by ROSS BLEAKNEY
The Seattle Department of Transportation has begun work on making Metro’s route 40 faster and more reliable. With these changes, Metro can substantially improve the transit network in the north end if it alters two very popular routes.
Improvements for the 40
The 40 is often delayed around the Fremont Bridge. It isn’t the bridge opening itself that causes the big delay, but the traffic that backs up behind it. The 40 also experiences congestion close to downtown as well as around Market Street in Ballard. Fortunately, plans by the city address all of these delays and more. Buses will be able to travel in their own lane, avoiding the worst bottlenecks. Not only will this make the 40 substantially faster, but it will make it a lot more reliable. With this increase in speed and reliability, Metro could reroute the 40 and Rapid Ride D in the north end, like so:
One concern with a change like this is the time it takes to operate these routes. The D would be roughly as long as the 40 is now, so it should be fine. The 40 would be a little bit longer, but the time savings from the SDOT improvements (and the more direct routing to Northgate) would more than make up for the extension. The scheduled time plus the addition to Lake City would be roughly as long as some route pairs (e. g. the 124/33), even before the time savings. But reliability will be the big improvement. Right now these changes simply wouldn’t be possible, as the bus is often delayed substantially. The SDOT changes will not only decrease the average travel time (by a significant amount) but mean that the bus should consistently complete its route on time.
With this change, the northern half of the 20 becomes unnecessary. The southern half will become unnecessary once SDOT hardens the roadway to enable Metro to alter the 62 as they proposed.
The combination of these two routes would dramatically improve east-west travel, creating a much better network. This would speed up trips from Lake City to Ballard, as well as everything in between (Lake City to Greenwood, Northgate to Greenwood, Greenwood to Ballard, etc.). The Northgate/Lake City corridor would be better connected to north-south buses like the 5, 28 and E. This means that trips to places like Phinney Ridge or the west side of Green Lake would be faster, more direct and involve fewer transfers. The D would be extended, connecting riders on 15th to more places, like North Seattle College and Northgate. Along 85th you would have double the service, with each route connecting to Link. This would, in turn, lead SDOT to improve that corridor, speeding up the 45.
Before the pandemic, the D and 40 each carried over 13,000 people a day, the second and third most in the state. A lot of those trips were taken north of Mercer, outside of the downtown core. The SDOT improvements alone should increase ridership substantially as the bus becomes faster and more reliable. Extending both buses in this manner would create an even more effective transit network that would help thousands upon thousands of riders.