In the East Link restructure online open house, the entire restructure proposal is broken up into five sections: North, Central, South, East, and Seattle. We’ve covered the south subarea previously. The east subarea covers Issaquah, Sammamish, Preston, Snoqualmie, and North Bend, but also throws in Mercer Island as part of the I-90 corridor (but omits Eastgate and Factoria, which are part of the central subarea). I’m also including the Seattle subarea since it includes only one minor change to route 8 in the vicinity of I-90. Like other areas, there are some route reconfigurations, but these changes don’t seem as significant as in other areas, with local service on the main routes 204, 208, and 269 looking largely the same as today. But the changes are nonetheless dramatic, with all service east of Lake Sammamish being extended along I-90 to either Merce Island or Bellevue, and reducing the two-hour headways seen on today’s route 208. So let’s jump in!
East of Issaquah (Routes 208 & 215)
This route is new, and completely replaces deleted route 208. This is a resurrection from the 2014 cuts, except truncated to Mercer Island. But more importantly, this route will run all-day and all-week. Peak trips will operate every 15 minutes, and off-peak and weekend trips will run every 30, but only one-third of buses will continue past Issaquah to North Bend (making headways 45 and 90 minutes respectively). While far from frequent, the 90-minute headways will nonetheless be an improvement over the approximate (and I mean very approximate!) 2-hour headways on route 208 today, especially if it’s consistent. And the fast, reliable, and frequent connection to Link will make the trip dependable, especially in the eastbound direction, where it is very important not to miss your connection!
Route 200 will be deleted and replaced with routes 202 and 203 (which is part of the central subarea) south of I-90, and improved service on route 269 north of I-90. While currently suspended, route 200 (when operating) is essentially an Issaquah circulator. Though routes 202 and 203 are a bit less frequent during the day (every 60 minutes, vs every 40 on the 200), they will actually be more useful because route 200 has a very limited span of service (with the last trip of the “night” starting before 3pm) , and doesn’t operate at peak at all.
Sammamish (Route 269)
Route 269 is being improved, mainly by moving its western terminus to Mercer Island P&R and its northern terminus being moved to Downtown Redmond Station, giving Sammamish fast all-day service to Link Light Rail at both ends. Service headways are improved at peak from 20-30 minutes to 15, and at night from 40 minutes to 30, but midday headways will remain at 30 minutes (which is probably reasonable given the area it serves). While the PDF for this route says that there is no service on Sundays and is self-contradictory on Saturday service, Sound Transit said at a virtual Q&A session that it will have both Saturday and Sunday service. One downside is the removal of the stop at Issaquah Transit Center, which is done to get on I-90 more quickly, but limited connection opportunities here leaves little to be missed.
Since this route connects to both a 2023 East Link station and a 2024 Downtown Redmond Station, routing changes will be phased. Route 269 will connect to Mercer Island Station in 2023, while the northern terminus move to Downtown Redmond Station will happen in 2024.
Unsurprisingly, all I-90 bus service to downtown Seattle on I-90 is being redirected to either Mercer Island Station or South Bellevue Station. Peak-only service is being consolidated into the 218 (which will operate peak only), 215, and 269 (which operate all day, but run more often at peak). At peak, service from Issaquah Highlands to Mercer Island will operate every 5 minutes (which is more frequent than the Link connection at every 8 minutes) at peak, and every 15 minutes off-peak and weekends. Interestingly, the 554 is also getting frequent all-day all-week service on its own, but it will run from Issaquah Highlands to downtown Bellevue, with its own stops at Issaquah TC (which the 215/218/269 won’t serve) and S. Bellevue Station (instead of Mercer Island).
Mercer Island (routes 204 & 630)
Service on the island isn’t changed very much. The obvious one is that users of the 550 to Seattle and Bellevue will get to use the train instead, but the only significant service boost on the island itself is that the 204 is getting Sunday service. What’s not changing is that the bus will still run only every 30 minutes at peak and every 60 minutes off-peak and on weekends (which is about how much time it takes to walk the length of the route if you miss it). However, peak service is still supplemented by route 630, which will remain as the only bus crossing I-90 into Seattle. Within Seattle, it will no longer serve downtown, but will instead ditch the one-way loop to First Hill and change to a proper two-way route to First Hill and Cherry Hill. Since our dream of light rail to First Hill is a long way from being realized, having route 630 remain to keep this connection from Mercer Island and the eastside is at least a small consolation.
Seattle (route 8)
With the Judkins Park Station bringing new connections to both Rainier Ave S and 23rd Ave S, many of the essential connections already serve the station. An exception is route 8, with that route being proposed to move from MLK to 23rd at Jackson St., and just stay there until the end like route 48 does. This makes a lot of sense, as Metro will always keep route 8’s diversion to 23rd Ave regardless of what happens (except during the time when 23rd was undergoing construction, when route 8 was ironically “detoured” to just stay on MLK like it just should anyway).
One side effect of this change is that route 4, which is redundant and redundant and redundant (the only route to be so redundant that STB has three articles about it with the exact same name, and yet isn’t fully suspended like the 22 and 47 are) will serve its part of the Judkins Park neighborhood all on its own. Meaning that it will finally have a reason to exist. But would have more of a reason to exist if it connected to any of its nearest two Link Stations. Sigh.
Notice anything good, bad, or just weird? Or, maybe you have a question or a strong opinion about something. Whatever the case may be, we’d love to hear about it in the comments, and (more importantly) Sound Transit would love to hear about it in the East Link Connections online open house, which is open until
October 18 October 25th.