Prior to the pandemic, I-90 was a major transit commuting corridor, composed of overlapping Metro and Sound Transit routes with an array of different service patterns. The convergence of these routes at both Eastgate and Mercer Island often meant sub-5 minute headways and crush-loaded buses in the peak.

The post-pandemic landscape is far grimmer: the 212 (formerly the workhorse of Eastgate-Seattle peak service) has been curtailed dramatically with only three buses an hour in the peak, the 214, 216, and 217 are due to be discontinued next month, and the 554 runtime is often bogged down by its routing via Rainier. With sudden trip cancellations fueled by the ongoing driver and mechanic shortage added on top, I-90 transit service is a shell of its former self.

As I’ve previous written, it’s reasonable to expect that in a post-COVID world, transit systems should adapt to a more all-day frequency-based paradigm. This necessarily entails a non-neglible reduction in peak-only commuter routes, which are expensive to operate with long deadheads between bases and route termini.

However, hacking away at unproductive service is not a viable long-term solution. For the I-90 corridor, service reductions can present an opportunity for service streamlining and strengthening frequency where it is warranted.

Idea 1: Eliminate the 212 and reinvest the hours into the 554

As much as it would pain me to eliminate the bus route of my early career, the 212 is no longer a viable commuter route. I suspect riders would appreciate more frequent service, even if it requires a slightly longer trip. In theory, the 212’s hours could then be shifted to bolster the 554 (with Metro reimbursing Sound Transit for those hours).

Although this would eliminate the circuitous routing from the freeway station down to the lower bays of the park-and-ride, it might incur a transfer penalty for anyone connecting from other Eastgate-bound routes. Scheduling optimizations and usage of the stop on the 142nd Pl SE bridge as a connecting point could help mitigate those penalties.

Another way to implement this is to rebrand the 212 as an Eastgate-Seattle express variant of the 554. However, its service pattern is different enough from the 554 (which stops at Mercer Island and Rainier Avenue) that either keeping them as separate routes or folding the 212 into the 554 pattern makes more sense. The latter option affords more opportunities for streamlining, as I’ll touch on next.

Idea 2: Streamline Rainier Avenue routing or eliminate it for select trips

When the Rainier Avenue freeway station was lost to East Link construction, Sound Transit elected to pursue divergent routing between the 550 and 554, where the former would run the entire remainder of I-90 to get to 4th & Jackson but the latter would serve Rainier Avenue. This has effectively put the 554 at a “competitive disadvantage,” where Mercer Island riders often opt for the 550 because of its speedier routing even when both routes show up at the same time.

Since Sound Transit is a regional express service, it seems to me that delegating this kind of coverage service to Metro is entirely appropriate without infringing on its Title VI obligations. This is much easier said than done in the real world, however, so a more feasible option is to eliminate the Rainier deviation for select trips, particularly in the peak. This would create at least some parity with the 550 and claw back some runtime.

The current “couplet” routing with EB on Jackson and WB on Dearborn

A second alternative is to preserve the Rainier Avenue routing but shift the eastbound route to take Dearborn instead of Jackson, as is the case with the westbound routing. Although this eliminates the stop at Maynard, which does not currently have a companion westbound stop, it avoids congestion on Jackson, which can siphon off runtime in the PM peak. SDOT-funded queue jumps and signal prioritization in that stretch can further help aid reliability.

Right-sizing service hours to reduce commuter peak-only routes doesn’t mean throwing those riders under the bus. Strengthening core service in key corridors, like I-90, can eliminate redundancies and help pave the way for future rail.

105 Replies to “Streamlining I-90 commuter service”

  1. You can write the same article about destruction of transit service across SR-520. Once upon a time there were a dozen or more routes and frequent consistent service from Kirkland & S. Kirkland and from Kingsgate. Route 255 was a well used route with 60 foot coaches every 10-15 minutes all day. The route has become a shadow of itself and the S. Kirkland P&R rebuilt as a garage at great expense no longer gets much use. ST seems committed to eliminating route 545 as well and that transit ridership will also get cut in half. All this after billions were spent on the SR-520 bridge with carpool lanes and new stations. But the service is becoming less and less useful. Even Metro tells 255 riders to transfer to route 545, especially during the frequent service disruptions. But that option will be going away

    1. I hope for a very frequent Route 542 extended to Bear Creek that can replace the function of Route 545 by providing great connections with the UW Link station and short waits. I hope Route 255 remains a frequent connection with the UW Link station. Making SR-520 transit sing well is more a question of the number of trips and not the number of routes. Route consolidation leads to shorter waits, attracting more riders. This happened in 2010-11 with the SR-520 tolling agreement and the B Line restructure. It could happen again with the UW Link station.

