Bus changes proposed for Renton, Newcastle, Factoria, and Eastgate

With the East Link Connections project underway, Sound Transit and Metro have presented their first service proposals as part of the East Link Connections survey. The opening of East Link will be a huge event, and will transform what transit service looks like not just crossing Lake Washington, but how neighboring regions are connected. The south subarea of the East Link Connections study area includes Renton, Newcastle, Factoria, and Eastgate. Though not as significant as in other areas, the changes in this area nonetheless improves transit access overall, with brand new all-day coverage, more direct service to Bellevue College, and consolidation of peak-hour service.

Route 240

Route 240 will replace route 271 between Bellevue TC and Eastgate

This route will change paths in Eastgate, switching from its fairly direct route from Eastgate P&R to Bellevue Transit Center to a new path through Bellevue College and 145th Place SE. This will replace route 271 (which is being deleted) between Bellevue TC and Eastgate P&R, following the same route as the 271 except for the 106th Ave loop that route 240 uses to end pointing south at Bellevue TC. The bad news is that it is not going to become an all-day frequent route, and in fact peak frequencies will change from 15-20 minutes to 15-30 minutes, and Sunday service will begin at 7:30 rather than 7. This means that direct service from Bellevue TC to Bellevue College will become significantly worse than it is on today’s 271, and walking to Eastgate P&R to utilize route 554 (which is being redirected to downtown Bellevue via Bellevue Way SE and South Bellevue Station) may end up being a faster option. There is also a minor routing change in Renton. Route 240 runs primarily on Sunset Blvd in the Renton Highlands, but switches to NE 12th Street from its intersection with Sunset Blvd to Union Ave, where it moves back over to Sunset. This provides residential coverage in this area at the cost of a faster route on more car-oriented Sunset Blvd. This change would keep it on Sunset Blvd (presumably with a few new stops along the way), leaving the 12th St path with just unchanged route 105.

Route 111

Improved route 111 (yellow line) would introduce all-day service from east Renton Highlands to East Link

This is the most significant change in the area. Currently, route 111 is a peak-only express bus from Kennydale and Newcastle to Seattle, with a long local tail that runs out through the Renton Highlands and Lake Kathleen. This route extends further east in Renton than any other transit service, and this area has only peak-hour service. This all could change with East Link. Like other commuter service, this route would be truncated at a Link station (South Bellevue in this case), and the lower ridership part of the Lake Kathleen loop east of 169th Ave SE would be removed. But in return, the route would run all day, seven days per week, and would bring all-day transit service to East Renton Highlands for the first time ever. And rather than just downtown Seattle, this route would also make it convenient to access Bellevue, Redmond, UW, and Northgate with a transfer to Link Light Rail at South Bellevue Station. Headways would be 30 minutes off-peak and on weekends, and 15 minutes at peak (down from 30 minutes today). Service would end at 8pm Monday-Saturday, and 7pm on Sundays. While certainly respectable for a brand new all-day service and for the coverage it provides, the relatively low frequency and span of service means you’ll want to plan your trip in advance, and it won’t be useful at all for night trips.

Route 114

Peak-only route 114 would disappear

The expansion of route 111 would be paid for in part by deleting route 114. Unlike route 111, almost all of the local portion of route 114 is shared with other bus service (with the exception being the tail down Union Ave to SE 4th St). Therefore, it’s primary function is to be a Seattle express version of route 240, saving a transfer at Eastgate P&R. The stated “replacement” of this service is improved service on route 111. This, however, doesn’t make any sense, as route 111 doesn’t go anywhere route 114 does except for the point where the two cross in east Renton. Realistically, the actual replacement will be to take route 240 to either Eastgate (requiring two transfers to reach Seattle) or Bellevue TC (requiring just one transfer, but going far out of the way). Since both of these options are much slower than even a version of route 114 truncated at South Bellevue, this means that riders of route 114 are likely to see their trips get worse when East Link opens, rather than better.

Route 342

Route 167 (left) would be deleted to pay for bidirectional service on route 342 (right, yellow line)

These routes are proposed to be combined. Route 342, which currently (as of its upcoming restoration on October 4th) runs from Shoreline P&R to Bothell, then south to Bellevue and Renton, only runs during peak hours, and only runs from Shoreline to Renton in the morning, and Renton to Shoreline in the evening (with some short runs starting and ending in Bellevue). This is presumably meant to provide commuter service to the Boeing factory in Renton from the north. But for Renton residents who commute to Bellevue, this route is of no use, as it runs in the wrong direction. This proposal would fix that by running route 342 in both directions, and extend the route to South Renton P&R. The Bellevue part of the route would also be improved, ditching its local routing on 112th Ave SE and SE 8th St for a faster path on I-405 all the way to the NE 6th St exit. It would still be peak-only, but morning service would run about an hour longer.

Route 167

The new service on route 342 has a catch: it would be partially paid for by deleting route 167. Route 167 currently (also pending restoration in October) runs from South Renton P&R and Renton TC to the University District, stopping at the I-405 and SR 520 freeway stations along the way. This route, while only operating in peak and running every half-hour, is quite useful. It is not only the fastest way to the University District, but it also allows for fast connections at the 520 freeway stations, so route 167 is also the fastest way to get from Renton to Redmond and Kirkland. Its removal would change how you’d get to these places, with UW requiring a transfer to route 270, Kirkland a transfer to route 250, and Redmond a transfer to Link, all at Bellevue TC, and all of these destinations would take longer to reach (especially from the freeway stations on I-405). The potential upside is that new service on route 342 could be coordinated with route 560 to create 15 minute headways from the Renton freeway stations, but there is no commitment to do so. It would also send many costly peak service hours beyond Bellevue into Bothell and Shoreline, which probably have much lower commuter demand from Renton than the U-District (and its connections to Kirkland and Redmond). Supposing the very long trips from Renton to Shoreline at 30 minute headways could possibly be translated back to service on route 167 at 20 (or even 15) minute headways, or into route 111 for longer service into the night, the relative value of this change to route 342 seems highly questionable in my opinion.

These changes are an early concept and far from final. As is always the case with restructures, this process is about balancing interests and coming up with tradeoffs, and to make this happen, King County Metro and Sound Transit need to hear from you. So if you live in any part of the East Link Connections study area, be sure to take the time to provide feedback on the East Link Connections page. The survey is open through October 18th.

