ST Express 511 with CT livery / photo by author

The recent bus service change that coincided with the extension of the 1 Line to Northgate Station altered Seattle-Everett service in a clunky way. Riding between Everett and Seattle during off-peak hours and in the reverse-peak direction during peak hours now involves transferring between Sound Transit Express 512 and the 1 Line at Northgate Station. Peak-direction travel goes directly between Everett and downtown Seattle on ST Express 510, with no peak-direction route during peak hours between Everett and Northgate.

Going southbound on a weekday, route 510 leaves Everett Station at 4:13, 4:30, 4:42, 4:55, 5:17, 5:32, 5:48, 6:04, 6:18, 6:33, 6:50, 6:58, 7:14, 7:45, and 8:17 am. Route 512 starts up at 8:37 am, runs roughly every 10 minutes until 1:56 pm, then runs roughly every 16 minutes until 5:56 pm, then runs roughly every 20 from 6:19 to 9:02, then spreads out to 30 minutes with the last 512 heading south at 11:20 pm, with plenty of time to spare to catch the last southbound train of the evening.

Going northbound on weekdays, route 512 leaves Northgate every 12-16 minutes from 5:05 to 9:33 am. Then it hits its every-10-minutes stride at 9:49 am, which lasts until 2:49 pm. Then, route 512 disappears until 7:11 pm, at which point it starts running roughly every 10 minutes again, until 10:29. Frequency starts decreasing, until riders catch route 512 from the last northbound train of the day at 12:48 am.

During afternoon peak, route 510 starts northbound trips from 4th Ave & S Jackson St ca. every 16 minutes 2:30-6:53 pm.

With some clever scheduling, commuters heading back to Everett during afternoon peak could have a bus leaving Northgate Station for Everett waiting for them every 8 minutes.

An ST Express 511 or 513 leaves Northgate every 8 minutes during afternoon peak from 3:19 to 6:55 pm, with shoulder trips at 2:57, 3:06, and 7:55. A little over a third of these trips are 513s. Route 513 is just 511 plus the extension from Ash Way Park & Ride to Eastmont Park & Ride and Seaway Transit Center. Similarly, route 512 is just route 511 with the extension from Ash Way Park & Ride to Everett Station.

The proposal

What if, instead of running route 510 out of downtown, all its trips were moved to running out of Northgate? And then every other 511/513 trip coming out of Northgate were converted to a 512. And then, have the runs timed to meet the same train as a 510 converted to a 513. In other words, alternate between having a 510 and 513 waiting for one train, and a 512 waiting for the next, then 510 and 513 again, then 512 again, and so on.

Use the platform hours saved from not having 510 go downtown, and 510 deadhead (out of service) travel. Some costs will also be saved from no longer having to pay for mid-day bus storage in the SODO and transporting drivers from SODO back to their home base in the morning, and doing the reverse transport in the afternoon.

Afternoon peak riders going to Everett would have a bus waiting to take them to Everett after each train trip, alternating between 510 and 512, thereby doubling the frequency for trips to Everett over the current 510 schedule.

Commuters using Eastmont Park & Ride or Seaway Transit Center would also see their bus (route 513) become more frequent.

Route 513 involves a lot of deadheading. It serves Seaway Transit Center, but in the wrong direction to support the local labor force. Imagine turning all those deadhead trips into revenue service. People living in Seattle and Lynnwood would finally have an easy commute to Seaway, via 1 Line + route 513 and catch employer shuttles to the various local worksites. Then 513 would take them home from Seaway in the evening. Indeed, this is an approach that is being considered for when the 1 Line extends to Lynnwood City Center. But it does not have to wait until then.

Morning peak riders from Everett would see a southbound ST Express bus roughly every 8 minutes, alternating between a 510 and a 512. The timing might might not be as evenly-spaced as the buses going northbound from Northgate in the afternoon.

