SDOT and Metro gave a presentation (PDF) to the Transit Advisory Board this week after this month’s online open house. According to the presentation, the planning phase is wrapping up and we’ll start design soon. Good to see so many of the ideas from last year’s work still on the agenda.

Sound off in the comments if you spot any important changes.

33 Replies to “Route 40 planning almost done”

  1. I’ve never ridden this corridor north of Ballard. With this admission, I have to wonder this:

    Will the zig-zag before reaching Northgate TC/ Link frustrate riders because it adds a few minutes to the ride? Will the pedestrian bridge reduce the need for serving this routing? Should the route be a bit more direct to Northgate TC/ Link station?

    I don’t have an alternative in mind. I’m just asking.

    1. I think the purpose is to serve NSC, otherwise it would make more sense to continue on Northgate Way and turn right on 1st Ave after crossing I-5

    2. I’ve taken it once in my exploration of various ways of getting from my friends place near N 185th & Stone Way to King Street Station.

      This route is already slow and wandering. I’m not sure adding a few minutes will discourage many riders because it’s already not a route anyone would want to ride long distances. It’s more local traffic.

      1. It’s still a detour that everyone going west from Northgate has to sit through. Short of abandoning transit entirely, there really is no alternative.

      2. When I took it, it seemed like an inordinate amount of time was spent going south out of Northgate, then going back north.

        It followed another bus much of this way.

        Is there any good way for it to go north out of Northgate and get to this location in a more direct fashion?

      3. Not without going through the freeway interchange. 92nd and Northgate Way are the only streets that cross the freeway. Northgate Way is more direct but it’s a traffic bottleneck and bypasses the college. The college has mutiple routes because it’s a college with thousands of students coming from everywhere.

    3. Yes, the pathway via North 92nd makes sense for two reasons. One, many riders are oriented to NSC and the medical facilities and multifamily housing on Meridian Avenue North; in contrast, no riders are oriented to the I-5 interchange. Colleges are excellent transit markets. Two, the interchange is often congested, so slow and unreliable and not a good pathway for transit; North 92nd Street does not feed an interchange and is not congested.

      Even after the SDOT bridge opens, the combination of routes will make transit attractive to many. It will take several minutes to walk between Link and College Way North (about 6.5 minutes at three mph).

      Yes, Route 40 is not meant for end to end trips; it is meant for the intermediate trip making between a string of activity centers. It is both a radial and crosstown service.

      1. Even after the SDOT bridge opens, the combination of routes will make transit attractive to many. It will take several minutes to walk between Link and College Way North (about 6.5 minutes at three mph).

        Yeah, sure, but the 345/346 makes that same connection. From what I can tell, they carry more riders “around the horn” than the 40 does. This makes sense, because there is nothing at the Northgate Transit Center but a big parking lot (and North Seattle has a lot more available parking). If the 40 were to take the shortcut, the riders who walked to the transit center or rode another bus would have less frequency around the horn. That is not the end of the world considering the headway on a bridge is zero.

        It’s really the Ballard/Crown Hill/105th/Northgate Way to NSC/medical facilities/Meridian Avenue multifamily housing riders that makes this challenging. Do you force those riders (who are not greatly outnumbered by through riders) to transfer, so that those through riders can get there faster? Tough to say. But with the current routing (and funding), I wouldn’t.

        The 345/346 is merely adequate (in the same way that the Mariners are now a mediocre baseball team — huzzah!). Being forced to make a transfer for a bus that runs every 15 minutes sucks. Especially when your old bus got you there directly, and it really isn’t that far, yet far enough to where if you walked you would inevitably be passed by the bus right as you reached the destination. You are trading an inconvenience for a real pain in the ass.

        It needs additional funding to get “over the hump”. Without additional funding, the system will be inefficient, in the same way that small cities all have hub and spoke systems. We’ve all been taught that grid systems are “better”, but if you are running buses every half hour (or worse) then transfers suck. Big time. Until there is adequate frequency on that “backside”, we are better off with the current 40.

      2. “the 345/346 makes that same connection.”

        For people living in the far north. Not for people living in the Ballard area

      3. @Mike — I thought I was quite clear in my post. There are two connections:

        1) Northgate to NSC/medical facilities/Meridian Avenue
        2) Ballard/Crown Hill/105th/Northgate Way to NSC/medical facilities/Meridian Avenue

        The 345/346 makes the first one. Only the 40 makes the second. It is because of that second connection that I would keep things the same for now.