53 Replies to “East Link Connections: bus changes in the south subarea”

  1. Thanks for this thorough write-up – this really clarifies a lot of things in the south area of the proposed realignment for me. :)

    The local segment of 114 that runs up Union Ave from 4th St to 12th St is thankfully doubled up by the 105 local. That bus is going to be a critical connector to the 111 for folks along the Union Ave corridor after the 114 deletion. Upping the frequency of that 105 bus, along with timing it well to connect to the 111 around the Renton Highlands library / Fire Station 12 / Renton Highlands P&R, will be a crucial part of the realignment.

    Also, the draft maps have the Renton Highlands library in the wrong spot: they mark the library at Sunset and 12th, when Sunset between 10th and Harrington is a more accurate intersection.

    12th Street needs actual sidewalks if it’s going to continue to be used as a corridor for transit. Sunset makes much more sense for both the 105 and the 240.

    I’m neutral on the subject of the 240 route change in Bellevue, although I’d prefer that there be a more direct connection to South Bellevue station instead of having to go all the way to Bellevue Downtown via Eastgate. I recognize that makes things difficult for T-Mobile headquarters workers though. Still, Eastgate is not a fun place to transfer in dawn or dusk of winter. The light rail extension from South Kirkland to Issaquah can’t come soon enough to Eastgate.

    1. Not sure that routing to South Bellevue makes it harder for T-Mobile workers than the status quo—most of them get off in front of the car wash since 240 currently turns towards toward Eastgate north of I-90.

      I’m honestly surprised they didn’t end up using a modified 240 as the frequent link between Factora and South Bellevue.

    2. I’m kind of surprised that there isn’t some sort of frequent Metro shuttle between South Bellevue and Factoria. It seems an almost perfect scenario for a free shuttle service circulating a short distance. Maybe this will come about by 2023.

      I don’t know all the discussions going on. Are any short-distance employer shuttles proposed once East Link opens? They are common in many similar areas around the country.

      1. Al S: do not routes 241 and 203 connect Factoria and South Bellevue? Why a shuttle?

        M: does the project improve Route 105? Probably sound. Metro has just funds on Via in that area.

      2. Route 241 is close to a shuttle. Still, it’s kind of a long route and only runs every 20 minutes. I’m not sure what Route 203 is.

        In other metro areas , short distance shuttles have a route generally less than two miles round trip. That lets two shuttle buses provide 10 minute service, for example. They usually lay over at a rail station or at a major destination. Sometimes it’s an overlay service on a route like 241. The short distance tends to reduce how bunched they can get.

        San Mateo County CA has an extensive program:
        https://www.smctd.com/shuttles

      3. Shuttles where the entire route is two miles or less are usually terrible value. Two miles is a distance that a person can cover in 30 minutes with a brisk walk, even without a bus. With 10 minute travel time and 10 minute wait time, the cost of the bus is saving each rider just 10 minutes over walking.

        And that’s assuming that every rider is riding the entire two miles. If you’re only riding for one mile, a 5 minute ride, plus a 10 minute wait offers zero time advantage over walking. Going half a mile, walking is actually faster.

        Shuttles are appropriate when there are very large numbers of people traveling between the same two points. Shuttles that just loop around 1-2 mile routes with stops every block is simply the transit agency spending limited funds to compete with walking, rather than cars. I would rather agencies focus their resources on longer distance routes, serving trips that you cannot just walk and really need a bus.

      4. Still, people have to get from the Caltrain station to their office or they won’t take transit. I’m not sure if San Mateo’s are weekday-only shuttles or full-time. But I took the Emeryville shuttle from BART to visit an Esperanto bookstore. We should have things like that as appropriate.

      5. Shuttles are usually poor values because they have a small number of trip combinations. Eddie is right — the 241 and 203 connect Link with Factoria.

        The problem is the frequency. Since no one has fixed the bug with the 203 web page, we don’t know the frequency of it. But my guess is it runs every half hour. That means a combination of 30 and 40 minute service, which isn’t good.

        As I wrote, the solution is to run the 240 to South Bellevue (opposite the 203). That would mean 15 minute service from Factoria to Link, along with an occasional 241. You would need to connect Factoria with Eastgate and Bellevue College. That could be done by extending the 245, 223 or 226 (depending on how much frequency you want). The hard part is paying for it.

      6. RossB, I managed to get a link to the 203 proposal after clicking on it

        Excellent. It looks like they fixed all the bugs. The 202, 203 and 270 pages all appear now.

        The bad news is that service on the 202 and 203 are very poor. This means that Factoria to Link frequency is:

        203 — 30 minutes peak, 45 midday
        241 — 20 minutes peak, 40 midday

        Even commuting looks pretty bad. There is no way to time those buses. You could easily end up waiting 15 minutes for your bus to your job at T-Mobile (which will involve a walk as well). Meanwhile, how about getting to Eastgate?

        240 — 15-30 minutes peak, 30 midday

        So not great either. I suppose you can wait for a bus, and the 240 will at least get you to the freeway station, where you can catch another bus to get to Link. That won’t work in the other direction.

        Overall, things look very poor for Factoria.

      7. T-Mobile has employee shuttle service called the Magenta Express that serves/will serve the South Bellevue Station, Eastgate P&R, and their Factoria headquarters.

      8. Magenta Express is on pause because of Covid. Seems like once Link opens it would make more sense to connect at BTC where you have ST Express from all compass directions and in 2023 Link. Plus RR-B and Metro to Kirkland. S Bell P&R is 5 min w/o traffic vs 10 min to BTC on Richards Rd to the Connector. Maybe they are hoping people will park at the P&R taking pressure off their own lot.

      9. I doubt there is any safe and remotely pleasant way to walk from South Bellevue Link to Factoria, nor are there any destinations in-between. It’s basically the freeway interchange, right? I agree that using frequent longer routes is probably better than a dedicated shuttle loop, but the idea that such a shuttle would compete with *walking* is out of touch in this case.

      10. “I doubt there is any safe and remotely pleasant way to walk from South Bellevue Link to Factoria …”

        I’ve not taken it but the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail provides a direct connection between these areas. Maybe others can comment on how pleasant it is.