Those counting routes will notice that this proposal eliminates ST Express 511, 2-3 years before it was probably going to be eliminated anyway. The only thing changing for route 511 commuters would be the number on the front sign of the bus.

The only riders who might see a negative impact are those who would prefer a 510 between Everett and downtown Seattle every 16 minutes over a ride between Everett and Seattle on a 510/512 + 1 Line every 8 minutes. A lot of them are working from home right now. In perfect traffic, the math of getting to stations and getting to the platforms works in favor of the long version of 510 for Everett-downtown commuters. In practice, I expect many would prefer waiting out of the rain in the tunnel and going to Northgate, instead of standing in the rain and then sitting in traffic. For those commuting from north of downtown already using the 1 Line or other routes to Northgate, the Northgate option is the obvious choice. For those commuting from south of downtown, already using the 1 Line, same thing.

Current peak-direction paths between Northgate and Everett

For those currently travelling to Everett from Northgate during afternoon peak hours, routes 510-513 all serve the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, so catch a 511 or 513 to the freeway station, and then wait there patiently for a 510 to come along. (None of the 800-series CT routes serve the freeway station, but 810 and 871 serve the off-freeway stop at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center garage.) Or, transfer to CT route 201 or 202 at Lynnwood Transit Center or Ash Way.

Combining 201 and 202, which run limited-stop service between Lynnwood and Arlington that includes Ash Way and Everett Station, with 512, for a BRT-like route from Northgate to Arlington, would be something interesting to consider. Regardless, once the 1 Line reaches Lynnwood City Center, the small differences between these bus routes beg for off-peak consolidation.

One other option, albeit slower, is to take King County Metro route 301/302/303/304 to Aurora Village, and transfer there to the SWIFT Blue Line.

Ability to truncate more Snohomish County commuter bus routes

Having watched the evening commuter buses board quickly, and having Northgate Bus Bay 2 empty for a lot more time than it has buses boarding during the peak-of-peak hour, it has become abundantly clear to me that Bay 2 is capable of handling the entire Snohomish County commuter armada, should Community Transit want to veer in that direction. If not Bay 2, there is plenty of space for a Bay 5 and Bay 6.

Since the opening of Northgate Station, the 1 Line has had nothing approaching crushloads, except on game days. Should CT ask to have the whole CT commuter armada end and start at Northgate, and ST see the possibility of overcrowding on the 1 Line before the 2 Line opens in 2023, it would not be that expensive to have some short runs on the 1 Line between between SODO and Northgate, a trip that now takes a mere 22 minutes each direction. But I’m convinced, that won’t be necessary except for the usual drill before and after large events.

25 Replies to “Improving connectivity and frequency to Everett”

  1. People in Everett are often climate deniers. We should not let them travel to downtown Seattle. I suggest cancelling all transport between the two places. This will contribute to a down tick in carbon.

    All right minded people will agree with me and I expect to see services shut down ASAP.

    1. “people in Everett” = Everettites? Everettonians? Everettians?

      I vote for Everettians.

      As for the proposal? It makes a lot of sense, but if, due to political considerations, CT wants to be able to show Everettians that they can still take a one-seat ride on the 510 then it’s probably not going to happen.

  2. I personally think Everett would be better served by a peak hour bus that skips Lynnwood and Ash Way on the way to Northgate than a peak hour bus that skips Northgate on the way to downtown. And also a bus that actually serves Everett, rather than just ending at a giant park and ride and forcing a low frequency transfer to go the last mile.

    They already have the 201 and 202 to go to Lynnwood or Ash Way.

    1. Yeah, it really doesn’t make sense to run the 512 during rush hour. It would make more sense to just truncate the 510 at Northgate. In other words Everett/South Everett/Mountlake Terrace/Northgate.

      The main benefit is to save service hours. Most of the riders from Everett are headed to downtown Seattle. They would prefer the existing 510 (which is why ST kept it) but this would save a considerable amount of service. As to whether that savings would be worth it or not is hard to say.