      1. I believe proposed route 256 from the N I-405 P&Rs is a consolidation, and will uniquely directly connect them to the east SR 520 freeway stations, and Montlake..

        STX 556 service will be consolidated into Metro 271.

        I don’t see much more to consolidate along SR 520 unless Redmond riders are asked to ride the train to Bellevue and take the 271 to UW, in which case it might be faster to just stay on the train and ride the long way around.

        Maybe if ST decided to convert STX 542 to a STRide route, WSDOT would see the value in getting the Montlake transit lane done.

      2. Route 255 evening frequency is being reduced further in the next schedule change. Weekend frequency has already been reduced. There are frequent canceled trips. There are frequent service disruptions. It’s become too unreliable and unpredictable for most riders. Maybe it will be better (in five years?) when construction is finished – but the Montlake bridge will still have disruptions as well UW area events. Half the time when 255 gets rescheduled it doesn’t go to UW Husky station. For anyone but a diehard transit user it’s become too complicated to rely on especially evenings and weekends.

        Is it chicken or egg? Doesn’t really matter, fewer riders to impact. Would love to see an honest analysis of pre-Covid pre-truncation ridership of 255 plus 540 and compare it to what’s left today and how that compares to other comparable service.

        By the way, in comparison, car travel has gone back to pre-Covid levels or higher, and transit is unattractive. Is that what we get for our transit investment dollars? You may not win any future county-wide votes, only Seattle centric ones.

      3. The driver-shortage cancellations are systemwide, so not specific to the 255. The 520 disruptions are an inseparable part of the rebuilding. The covid-era frequency reductions immediately after the route was truncated at UW were Metro’s (255) and ST’s (Link) fault. The atrocious reroutes on ballgame days is a failure by all levels of government.

    2. The discussions about how to salvage east side express ridership pre-2-Line will hopefully have a short shelf life,

      I’m curious what eastsiders (with the possible exception of the Vogon poet) think of the proposed network post-2-Line opening, and how Metro and ST manage to hold onto those specific rider groups until then.

    3. “Even Metro tells 255 riders to transfer to route 545, especially during the frequent service disruptions”

      Those will go down to normal when the 520 construction work is finished. The remaining problem will be ballgame reroutes at Husky Stadium, where ST/Metro/SDOT/UW still haven’t come up with an adequate solution that prioritizes bus service over alumnis’ cars.

      1. The construction and other Montlake-area disruptions are so frequent. Let’s talk about what is happening this coming weekend. The 520 bridge will be closed. And Link will be bustituted.

        Tell me about what service will be run. I’m pretty sure that route 255 will travel from S. Kirkland, skipping the 520 stations, across 1-90 and also skipping downtown Seattle, and probably terminate somewhere near the U-District Link station (also skipping UW hospital). Maybe a stop on Mercer Island. But in theory riders expected to go to U-District, Link to Capitol Hill, then transfer to Link shuttle.

        Will there be a single rider that takes that trip?

        More crazy is to operate route 542 at all during this disruption – when route 545 is available. Will there be more than 1 or 2 riders per 542 trip? And they’ll probably need extra operators and coaches.

        Maybe after the construction is all done they can think about making these kinds of changes. But 255 truncation is in place, ridership is gone, and now service is being taken away. It’s a death spiral for ridership and construction won’t be finished for who knows how many years.

        And the question about the second Montlake bridge – no approved plans, no funding, and Seattle doesn’t want it. Probably not happening in our lifetimes. An UW Regents have shown they don’t care about prioritizing transit… especially when they would not allow a stop on campus, and certainly in Husky game traffic.

      2. Kirkland has gotten the short end of the stick. I can’t think of any core route that has been disrupted as the 255, with Kirkland almost cut off from Seattle at times.

        The best alternative Metro has come up with is a reroute to I-90 with a stop on Mercer Island where you can transfer to the 550/554 for central/south/west Seattle. I hope it does that.

      3. My biggest beef about during bridge closure weekends is that the buses quickly fall way behind schedule and OneBusAway quickly loses track of them, so you have no idea when any bus is going to show up. It’s basically just stand at the bus stop and be prepared to wait up to 30 minutes for a bus that’s supposed to come every 15 minutes. After next month’s service cuts when the bus is only supposed to run every 30 minutes, be prepared to wait for up to an hour.

        Honestly, I think this is happening often enough, it might be worth some kind of special route for this occasion, with its own published schedule. For instance, you can run the 255 as normal from Totem Lake to South Kirkland P&R, then have a special shuttle bus run nonstop from South Kirkland P&R to downtown Seattle via I-90, with an additional connection to Link required to reach the U-district. The southbound connection at South Kirkland P&R can be timed, even if timing the northbound connection is probably not practical.