      11. I’ve walked under the freeway there. It’s pleasant enough. The problem is that it takes a half hour or so. That is simply too long of a walk for most trips. It’s fine if the purpose is a hike, but otherwise useless for pedestrians. You can bike it (if memory serves) but only a small subset or riders will bother.

        T-Mobile has employee shuttle service

        Fair enough, I wasn’t aware of that. I used to work at Attachmate (when those buildings went up) and there was no shuttle service. Shuttle service could help for riders to T-Mobile, but won’t help for riders commuting to the other offices nearby. Or the shops in the area. Nor will it help riders from the Factoria neighborhood get anywhere. It is specialized transit of the worst kind. It makes sense as a perk for express trips (e. g. Fremont to Factoria), but really shouldn’t be depended on for such a basic corridor.

      12. I throw this idea out very cautiously — but the distance between the two areas combined with the Mercer Slough sensitivity plus the steepness plus the government owned land would make this connection a candidate for a gondola. Of course, a frequent shuttle would do the same thing.

      13. Kevin Wallace proposed a Factoria spur from his B7 line to solve the last mile problem. The comment section rejected his proposal. Now you’re complaining about Factoria’s last mile problem?

    3. light rail extension from South Kirkland to Issaquah can’t come soon enough to Eastgate.
      Not going to happen in the +/- 30 years I might be alive. But it’s good to dream. Issaquah failed to weigh in on the B-7 alignment that would have made this plausible. I still believe this was superior to the Swamp & Ride that was oh so important it could be closed for years during construction.

  2. I think a good way to tweak this is to split the 240 into two routes. 240A runs Bellevue to Factoria via Eastgate, 240B runs the south part of the 240 to Factoria, then goes to Link at South Bellevue, instead of Eastgate. It’s a slight increase in service hours, but I think it’s worth it, even if it means service ending slightly earlier in the evening.

    Another option that could be considered is to have the 240A end at Eastgate and have 240B take 36th to Eastgate freeway station before taking I90 west to link. 240B would serve Eastgate only at the freeway station, not the bus bays, which are much slower to access. But the key is that needing to take a 25 minute detour to get to Link after Factoria is simply not acceptable.

    The all day 111 I could see making sense if Renton Highlands gets enough ridership, but I don’t know enough about the area to say whether it’s the case.

    1. I think that is a variation on what I suggested earlier. It really comes down to this:

      1) Extend one of the southbound routes that go to Eastgate to Factoria. Right now the 245 does that, but the 223 or northern half of the 240 would work as well.

      2) Send the (bottom half) of the 240 to South Bellevue.

      For those in Factoria, that would mean a two seat ride to downtown Bellevue, but it still be a significant improvement. Factoria to Link would consist of three buses:

      203 — 30 minutes peak, 45 midday
      241 — 20 minutes peak, 40 midday
      240 — 15-30 minutes peak, 30 midday

      These buses don’t combine well at all. The best solution (for all involved) would be to increase midday frequency on the 203 and 241 to every half hour. Then you could run those buses opposite each other, for 10 minute frequency from Factoria to South Bellevue. Or you could just leave the 203 alone, and increase frequency on the 241, giving folks a 15-minute pairing between the 240 and 241. During rush hour, the 240 and 241 timing could also be paired (20 minutes each gives you 10 minute frequency from Factoria).

      All of that would cost money. You could drop frequency, and align the buses better (e. g. run the 203 and 241 hourly, opposite the 240) but the money saved wouldn’t pay for the other changes (and those routes get a lot worse for folks who aren’t in Factoria). No matter how you cut it, the big issue with the East Side is lack of funds.

      It is crazy to think that people are pushing for spending billions on a light rail line that few will use, while ignoring the obvious solution: more money for the buses.

  3. Can someone clarify for me this disconnect in the article in The Urbanist re: truncation on Mercer Island.

    The article states:

    ———————————————————————————————

    “South Subarea proposals.”

    “The big idea for the South Subarea proposal is a strong connection to the future Mercer Island Station. The proposal involves changes to five routes, including the elimination of peak-only Routes 114 and 167. The latter two routes would essentially be consolidated to a shortened Route 111 with improved span of service. As for Routes 240 and 342, these routes would see alignment revisions mostly in Bellevue with some minor changes in Renton.”

    ——————————————————————————————-

    Except based on my reading of the maps and article in The Urbanist none of these bus routes originating south of I-90 truncate on Mercer Island.

    Instead the three routes that will truncate on Mercer Island are the 215, 218, and 269 that serve areas east to North Bend (although Mercer Island is the western most city in east King Co.).

    The original plan presented to Mercer Island in 2018 was that buses originating south of I-90 and buses originating in Issaquah and North Bend would truncate on Mercer Island, which would require a bus stop on the north side of Mercer Island. The current restructure is nothing like the plan presented to Mercer Island, and is more like the original pre-2017 settlement agreement, and creates much less intensity on Mercer Island.

    I am not sure this is due to the litigation, or because Metro sees a shift of commuters from downtown Seattle to Bellevue and other eastside cities now and in the future, and certainly the new 554 route better mimics the future Issaquah line.

    I also see the 630, which was very popular on Mercer Island for Amazon workers who worked in downtown Seattle, and just downtown commuters in general, although first/last mile access to the 630 was not great. It could be the 630 will mimic the express buses that will continue to run from Lake City to downtown Seattle when Northgate Link opens, although it seems to state the 630 will only serve First Hill.

    1. “or because Metro sees a shift of commuters from downtown Seattle to Bellevue and other eastside cities”

      Any such shift is small, not enough to affect bus routes. Amazon’s expansion in Bellevue instead of Seattle received a lot fanfare but it’s s small fraction of the total number of jobs in downtown Seattle/SLU, downtown Bellevue, and the Microsoft campus. And your pending office move to the Eastside is also a small number of people, and may be backfilled when another company moves into your Pioneer Square office.

      The pandemic distortions make current ridership patterns meaningless for long-term projections. Many tech/office workers are teleworking, but that’s especially true for jobs in Bellevue/Redmond, so those affect Renton-Bellevue commutes, not Renton-Seattle commutes. Longer-term, there may be a significant drop in Eastsiders commuting to Seattle and instead commuting to Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond, but that will take a decade or more to be apparent, and Metro won’t change the route distribution until it’s substantial and not temporary.