      It is worth noting that Community Transit runs four buses that connect from Mountlake Terrace to downtown. Thus a rider could use that as an option as well.

      As far as serving Everett itself, it does have a couple extra stops downtown. It is probably designed to connect to other routes, which makes sense. You catch a bus, then take the express to downtown Seattle.

  3. My friend in north Lynnwood is complaining that Ash Way to downtown is taking fifteen minutes longer with the Link transfer than it was before. She said better transfer timings or more bus runs would help. She also wants better signs saying which bus to catch where, and which elevator goes from the platform to the surface vs the other one that takes two elevators to get there. She does find it much better to get to Capitol Hill or North Seattle than it used to be. That confirms my theory that Snohomish County to North Seattle will be a sleeper hit. But Snohomish County to downtown has room for improvement.

    1. I used to live on Meridian, across I-5 from Northgate and did occasionally ride the bus to Lynnwood. It was a mess, and the best way I could think of was to walk all the way to 145th. Walking over the new bridge and hopping on the 512 at Northgate would have been so much easier.

    2. I’m in the same boat. My reverse commute went from a two seat 512 > 116 to a three seat 1-Line > 512 > 116. I have to leave 10 minutes earlier in the morning, and having two transfers means more opportunities for missed connections. Every other week or so the light rail runs late enough (6+ minutes) that I miss the 512 and get to work 15 minutes late.

      Wayfinding does seem better than it used to, though as your friend pointed out there is room for improvement. My biggest gripe with Northgate is that the station roof doesn’t extend the full length of the platform, so exiting from the back or front of the train in the rain is unpleasant. Similarly, the stairway at the south end of the station gets heavy traffic but is uncovered and the landing floods.

      1. One problem I’ve noticed with the transfers is 512s heading north without waiting for the obvious throng of passengers leaving the train to have time to get down to the bus. One time recently, I got off the bus at the south end of the station, made my way quickly down the stairs, and watched the 512 pull away before anyone had time to get there and board. I’m actually not sure whether that was based on the schedule or if it was the occasional jerk trying to mistime their route just enough to avoid doing their job and pick up passengers. Given that it was more than 10 minutes until the next bus departed, I have my suspicions. I hate to say it, but some occasional supervisorial headway observation might root out the bad eggs in the fleet.

      2. I’ve gotten my shoes soaked and covered in mud in that mini pond on the south stairway. An inch is all it really takes. It seems to have been built sloping inward, as if there was supposed to have a drain outlet in the center. But there is no drain, unfortunately.

    3. Ash Way already has lots of peak downtown service, including CT routes 410, 413, and 415, all skipping Lynnwood TC. That’s if you start at the P&R, and if you happen to be traveling during the narrow band of time in which this peak service exists. If, post-pandemic, riders vote with their feet to fill those buses up, I expect CT will add more runs on them.

      Combining CT routes 860 and 880, Ash Way has very frequent and direct peak service to Northgate, skipping Lynnwood TC.

      Going downtown via Northgate is definitely slower than coming back that way, given all the turns, the short bit of backward travel, and some congestion getting under I-5 at Northgate Way. Northbound gets on the freeway almost immediately, and avoids Northgate Way altogether. Granted, it is not a 15-minute difference between southbound and northbound ST Express 512 trips.

      1. Neither the 410 or 860 stop at Ash Way on the way to Seattle. The only stop on the way from Seattle.

    4. There’s really no reason Sound Transit can’t have each northbound 512 wait for a corresponding Link train to arrive, then start a 3 minute timer, and go when it runs out. There is no reason for this connection to be untimed.

      The bus driver can even physically see approaching trains, so there’s no need for electronic coordination.