    4. It is already frustrating now. This is how you get from Ballard to Lake City, and I’ve heard people complain about it. The problem is, there are plenty of people who ride the bus from that backside of Northgate. Here are some boarding and alighting numbers for a bus starting at Northgate (inbound):

      Northgate TC — 585 — 0
      1st and 92nd — 24 — 10
      92nd and Corliss — 13 –15
      College Way and 97th — 178 — 79
      College Way and 103rd — 27 — 19
      Meridian and 105th — 101 — 39

      There are quite a few people who board the bus on that back side, headed towards Northgate Way and Ballard. If the bus used 1st NE, it would save time, but those riders would either have to transfer (using the 345/346) or walk across the pedestrian bridge. Then you have the folks who started at Northgate and got off on the backside. If you subtract that from the total, there aren’t that many who are through-routing. It is still more than get off there, but not a lot more. That number will probably go up with Link though.

      In general I support making a route faster, but I don’t think there is an extremely strong case here. I also think it makes sense for things to settle in a bit, and see what the numbers are. I understand why Metro wants to change things up the day that Link opens, but I think there is value to seeing what people do. For example, it is worth getting a handle on whether people are rounding the horn on the bus, or just using the pedestrian bridge.

      If I had to make the changes now, the first thing I would do is deal with longer trips (e. g. Ballard to Lake City). This is what the 61 did. You have to transfer anyway, so you might as well transfer in Crown Hill, and take the fast way through Northgate. It also means that Crown Hill to Lake City is a one seat ride. I should not that this isn’t just Lake City, but it most of Northgate. The station is going to move further away from the bulk of the people (on 5th). There will be plenty of buses, but it would still be nice to just take one bus through Northgate.

      An even better alternative (in my opinion) is to send the 40 to Lake City. That is a long route, but with the speed improvements, should be fine (especially since it isn’t that much longer than the current route). That would be a one seat ride from Lake City and most of Northgate to Ballard, along a relatively fast route. The D, meanwhile, would take over the tail of the 40. There would still be people who don’t like the zig-zag, but fewer would be effected.

      1. I wasn’t thinking that the first zig is too far south but the second zag may be too far north. The route is on College Way/ Meridian for about a mile. Northgate Way is 110th. Can’t it jog further south, say 100th or 103rd?

        With congestion around the Northgate I-5 interchange I think it’s prof bank y better that the route is 92nd away from the interchange and next to NSC.

        I’m also mystified why RapidRide D stops short of both Northgate and RapidRide E while a route 40 connects. It doesn’t connect to NW Hospital either. But that’s a whole other topic.

      2. @Al — Are you suggesting that the 40 take a shortcut? Theoretically, yeah. When Northgate Way starts at Aurora, it is the equivalent of 105th. So it could turn on 105th or 107th. Except 105th is one way. So that leaves 107th. The city doesn’t want folks “cutting through” on 107th (it is marked “local access only”). There are always exceptions made for buses, but you would need to strengthen the street and add a traffic light on a street that the city doesn’t want people to use. It would shave a tiny amount of time. The Northgate and Meridian stop gets a lot of riders (about 200 a day). I just don’t see it happening.

        There is only one logical option, and that is to keep going on Northgate Way, and turn right on 1st.

      3. “but those riders would either have to transfer (using the 345/346) or walk across the pedestrian bridge.”

        There’s also a 3rd option, which is walk north along Merdian and board the #40 bus at a stop along Northgate Way. Which option you take depends on where you’re coming from. Coming from the college, you walk across the bridge. Coming from the apartments to the north of the college, you walk north and catch the bus along Northgate Way. The marginal amount of extra walking isn’t really that much, and I don’t think it’s ever far enough to justify yet another transfer to the 345/346.

        Anytime you look at ridership stats of thru riders vs. riders using the detour, they need to be taken with a grain of salt because the quality of service itself affects whether people ride and the mere presence of a detour deters thru riders from riding the bus. A more representative way to measure actual travel demand is to look at where all the cars coming west out of Northgate are going, and I’m sure the vast majority of them are “thru” drivers.

        If we want a transit system that carries more than a tiny percentage of all trips, we need to stop pretending that transit riders are special people that have different travel needs than everyone else.

    5. Another thought: I don’t think Link changes things very much. Imagine they “fixed” the 40, and it ran on Northgate Way to 1st, making it faster. Now imagine traffic isn’t an issue, and you are headed to Northgate to take Link. If you are on 85th, you will take the 45. If you are on Market, you will take the 44. So that leaves the area north of 85th and between 85th and Market. Oh, and why are you taking Link, anyway? If you are headed to Roosevelt or the UW, you take those buses (even if it means a transfer). If you are headed downtown, there are better options. It is really only the folks north of 85th who would take the 40 over to Northgate Way, and then take Link south. The two most popular stops in that section are 105th and Aurora and 105th and Greenwood. There are apartments there, but I imagine there are also people transferring (from the 5 or the E). My guess is some of these folks are headed to the college. I doubt any of them would transfer there to get to Link. If they are headed to downtown they just stay on the bus. If they are headed to Roosevelt or the UW, they transfer to the 45. If they are headed to Capitol Hill, they ride the bus downtown and transfer to the 8.