      1. “Longer-term, there may be a significant drop in Eastsiders commuting to Seattle and instead commuting to Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond, but that will take a decade or more to be apparent, and Metro won’t change the route distribution until it’s substantial and not temporary.”

        But Mike, Metro’s restructure is making those changes NOW. Not decades away. That is my point, and question. Why? For example, the 554 now truncates at S. Bellevue, not Mercer Island, when MI is the natural intercept for cross lake travel. ALL of the buses originating south of I-90 now truncate at S. Bellevue.

        I suppose these decisions could be due to the litigation between ST and Metro, but I doubt it. No matter what, cross lake ridership was going to much less than ST estimated in ST 2, and so the intensity of the intercept on Mercer Island and litigation post pandemic was going to end up moot because Metro would never need 20 or 16 articulated buses per peak hour on Mercer Island.

        No, this restructure as far as I can tell assumes much fewer East Link riders than ST estimated (43,000 to 52,000 boardings/day by 2026), but just as importantly accelerates the design of the 554/Issaquah Link to move riders to eastside cities rather than Seattle, primarily downtown Bellevue.

        This planning would be consistent with the 33% decline on the 550 and 17% decline on the 554 pre-pandemic. Of all the theories you offer the one you don’t offer that accounts for the decline on both routes is eastside residents felt unsafe using bus stops on downtown Seattle streets. But that really wasn’t my point: my point was those 550 and 554 riders found alternative transportation before the pandemic and WFH. I think that is what is driving Metro’s restructure on the eastside: loss of work commuters, and much fewer cross lake riders.

      2. “Metro’s restructure is making those changes NOW. Not decades away. That is my point, and question. Why? For example, the 554 now truncates at S. Bellevue, not Mercer Island, when MI is the natural intercept for cross lake travel. ALL of the buses originating south of I-90 now truncate at S. Bellevue.”

        The restructure is to incorporate East Link, not to rebalance commutes to Seattle vs the Eastside. The restructure has been in planning for years and wasn’t suddenly changed because commutes to Seattle might have fallen a few months ago (beyond the temporary situation). Metro can’t turn on a dime; every restructure starts with 1+ years of planning, a four month public hearings/comment period (extended to a year for large restructures like this), a city council debate and vote, a six-week lead time to rewrite schedules and hire and train drivers, and timed to the twice-yearly service revisions. Evidence of a drop in Seattle commuting is either emerging or nonexistent, so it wouldn’t affect a restructure now; it might affect a restructure in 3-5 years.

        One of the main goals of the East Link restructure is to improve intra-Eastside circulation while still supporting transfers to Seattle. That translates to more intra-Eastside service, regardless of whether or not there’s a very recent drop in Seattle commuting. Fewer buses are going to Seattle, but that doesn’t mean Metro thinks people are making fewer trips there. It’s just that some of those trips will be partly on Link.

        “this restructure as far as I can tell assumes much fewer East Link riders than ST estimated (43,000 to 52,000 boardings/day by 2026)”

        Metro is not deemphasizing Link transfers. It’s trying to connect most routes to a Link station somehow.

        “but just as importantly accelerates the design of the 554/Issaquah Link to move riders to eastside cities rather than Seattle, primarily downtown Bellevue.”

        You’re reading too much into it, and looking only at one-seat rides. I don’t have inside knowledge on ST, but the 554’s routing is clearly to replace the 550’s stops on Bellevue Way, and to replace the Issaquah-Bellevue expresses that are being deleted (555/556?). ST’s mandate is to connect major cities and urban centers, and that includes Issaquah-Bellevue.

        It may seem odd that the 554 is overlapping Link for a short distance when other routes in other places are not. And Metro routes like the 111 are terminating at South Bellevue instead of continuing to downtown Bellevue. All of that is somewhat arbitrary, and ST and Metro make different decisions, and Issaquah-Bellevue is a major corridor in the Eastside context, and Issaquah is one of the top 5 Eastside cities and far from any Link station, and Renton-Bellevue will have Stride soon. All these are factors in the 554’s routing.

        “This planning would be consistent with the 33% decline on the 550 and 17% decline on the 554 pre-pandemic.”

        If true, that’s coincidental. I don’t have inside knowledge of ST but I don’t see that as a motivation. The current decline is based on whose offices are closed, and the deterioration of the 550 due to East Link construction.

        There’s also an equity factor that may be in play. Issaquah is one of the Eastside’s equity-emphasis areas, along with the 148th-156th corridor. So extending the 554 to Bellevue and running the 215 half-hourly to North Bend may be related go giving lower-income workers in Issaquah and Snoqualmie more access to Eastside jobs centers, and getting lower-income workers from everywhere to the North Bent outlet stores.

        “Of all the theories you offer the one you don’t offer that accounts for the decline on both routes is eastside residents felt unsafe using bus stops on downtown Seattle streets.”

        I don’t think that’s a major factor. Some Eastsiders may be recently afraid of downtown, but other Eastsiders are going there anyway, and more will after the pandemic. Many Eastsiders have been afraid of Seattle for decades so that’s nothing new.

        “my point was those 550 and 554 riders found alternative transportation before the pandemic and WFH. I think that is what is driving Metro’s restructure on the eastside: loss of work commuters, and much fewer cross lake riders.”

        I don’t think it’s anything like that. The East Link restructure vision was always about improving intra-Eastside circulation and converting many Eastside-Seattle trips to Link transfers. Post-covid telework and Eastsiders declining Seattle jobs are still unclear. They may happen significantly or they may not. This restructure is more or less fulfilling the Metro Connects vision in 2016, and ST’s post-ST2 vision before ST3. It’s less extensive than Metro Connects because the Metro levy hasn’t happened yet. I wish Metro’s long-range plan was still online so you could compare the restructure to it; I hope you saw it sometime in the past year. But again, its goal was to improve intra-Eastside transit and suburb-to-suburb trips while still supporting trips to Seattle. That was to address Eastside underservice, and to encourage people to stay within their subarea and to use transit for those trips. But any city of 770K with a ~ 500K second-city area twelve miles away will inevitably have a lot of cross-lake trips even if more people remain on their own side of the lake more of the time.

      3. Daniel,

        Maybe Metro got the clear message from you and the City Council that it’s not welcome on Merciless Island? Why aren’t you cheering?

