

    1. Thank you eddiew. Do you think the solution is to use the same subarea equity for Metro as is used for ST subarea equity? Although the eastside subarea currently pays 100% of East-west-East ST express buses, I wonder if ST subarea equity isn’t the fairest transit allocation for the different areas for Metro as well.

      1. The general concept of sub-area equity for Metro service seems reasonable to me. I also support the concept of different sub-areas having different tax rates that reasonably reflect their service needs. It has never made sense for North Bend to pay the same sales tax to King County Metro as Queen Anne.

        To an extent, Seattle prop 1 kind of does this, but I think it could go further.

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