      That leaves a relatively small number of riders coming from the west. More than there are now, but still not a huge number. In contrast, this is the main way that you get from Lake City to Ballard, as well as Crown Hill and everything in between. Providing a faster alternative (e. g. the 61) would make a huge difference for a lot more riders than trying to straighten this out.

      1. That is a fair point. The detour of the 40 would be a lot less obnoxious to a lot of riders if the 61 existed as an alternative.

      1. My theory: The presentation is a PDF, but it reads like a Power Point. It isn’t designed to be printed, or looked at in great detail (the strength of a PDF). It is meant to highlight various changes. Each page is short, and pithy. Instead of half a dozen bullet point items, there are four. Many of the diagrams look especially good in this format (e. g. the schedule, the street diagrams).

        Combine that with the idea that it is a PDF, not a web page. Despite the fact that 99% of the people will read this on a computer (of some sort) it is designed (like all PDFs) to allow for simple printing. I’m pretty sure you can’t make a PDF with half the pages portrait, and half the pages layout (even though, in this case, it would make perfect sense). You have to choose one layout, so they went with landscape. Of course they could have just had the whole thing (labels and all) turned sideways. I’ve seen that plenty of times.

        Then again, maybe it is designed to show on a projector, in the before-times.

      2. @RossB, You aboslutely can have pages with different orientations in a PDF. I get them at work all the time, with text pages in portrait, and tables in landscape.

      3. @Kacie OK, so much for that theory. I guess I’m left with the idea that this is meant to be presented to people in an open house.

      4. @RossB that’s exactly what it is. They’re presenting on a projector, the screens of which are wider than they are tall.

      5. That makes sense. The presenter can also emphasize which way is north, so that folks don’t get confused (while everyone tilts their head to the left and laughs).

    1. I’m reminded of the landscape wall map in “Trouble In Mind”. For those unaware, the 1985 film was set and filmed in Seattle although the city was intentionally never identified in the script. It’s a fun look at Seattle street scenes 35 years ago!

    1. The original map is this way. It confused me too, both the first and second times I saw it. (“Why is Eastlake in the route 40 study area? Why are large parts of the corridor omitted?”) The reason seems to be to give more detail along the route and use less vertical space. If you have a narrow portrait map, then you have to scroll to see the whole thing, and there’s either a blank space alongside it or the text flows around it.

  2. I am excited about these changes. This is essentially RapidRide without the red paint (and off-board payment). I think off-board payment is very important, but the other fixes should be huge for this route.

    The 40 carries a lot of riders. It is essentially tied for third in our system, with the C; only the D and E carry more. It is long, so its ridership per mile isn’t quite so impressive. This is also reflected in its ridership per hour. It is above average (similar to the C) but not spectacular (the 2, 3, 8, 11, 70 are all better). But like those routes, speed drags its performance down. You spend extra time serving the route, and some people get fed up, and find some other way to get there. Making it faster and more reliable should make a huge difference.

    1. Yes, it has more transit lanes than other RapidRide lines besides the A and E outside Seattle. With this and the G, SDOT is learning.

      1. What matters is not the amount of transit lanes, but how they are applied. The E, for example, has bus lanes where it matters most: in downtown. It could use them in the parts of downtown and Aurora that don’t have bus lanes, but speeds on Aurora are relatively fast. It is probably one of the fastest non-express buses in our system (within Seattle). The main thing is to address the bottlenecks.

        That is what this does. There are huge stretches (on Westlake and Leary) where there are no transit lanes, but those aren’t the end of the world. This is adding improvements where they matter most. The D, in contrast, has quite a bit of HOV lanes on 15th and Elliot, but I’m guessing the biggest bottleneck is around the Seattle Center (from both directions). If this could be dealt with effectively, it would make a huge difference.

        [The southbound E is stuck with a weave that WSDOT forced on it. The bus lane just ends because the bus can’t keep using the right lane — it has to work over to exit. It would also be nice to fix the Linden section (northbound).]

      2. I should add I don’t think the A and E have much in the way of transit lanes outside Seattle. They have BAT lanes. The difference being that BAT lanes allow cars, but the cars are supposed to turn right at the next intersection. On parts of Aurora in Seattle, there would be no point. For example, there is a southbound gap in the BAT lanes between the start of the bridge, and the turn-off for north Queen Anne (Raye Street). This is often backed up with cars turning right. Even if it was a BAT lane, the bus wouldn’t get there any faster. I think this is mostly BAT lanes, with the addition of only tiny bits of transit-only lanes (for the turn in South Lake Union, the turn for other buses in Fremont, and one tiny section in Ballard). All of those should help quite a bit.

        Correction (for my last comment). I looked at it in more detail, and it looks like Westlake will be almost all BAT lanes (which is great). Leary won’t be though (and there are plenty of other places that won’t be).

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