      4. Tom, I am cheering the restructure. I think the intensity of the intercept on Mercer Island is consistent with pre-settlement configurations, and the routes and truncation reflect the long term changes from the pandemic and shift in work patterns to the Eastside for eastsiders from Seattle.

        At this time it is too early to know if the frequencies will match ridership, and whether farebox recovery will reach recovery goals for Metro and ST. Time will tell. My guess is operations levies for ST and Metro will be necessary down the road. Whether they pass on the Eastside who knows.

        When it comes to providing intra-Island transit to MI that is just very difficult to do unless it is micro transit. I am not blaming Metro for cancelling the 201: no one rode it because they couldn’t get to it.

        Mercer Island is very steep. The lots are large (15,000 sf minimum on the south end). Roads are windy. 43% are elderly. A large demographic is moms and dads with kids.

        Like most, light rail will be an improvement from the bus, but a marginal improvement because even the HOV lanes were pretty good, and so was frequency. if you are going where light rail is going. Reaccessing the transit tunnel will be nice.
        I think East Link will be a dramatic and pretty trip across a lake and through open areas.

        The best first/last mile access on MI, like many Eastside areas, is a park and ride, because buses and micro transit are too expensive and slow. If Mercer Island could reclaim the 53% if stalls off-Islanders use (many from Seattle)! more Islanders would use transit. Especially important is a FREE reservation system so working moms can drop off their kids at school and still find a stall.

        When I say someone on this blog doesn’t understand the Eastside, and it’s antipathy towards transit, I mostly mean they don’t understand having kids, which is why most live on the Eastside. This one factor determines zoning, public safety concerns, and mode of transportation which retailers follow with free parking.

        Eastsiders don’t want urbanism. They don’t see its advantages. Their life choices, like on MI, make it difficult and expensive to provide good transit, except from park and ride to worksite.

        I don’t think East Link will really change that, and in many cases make it worse, but with WFH and more job opportunities for work on the Eastside there are now alternatives.

    2. A) if the route is originating south of 90 it makes no sense to serve MI, the NB 405 ramp is going to drop you on the collector-distributor that feeds Bellevue Way making it a straight shot to S. Bellevue with no merging onto and through the mainline.

      B) the 554 going to Bellevue TC instead of MI backfills the local stops the 550 made on Bellevue Way, and connects a major retail/employment/housing center rather than MI, which is not a major demand generator.

      In short I think this is less about litigation or long term demand then better thought out logistics.

      1. Had these “better logistics” been adopted in 2018 Mercer Island and ST could have avoided a lot of litigation costs.

        I agree this restructure makes more sense than the 2018 plan that led to the litigation, and is more consistent with the original proposed routing, except for the 554 going to S. Bellevue.

        But the better logistics have to do with where folks will be going, and my guess is accounts for the change from the 2018 pre-pandemic routing presented to Mercer Island that resulted in 3 minute frequencies. I agree the litigation probably had little to do with it since ST’s ridership estimates were inflated, especially cross lake.

        If you are going to Seattle and live south of I-90 or east of Factoria Mercer Island is the obvious intercept, which is why it is an intercept since it has very little commercial activity. But if you are going to Bellevue or areas east of Bellevue along East Link then Mercer Island is not a good intercept because you have to double back, although getting to Mercer Island via I-90 is much, much easier than a “straight shot” along Bellevue Way, which is why in 2018 buses originating south of I-90 were to use the Mercer Island intercept (S. Bellevue is going to be a zoo if peak ridership returns along with a 1500 stall park and ride.

        As a resident of Mercer Island I think the routing is good, and suspect frequency on Mercer Island will never come close to 5 minutes based on current and future commuter ridership to Seattle from the Issaquah area, in part because because many commuters will just drive to the S. Bellevue or Mercer Island park and ride to catch East Link to Seattle.

      2. the 554 going to Bellevue TC instead of MI backfills the local stops the 550 made on Bellevue Way, and connects a major retail/employment/housing center rather than MI, which is not a major demand generator.

        In short I think this is less about litigation or long term demand then better thought out logistics.

        You are looking at it in isolation. Metro would serve Bellevue Way if ST didn’t. There are three routes that come from the south or east, and end at South Bellevue Park and Ride. Any one of them (or some other combination of routes) could served that corridor. ST is spending a lot of money on the routes from Issaquah, and yet Metro is also spending a lot of money on routes from Issaquah.

        This is not “well thought out logistics”. This is different agencies with different priorities. Metro wants to serve the region by balancing ridership with coverage. ST wants long distance routes that mimic future Link lines. Metro can’t tell ST where to run their buses — otherwise there would be a lot fewer buses from Issaquah.

      3. When the 550 was created ST asked the community whether it should run on Bellevue Way like its predecessors or on 405 for speed. The community said Bellevue Way. ST doesn’t like to let go of commitments like this, so it’s preserving one from the 1990s, like it’s considering extending the 574 to Westwood Village to replace part of the 560 that Stride South won’t reach. It may also be looking at the busy bus stop at NE 4th & Bellevue Way. Or it’s simply to get the 554 to downtown Bellevue while preserving a fast transfer from issaquah to Seattle. I don’t think it’s based on what Metro would or wouldn’t do. Metro bases its network around ST, not the other way around.

      4. Metro bases its network around ST, not the other way around.

        Exactly, and that is the problem. There are some obvious shortcomings from this restructure. There are connections that are weaker than they should be. Factoria to Eastgate/Bellevue College will actually get *worse*. Factoria to Link is poor. The new 270 — faster, with more potential riders and a much better connection to other buses — will run less often than the old 271. All of these problems can be solved with money.

        But where can it come from? The obvious answer is Issaquah. Outside of rush hour, have the 215 take over service on Sunset Way and Newport Way. Now truncate the 554 in Eastgate*. Use all that savings (service from Eastgate to the Highlands and Sammamish) to bolster the rest of the network. Riders from Issaquah/Sammamish trying to get to downtown Bellevue can either either transfer at Link, or transfer at Eastgate.

        For that matter, consider the 542. It will have better frequency than the 270. That’s nuts. Downtown Bellevue to UW has way more people than Redmond to UW. The only reason the 542 runs more often is because it is a different agency with a different budget and different priorities.