      1. If the driver is in their seat in the north-facing bus, it is actually hard to see the train coming from the south. But the crowd coming down the escalator and stairs is hard to miss. If you are an operator and see that crowd coming, that crowd headed your way is 90% of why you are there. If you see them and drive off because the schedules says to do so, some of those people are likely to call customer service. That “see me” note waiting for you at base is not worth the momentary respite of getting to drive to Lynnwood (or Ash Way) without passengers (or maybe one or two who work in the neighborhood or are transferring from another bus route).

        Besides, if you are an operator, do you feel safer with one passenger on the bus, or a dozen who don’t know each other?

  4. I don’t know why so many STB articles keep going after the north side to cut their direct connection to Downtown while leaving South Side untouched. How about force feeding the 577/578/590/592/594/595/177/162 to Angle Lake? And 101/102/150 to Rainier Beach Station?

    Stop suggesting changes that plenty of commuters don’t like, please. Can you all just leave the north side alone and let people enjoy the view of the Ship Canal at $3.25 cash fare?

    1. Angle Lake station is over a mile from the exit. The Northgate station is as close to the freeway ROW as you can get.

      Once Link hits 320th they should absolutely truncate all remaining southern routes there using the HOV exit at 317th.

    2. North Link has the same travel time as the buses it replaces/will replace to the U-District, Northgate, Lynnwood, Everett, Bellevue, and Redmond, but the same is not true in the south end. Link is ten minutes slower than the former 194 to SeaTac or truncating the 101 or 150 at Rainier Beach, and it gets progressively worse the further south you go. It’s because the south end cities are further away from downtown than the north end cities are, Link’s surface segments make it slower, it detours east to get to Rainier Valley, the south end doesn’t have major job centers/regional attractions short of downtown like the north end does, and Renton and Kent aren’t directly on Link.

    3. The lack of an I-5 adjacent station for the current Link system is a problem for ending ST Express in South King. Part of that is that KDM wasn’t built as part of the Angle Lake extension in 2016.

      Keep in mind Northgate will not be the end station after 2024. The express buses in just three more years will have direct ramps from the HOV lanes at Lynnwood, Federal Way and Downtown Bellevue to Link. That will be an amazing game changer. That also will put away the need to have bus+bus+Link transfers for a large area although that’s still a challenge in Renton, Kent and Auburn and some other places unless Metro revisits the route structure.

    4. I think the biggest difference is the lack of destinations in the south end. I guarantee you there are plenty of commuters who hate Link right now (or hate Metro for truncating their bus). They used to take the 41, which quickly got on the freeway and into the downtown tunnel. But now they have to transfer, and wait for the train. Once on the train, they have to wait as it makes several stops along the way. I’m sure it takes significantly longer to get downtown than it did before.

      But it is all for the greater good. There are a ton of people who get off at those stops before downtown. Lots of people are headed to the UW, and plenty are headed to Capitol Hill (next to a smaller college). Likewise, with its college across the bridge, and plethora of clinics, Northgate itself is a bigger attraction than any station between downtown and SeaTac. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be more truncations in the south end (and people have proposed them) but the destinations between SeaTac and downtown are much smaller (and unfortunately SeaTac is hard to get to).

  5. On weekdays when my wife works at the Tulalip outlets, I usually drop her off up there and take one of those first late morning 512 runs in to work at UW, take the bus back to get the car. We are a single driver, single car household. At first, I figured, just take the bus from Everett, minimize the driving. Works well in the morning SB, but not going NB in the evenings–especially during the transition between the peak hours routes and before the 512 picks up again, the 510 is really not frequent or reliable enough with traffic to be a timed transfer with the 511/513 at Mountlake Terrace. Sometimes you wait a minute, sometimes over 15 minutes. So, for the time being, I drive much further round-trip to Ash Way, which fortunately still has lots of parking capacity now.