        Also, 520 bridge closures wouldn’t be so bad if the 230 ran more often, as you could take the 230 to the 522 and sneak into Seattle through the back door, taking advantage of the SR-522 bus lanes to avoid traffic. But, with the 230 running once an hour, this connection is just not practical.

      4. As the Big Ten (base octodecimal) Husky Stadium special shuttle armada gets replaced by Link’s expansion, expect alumni cars to increase their proportion of at-grade traffic near the stadium.

        The Kirkland shuttles, which may be the last surviving shuttles, might get relegated to Downtown Bellevue or U-District.

        At least now we know the climate emergency is over.

      5. It is highly unlikely that the second bridge will ever be built. From a transit or bike standpoint, it was a terrible value. For transit, there are basically two different options:

        1) Have bus lanes that go from the ramp to the bridge. For a bus coming from 520, that would mean the bus would go right to the front when the bridge is closed to traffic (but open to tall boats). Once traffic starts flowing again, the bus would merge and head across (being at, or close to the front of the line). Going the other direction, the bus/HOV lane would allow the bus to get to 520 without being delayed by general purpose traffic. At worst you have a little congestion going over the bridge itself.

        2) Take a lane. This is the trend for Seattle. This is basically what the SDOT chief wants. Greg Spotts — who works for highly qualified and moderate Bruce Harrell (not Mike McGinn) — has a long term vision for Seattle streets that has one lane of general purpose traffic everywhere. Aurora, Rainier Valley, downtown — you name it. It will take time, and you have to do your due diligence. It is essential that we study these things, otherwise it can be worse before it gets better. But my guess is in twenty years, there will be a bus lane all the way across the bridge.

        In the meantime, the important thing is that we get that first part right. There is plenty of room to tweak what WSDOT is building. I know folks think that because it is a state highway, Seattle can’t do anything, but that simply isn’t true. Seattle recently took a lane on Aurora (for a bike path) and that is part of State Route 99. The paperwork might be a little different, but it is highly unlikely the state will make things harder.

        The big problem now is just the construction (and lack of HOV ramps). That — like the lack of East Link — is temporary.

    4. What is the Montlake Bridge plan now? At one point there was going to be a second bus bridge.

      1. Second bus bridge was proposed but needed funding from the State. Seattle City Council (I don’t remember when, exactly) said “no, we don’t want a second bridge” and so it hasn’t moved further, but also hasn’t been formally eliminated from the overall Montlake WSDOT work plan.

        In a just world, the Montlake bridge would have at least 2 Bus + Bike lanes and at most 2 general lanes across it. But that conversion won’t happen until the Montlake Lid is done.

    5. I don’t think the 255 ever ran ever 10 minutes all day. Pre-pandemic, it maxed out at every 15 minutes during weekday middays, 30 minutes evenings until around 10 PM and weekends during the daytime. It did run every 10 minutes in the rush hour reverse direction, and better than that in the rush hour peak direction, but that’s it. On weekend evenings, the 255 was reduced to hourly service as early as 6 PM Saturdays and 5 PM Sundays.

      People that glorify how often the 255 used to run likely only rode it during peak commuter periods, and never tried to run it on a Sunday evening (I have).

      Even with next month’s planned service cuts, the new 255 will still be running more frequently than the old 255 on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

  2. Sherwin approaches an interesting topic. East Link may be implemented in 2025; soon, the ST Board will decide about the East Link Starter Line; it could be implemented in early 2024. So, there is not much time for a new structure or to use one. The period of maximum constraint in downtown was a time to consider change, but it did not happen. The most recent shocks have been Covid and WFH; ridership on all the one-way peak-only routes oriented to downtown office work has plummeted.

    The fall suspensions attempt to right size the network; it is needed due to the operator and mechanic shortage and the big decline in office work.

    The transit agencies have not been nimble. The current route pattern was set in fall 2013 and done in a way to avoid an ordinance. The family includes routes 212, 214, 216, 217, 218, and 219 atop Route 554. Each is peculiar; routes 212 and 217 provide reverse peak direction trips; Route 214 skips the Eastgate freeway stop; Route 216 alone serves Mercer Island; Routes 216 and 219 have Sammamish tails; Route 218 serves the Highlands. The route family was once in the DSTT, but not Route 554.