        * I wouldn’t actually truncate the 554 in Eastgate, but connect it to a bus with similar frequency, like the 245. From a cost standpoint this would be the same. From a rider standpoint it would mean the option to catch a bus right from the college to Link (instead of schlepping to the Eastgate bus stop). The point is that none of that is possible while there are two different agencies spending the money.

      5. I agree, the proposed restructure, in general, seems to provide too much service to Issaquah, at the expense of other areas. In addition to the 554, we have two Metro routes that express to Issaquah Highlands (215/269), on top of the two local routes (202/203).

        If I were designing this, free of Metro/ST constraints, I would probably start with the 554, as proposed, from DT Bellevue to downtown Issaquah, and have the 554 do a branch, with some buses going to Issaquah Highlands/Sammamish/SE Redmond Station and others going to Snoqualmie and North Bend. During peak-hours, this would supplemented by express service to Mercer Island that would go through Sammamish, enter I-90 at Issaquah Highlands P&R, and skip Issaquah.

        For the 202/203, I’d lean towards choosing one and only one route to run. My preference would be a hybrid that runs something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/SDnAKEfGW8JWnVNT6

        That tiny strip of today’s 271, wedged between I-90 and Lake Sammamish, I would just abandon service to entirely. At least Newport Way has a couple of apartment complexes, which should theoretically provide at least some ridership potential.

      6. @Mike — The problem is that the two systems are not complementary. That isn’t always the case, but it is with this restructure. With the 550, for example, ST replaces a Metro route. Metro can then shift service elsewhere. If ST took over the 270 it would be the same thing. But with the 554, Metro is stuck. It is a very frequent route, yet Metro can’t take full advantage, given the nature of the route.

        Oh, I suppose they could, but it would get messy very quickly. The 554 ends at South Sammamish Park and Ride. That leaves Metro with the responsibility of connecting Sammamish with Redmond. They could truncate the 269 at the park and ride, but that would mean a transfer in the middle of nowhere. Obvious trips along the main corridor (Highlands to Redmond) become two-seat rides (unlike today). It would be a bit nicer for Preston/North Bend, in that they at least transfer in Issaquah. But that would still mean a lot of three seat rides involving infrequent service. This isn’t like a three-seat ride to downtown (where riders have a plethora of buses that will solve their last mile problem — not to mention that many can simply walk). No, in this case you will have to transfer to a bus running every 10 minutes at best. During rush hour, there is bound to be congestion at South Bellevue. This means that you have three-seat rides involving congestion, just to get to the heart of downtown. As a result, the vast majority of trips taken along this corridor are much worse.

        Of course Metro could try and finesse the problem by providing only rush-hour service between Issaquah and Mercer Island. But that still leaves you with three-seat rides involving a 15-minute bus in the middle of the day. You also have confusion. Riders coming from Seattle would have to consult their schedule before getting off the train. At a certain hour, they could take the express Metro bus from Mercer Island. Before or after, they get off at South Bellevue, and take the bus from ST. Metro is still spending a lot of money on rush-hour service, while making service both confusing and really poor outside of it.

        The 554 has a lot of service hours that are largely redundant. You could take away the 554 and Metro could cover it very easily. Just have the 215 run through Issaquah and extend one or two of the routes that end at South Bellevue. There is just no good way for Metro to provide complementary service, given the choices that ST made.

      7. If I were designing this, free of Metro/ST constraints,

        The first thing I would do is get rid of the 554. I would send the 215 through Issaquah (Sunset Way/Issaquah Way). There are a number of choices to make for Bellevue Way, but the simplest is to have the 245 take over the western part of the 554. The 245 would be pretty long, but could be split in Overlake. You’ve made the connection between Link and Bellevue College better (less walking) and saved money in the process.

        The simplest thing to do with the extra money is just run the 270 more often. But the money could be used to improve things in Factoria. Start by splitting the 240, as you suggested earlier. Call it 240N, and 240S. The 240S would go from Renton to Factoria to South Bellevue Park and Ride. The 240 N would go from downtown Bellevue to Eastgate to Factoria, and then loop around like the current 245. Now you’ve got three buses running from Factoria to South Bellevue (I would try and get them in sync) while folks in Newcastle/Renton have a much faster connection to Link. My guess is that would still save money, which could go into running the 270 more often.

      8. I would send the 218, rather than the 215, through Issaquah (Sunset Way/Newport Way). 218 is peak only; off peak I think the 554 is a solid route that connections all the major destinations along I90, but during peak the valley floor will

        The 215 is a looong route. If someone is riding transit from Snoqualmie/North Bend, they are much more likely to want to head to Bellevue or Seattle. I think looping through the Highlands and the valley floor would be too much for a route that is trying to connect Sno/NB to Link.

  4. How much will the 240 rerouting affect travel time? It’s currently 35 minutes from Bellevue to Newcastle, and 55 minutes end to end. I’ve only ridden the 240 occasionally, but even when I lived in Bellevue and the 240 was on Bellevue Way, it still seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to get to Newport Hills or Renton. So I don’t think it should get significantly longer.

    One thing I loved about the 1980s 240 is that when it went from the South Bellevue P&R to Factoria it took the highest freeway ramp to eastbound I-90 and then the Richards Road exit so it had a great view. The 340 went from South Bellevue P&R to southbound 405, where the view wasn’t as great.

    For a while I lived on Somerset, so there were several ways to get from Bellevue High School, but they all involved walking anywhere from a half mile to two miles. I could take the 240 to Newport Way and either transfer to the 210 to mid Somerset if it was coming (it ran every 90-120 minutes) or walk the rest of the way. Or I could take the 340 to the Coal Creek freeway station and walk, or the 226 to Mercer Island and the 210 back, or the 252 from Bellevue TC to the bottom of Somerset (150th & SE 36th). I wrote out a combined schedule and carried it around, and went different ways depending on what time I was leaving. But the view on the 240 over the freeway was exceptional, and I wish some route did that now.

  5. I’d have liked to have seen ST design East Link so that when they build the train to Issaquah they could have the option to send some of the Issaquah trains straight through to Seattle during rush hour, instead of making every single person going to Seattle do a transfer.

    This may also have implications for the number of people using the South Bellevue and MI Park and Rides.