    An aside: The whole Tulalip retail area is a significant employment hub and needs better connections than once an hour (OK, so the Fall update changed one route to every 50 minutes instead, oh joy!) with the mainline 101/102 through Marysville, with oddly placed bus stops and long waits to cross the road to make the transfer. In case anyone at Community Transit is reading this;)

    1. Yes Brandon! Totally agree with you about Tulalip. I work at CT (not in planning) and I’m beginning to discover more and more that Planning does not fully appreciate customer demand. Before COVID, people were consistently requesting direct service to SLU but Planning always came back with “well they can take Metro from downtown”. THAT’S NOT THE POINT! People are asking for a specific service! (Yet, even Metro has several SLU-specific routes and still does today.) The same goes for other places like The Museum of Future Flight.

      In the case of Tulalip Outlets, current service is POOR. Planning doesn’t understand that it’s not a local destination but rather a REGIONAL attraction. During the summer, tourists will travel from downtown to shop at the outlets. It used to take 3 buses. Now it takes 3 buses and a train.

      But there *might* be light at the end of the tunnel. CT wants feedback about how to redesign the system post-Lynnwood Link. One of the ideas is improving access to Tulalip Outlets.

  6. Brent, this is a well thought-out piece. However, I must respectfully disagree with you. Though having the 512 operate all day in both directions would certainly streamline operations, I think it’s important to always consider customer experience. We transit nerds love efficiency (which often means transfers) but much of the general tax-paying public sees transit in a much different light. Having 510 riders (who also come from Marysville, Lake Stevens, etc) snake through Ash Way and Lynnwood adds considerable time to their commute.

    Accessing the LTC would add 4-5 min in both directions. But even worse is Ash Way P&R. Southbound, the 512 must go through 3 traffic lights to reach Ash Way (thankfully they’re all right turns). Northbound is a nightmare during peak times when the bus must make 2 left turns and often sit in arterial traffic along 164th. Then immediately becomes snared in more traffic as it enters the freeway. This meandering can take 10-15 min from the point of leaving Ash Way to merging lanes on I-5. This would add considerable amount of time to riders who already have an hour commute in good traffic conditions.

    I offer a counter proposal:

    Keep the 510 in place until Lynnwood Link.
    Axe the 513 (it has always been a poor performer).
    Use the freed resources to create a new peak route from Everett to Northgate (skipping Lynnwood). This would address the awful neglect of Everett-UW riders who now must take 2 buses and a train to reach work.

    (btw I’m also in favor of your idea of a reverse service to Seaway)

  7. What would benefit those of us who live in southern Everett, which should be its own city, is to fill in the gaps-we shouldn’t have to wait 16 years or more:
    1. Connect us to the South Everett Park & Ride! ST planners have made the excuse to me that they can’t take the #513 there, as it’s an inconvenience to their riders! I call malarkey (as the President often says)! First, their southbound riders at that point are those willing to hop over sleeping druggies north of 526 or those just south of 526 and those who risk their vehicles being broken into at the abandoned Eastmont Park & Ride (no other transit provider or route serves that). Second, the connection to the well-used South Everett Park & Ride would connect riders to eastside-bound buses as well as the 510, 511, and 512.
    2. Add a stop on the west side of Casino Road, which is loaded with multi-family buses. Route those 513s down Airport Ride and then have one or two stops before Evergreen, such as Hall Park Road and 4th.
    3. Run the buses in “revenue service” in both directions so that those bound for Boeing from Seattle, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, and South Everett have a transit choice.
    4. Consider extending the 513 to connect with regional transit, including Sounder North, WS Ferries, Amtrak, and Community Transit at Mukilteo.
    5. Sounder North is, at best, a dubious use of public dollars, as there are express buses to downtown from all of its stations. A much better use of those funds would be to plow them into expediting Everett Link to Mariner Park & Ride where connections to Swift Green BRT await, with connections to Swift Orange BRT and many local routes at Ash Way.
    6. Everett Link stations make most sense at Paine Field terminal/Gate 68 and Boeing/WSIPC to benefit the thousands of multi-family residents at the west end of West Casino Road, if the politicians are truly interested in their own residents, as they’re suddenly now saying, instead of only their business/campaign contributors.

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