    1. I think a lot of people will simply take the bus to Mercer Island. Link will only serve a handful of places in Issaquah. Shuttle service would mean two transfers to get to downtown. Metro doesn’t like two transfers even if it involves part of downtown (e. g. South Lake Union). They will continue to run buses like those proposed here. As a result, a lot of people who take the bus from say, the Highlands, will continue to take it to Mercer Island, and just ignore Link. You will get very few transfers from train to train, while the Issaquah to Bellevue line is only about serving that corridor.

      1. If riders from the Issaquah area are taking the bus to Mercer Island they are going to Seattle. That means work commuters, and they need a park and ride. If the park and ride isn’t in Issaquah they will drive to S. Bellevue, or maybe Mercer Island to catch East Link, and avoid the bus altogether, which many will do anyway.

        IIRC during the Metro presentation around 175 Islanders/weekday take the bus east to areas along I-90 and south of I-90. Those would have to be work commuters as well, because otherwise the Islander would drive to Issaquah (and probably would not go south of I-90), and Issaquah has big box stores and is not easily walkable.

        My guess is the route of the 554 is a way to hedge bets. If the rider is going to Seattle they are likely a work commuter and their trip will need to originate near a park and ride, whether in Issaquah, or S. Bellevue or Mercer Island. They can catch East Link at S. Bellevue (and probably have a better chance of getting a seat if the commuter returns in full force). If however the rider is going to Bellevue then the 554 serves them too.

        There is no reason to take a bus to Mercer Island unless you are catching East Link to Seattle, and those feeder buses should be express buses to Mercer Island, and the number of those riders post pandemic is a real unknown. There is also the likelihood Issaquah commuters will demand a one seat express bus to Seattle like Northgate got, which makes running a bus to Mercer Island during the peak commute even more questionable, and many will simply drive to a park and ride that serves Link.

        Doing a complete restructure of the Eastside at this point in the middle of a pandemic is a crap shoot. and the area that must be served is enormous. If the peak work commuter returns they will have many options when it comes to accessing East Link. If the transfer from the Issaquah area is unpleasant they can drive to a station that serves East Link and park, or demand a one seat express bus, certainly for SLU, (which is basically the 630), and if you are running a one seat express to SLU I am sure others will demand it stop in downtown Seattle if it is more convenient and faster.

        The fault in these restructures during a pandemic is ST (and to a lesser extent Metro) think they can control the transportation choices folks make, including WFH. For example, when the 550 was removed from DSTT1 ridership declined 33%. That was pre-pandemic so those commuters simply changed the way they got to Seattle, or got jobs on the eastside.

        Generally Metro is better than ST at tailoring routes and frequency to match riders’ choices, although with light rail ST doesn’t really have that flexibility.

      1. I wouldn’t think so. The ramps are HOV lanes, not bus lanes. There might be issues with parking, but that’s about it. If Metro/ST decided that the shuttle couldn’t use a bus stop, then it might be hard to find a spot.

      2. “Would anything prevent private shuttles from using Mercer Island? I’m just curious?”

        If you mean to and from Mercer Island, no, several large companies ran private shuttles from Mercer Island pre-pandemic, notably Amazon and Microsoft. The shuttles probably need a ROW permit, but I can’t imagine the city would deny that, unless ST or Metro claims using their ROW causes congestion. Pre-pandemic the private shuttles — and 630 — did not use the bus stops in the town center.

        If you mean intra-Island private shuttles they are not economical, and run into the same first/last mile access issues buses do (steep terrain, lack of density, windy roads, suburban mindset, mostly peak hour riders). If shuttles went door to door to deal with the very steep access drives and driveways the shuttle would be slower than the 201, which was slooooow.

        Mercer Island tried a shared Uber/Lyft program. At first the ride was pretty heavily subsidized, and it was somewhat popular, except it took a very long time for an Uber/Lyft to show up in some of the southern and eastern neighborhoods (not the favorite route for many drivers). Then when the city began to scale back the subsidy with the hope riders would share rides use stopped.

        Mercer Island is good microcosm of providing feeder service in East King Co. Basically it is too expensive to cover east King Co., so you need some kind of first/last mile access to the feeder bus, and still many will drive directly to the Link station. The area is very large and very undense. Women prefer the safety of driving to a park and ride rather than standing on the side of a street waiting for a bus. People often have to pick up groceries and kids after work.

        What ST should have done, and MI should have insisted on had the mayor not foolishly signed off on the SEPA permits, was to build a lid over I-90 where the station is (35′ underground) for the round about and commuter parking. ST was suppose to build an entrance westbound on I-90 as part of East Link, but convinced the council to waive that entrance in 2010 to save $17 million because Island SOV’s would have access from ICW, which of course was eliminated.

        In 2019 the cost of the ramp was $40 million, several times more than the cost of the lid. My suggestion to the city and council was to insist on the ramp, or the lid in lieu of. I know some transit advocates and ST do not understand this, but when you get to large, undense areas like East King Co. a park and ride is the cheapest form of first/last mile access, and the most popular, because it is basically micro transit without the cost of the vehicle and driver.

        Make no mistake about it, Issaquah commuters are going to make a big stink about bus rides to East Link to Seattle to SLU or wherever, and will insist on an express one seat bus to Seattle. ST’s fantastical ridership estimates to support East Link are out the window with the pandemic, which was a big part of the decision to truncate all transit on Link and then count riders at the bridge span, so an express bus won’t affect ridership estimates.

        The lid on Mercer Island would have cost around $10 million, minus the cost of building the current round about that required purchasing two expensive residential houses, and it would have been the perfect first/last mile access for Link to Seattle because riders could either drive to MI or take the bus. Issaquah riders would have driven to Mercer Island, which is very safe and a straight shot down I-90 with very good grocery stores, and taken Link with a lot less objection than taking a bus to catch East Link.

        Eastside commuters are suburban folks and very demanding. IF they come back they will bitch like hell about driving to a park and ride to catch a bus to catch East Link when East Link does not access SLU. Wait and see, and as Ross has pointed out these are work commuters and are experts at staring petitions on Change.org, using Nextdoor, going to council meetings, and making life hell. But I bet they would have driven to a park and ride on MI on the lid without too much complaint to catch East Link to Seattle.

  6. Metro’s first open house on the restructure is tomorrow, Sept 18, 10-11am. Register on the survey site for the online meeting. A second session is Wednesday September 29, 6-7pm.

  7. Ross: should there be two Route 554? One, between issaquah and Mercer island via the Eastgate freeway station; two, between south Bellevue and BTC? Should the two agencies restructure simultaneously and cooperatively? Why should Route 566 duplicate link east of BTC? Should Route 545 have already been changed to meet link at us station? Is Route 342 duplicating ST routes 560&566?

    1. The Issaquah-MI route is the 216. I don’t think there is a need to run the 216 all day because the reliability issues that impact the 554 on Bellevue Way are generally peak oriented.

      However, I don’t see the 21X series on any of these maps, which is odd. I would expect them all to be truncated at MI and so should show up as a change.

      1. Hmm, I don’t see any route that runs from Issaquah TC to Mercer Island. One PDF shows the 268 as a replacement, which is fine for Eastgate but serves an entirely different . This survey portal is really poorly designed.

        I think it would be odd if the Highlands has straight shot access to MI (215, 218) but the valley floor (either the TC or Olde Towne) have no one seat ride to MI. If I’m reading correctly, KCM is proposing to delete the 216 but provide no route that covers 216’s Issaquah tail, instead pointing to routes that serve Eastgate alongside the rest of the 21X.

      2. The Issaquah-MI route is the 216.

        I think you mean the 215. The 167 and 215 serve parts of Issaquah, with fast connections to Mercer Island. So does the 218; it only runs during rush hour.

        I don’t see the 21X series on any of these maps

        The regional maps don’t show deleted routes. So that’s why you don’t see the 212, 214, 216, 217, and 219. You can see references to these routes in various places on the main page. You can also see specific pages for these deleted routes (e. g. https://oohsteastlinkconnect.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/maps/east/212.pdf).

        The most confusing aspect about the regional maps (to me, anyway) is that they don’t list all of the routes. For example, the North map doesn’t list the 255. Even some of the new or altered routes don’t appear. For example, the East map doesn’t list the 202 and 203, even though they provide service in Issaquah. You have to switch over to the Central map to see them.

        I don’t see any route that runs from Issaquah TC to Mercer Island

        I noticed that too. It is another example of the lack of cooperation between the two agencies. There is no way that Metro alone would do that. But with ST running all those buses to Issaquah, it didn’t want to overlap even more. It is worth noting that the existing 554 used to combine with the 214 for frequent rush hours service to Issaquah Transit Center — 8 buses an hour . The new 554 will run every 10 minutes during peak. That sets up the possibility of crowding. However, Metro will deal with the situation by grabbing some of the “downstream” riders. The 215, 218 and 269 cover the Issaquah Highlands, with the 215 and 218 provide much faster service from there to Link. Since most crowding occurs in the evening, this should solve the problem. If you are heading to Issaquah Highlands or Eastgate from Seattle (which made up about a 1/3 of the riders) you will get off at Mercer Island, and take a Metro bus. The 554 will have riders going from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue, but based on the old 556, very few people do that.

        Anyway, it all boils down to ST deciding that they wanted to run the 554 from downtown Bellevue to Sammamish. It left Metro with very little ways to complement the route. They overlap in Sammamish, with 6 buses an hour in the middle of the day (!) but no possibility of equal spacing and only half-hour service to Redmond. The Highlands Park and Ride gets 8 buses an hour in the middle of the day (!!!). But if you are trying to get back to the Highlands from Link, you only get 4 buses an hour. Folks who took a bus from the Issaquah Transit Center will not only lose their one seat ride to downtown, but they won’t be able to take advantage of the HOV lanes that lead right to the station. Essentially they are spending a bunch of money on service to Issaquah/Sammamish, but not really getting much out of it.

      3. Sorry I meant the 214, MI to Issaquah TC. Currently, the 214 is effectively a boost in peak frequency for the 554, but with the 554 switching to serve S Bellevue, I think there is great value in still providing a direct connection between MI and Issaquah TC, particularly during peak when the 554 will be gummed up in Bellevue Way congestion.

        As you point out, the Highlands gets excellent coverage, but the valley floor, with the TC has a good proxy for coverage, is poorly served during peak hours. I don’t object the great service for the Highlands – the 219 was crush loaded pre-COVID (I’ve been left at Eastgate many times unable to board a 219, having to wait for a 554 or 212), and as the land west of 9th gets built out there is a growing base of ridership – but the Valley floor is still a larger source of ridership.

        (What was the 216 route? It’s not active right now so I can’t find a route map anywhere online)

    2. Ross: should there be two Route 554? One, between Issaquah and Mercer island via the Eastgate freeway station; two, between south Bellevue and BTC?

      I would do as I suggest up above (https://seattletransitblog.com/2021/09/17/east-link-connections-bus-changes-in-the-south-subarea/#comment-880197). Once the 215 takes over service on Newport/Sunset Way, Issaquah doesn’t need another route. There are a number of different things that could be done — I’m not convinced that my proposal above is ideal. I just think it is better than what they came up with (because it keeps much of it). The ideal solution would probably involve a lot more changes, and more trade-offs.

      Should the two agencies restructure simultaneously and cooperatively?

      Absolutely. That is really the heart of the matter. Frankly, I think all ST buses should cross county lines. It doesn’t make sense for them to make routes that are exactly like a Metro route. For the East Side, they should just grant Metro the money. If ST really wants to run their pretty buses, then Metro should decide where they should go. ST should tell them how many buses they have, and how much money they can spend on service, and Metro can designate a few routes as ST routes. For example, the 215 and 167 could become ST routes.

      Why should Route 566 duplicate link east of BTC?

      It shouldn’t. It should end in downtown Bellevue. I’m surprised it isn’t listed as part of the restructure.

      Should Route 545 have already been changed to meet link at uw station?

      Yes. Or at the very least, the two agencies should be consistent. Given all the churn on 520 that has occurred during this period, I think Metro jumped the gun with the 255. But they still got a lot better frequency on that line. I’m not sure what ST would do with its extra frequency — which again points to the problem. We can all see Metro routes that are underfunded by this proposal (e. g. the 270). That isn’t the case with ST. It is the opposite. They are running four buses an hour to Link along a corridor that will have four Metro buses an hour to Link — but to a different station! They are running the 542 to the UW so often it will better the 270. The two agencies obviously overlap, and riders are worse off because of it.

Comments are closed.