    Even before Covid, there were shocks to the family. Sherwin mentioned the East Link construction; that made them slower. ST chose to make Route 554 even slower. But consider, its original version served T-Mobile and the lower Eastgate bays. SDOT made both 2nd and 4th avenues slower by taking lanes for the PBL. WSDOT closed the Montlake freeway station and added the SR-520 bike path, taking away the bike market at Montlake from the deadheading I-90 buses. The curb space in Belltown used for bus layover in the afternoon is in high demand as Amazon expanded. In 2019, the county sold CPS to the WSCC ending bus operation in the DSTT prematurely and slowing all surface operations; transit ridership fell in 2019.

    Sherwin mentioned the long transfer walk between the lower bays and the freeway station. Route 212 provides good value for that short seam. the recent Route 245 project added a stop pair on 142nd Place SE south of the station.

    1. I’m not sure I follow your logic on bike lanes. The downtown ones enable faster (and lower carbon footprint) commuting 24/7/365. The impacted buses are overwhelmingly weekday peak only.

      The bike line on SR 520 is the real express lane, and available 24/7/365, with no wait.

      If ridership was lost to bikeways, that is a feature, not a bug.

      I do think ST’s bike capacity on trains is inadequate. Cyclists will only become a larger and larger portion of the population, and of ridership.

      1. yes, the SR-520 bike facility is a huge positive; the I-90 bus routes used to serve a purpose during their deadhead trips; they no longer have that purpose. the comment was about the bus routes remaining the same as the infrastructure changed. yes, the PBL on 2nd and 4th avenues are a positive for cycling, but they are also slower for transit; after ST2 Link, there may be very few bus routes needing those arterials. But when they were implemented, they slowed two-way all-day routes 10, 11, 43, 49, 550, 545, 554, 101, 150, 577, 578, 594; routes 522 and 255 were still in the CBD at the time.

  3. Could someone clear something up for me? Will whatever bus service there is now on I-90 need to be restructured for an Eastside-only starter line, and then whatever bus service exists during the proposed Eastside-only starter line, will once again have to be restructured for the full bridge-crossing Line 2?

    1. “Could someone clear something up for me? Will whatever bus service there is now on I-90 need to be restructured for an Eastside-only starter line, and then whatever bus service exists during the proposed Eastside-only starter line, will once again have to be restructured for the full bridge-crossing Line 2?”

      Good question. My understanding is with a starter line the buses will remain the same. The starter line from S. Bellevue to Overlake really serves very few areas people go to today, certainly on transit. The 550 will stop at S. Bellevue, and I guess someone living in Seattle going to the office at Microsoft in Redmond who doesn’t want to take the shuttle can transfer there, but few others will because the 550 serves Bellevue Way and the starter line serves Wilburton, The Spring Dist., etc. that today have few attractions for a transit rider. Basically park and ride to park and ride with nothing in between. Bus ridership to Seattle from the eastside is very weak today, and there is plenty of park and ride space everywhere.

      I doubt Issaquah or its residents would want the 554 to detour to S. Bellevue for a starter line. Or the 216-18. Eastsiders rarely use transit for intra-eastside trips.

      When/if East Link opens full speed across I-90 in 2025 or thereafter cross lake buses (except the 630) are supposed to end, although I would not be surprised to see other eastside buses to First Hill or SLU. The 554 will switch to Bellevue Way, the 550 will end, and a few peak buses from Issaquah will terminate on MI.

      My guess is the starter line won’t happen. Makes little sense, and Balducci likes to “think” out loud. Cross lake bus service today has few riders, but is quite good if you need to take it. East Link was built for a pre-pandemic world. For East Link to have any kind of ridership on the eastside Seattle office buildings will have to fill again, because that is the one place eastsiders take transit, including a train that could require a transfer from a feeder bus (or Metro micro shuttle) if the park and rides ever fill again. Too much free parking and too little commercial and housing density on the eastside to attract intra-eastside trips on buses or light rail these days.

    2. I-90 translake routes may not change; some will be suspended in fall 2023. It may make sense to streamline them, but there may be little time between the networks. The starter line could prompt changes to intra East routes. It would be solid to change routes that duplicate the starter line (e.g., routes 232, 566) or could connect better with it (e.g., routes 226, 249, 250). The starter line would do its job better with better bus connections and less duplication. SR-520 translake routes (e.g., routes 545, 252, 257, 268, 311, 424) could have already been changed since U Link. We shall see what the agencies do. The ST board will discuss the starter line soon.

  4. Just a note that Metro used to run some SE Seattle limited stop routes on Dearborn instead of Jackson as is suggested here. I believe that the 7X and the former Route 39 (or was it Route 35?) used Dearborn. It was changed about a decade ago so my memory on the exact route number is fuzzy, but I clearly remember riding a bus that ran on Dearborn.

    Yes Dearborn was much faster than Jackson.

    1. Al S refers to former routes 7X and 34, variants of routes 7 and 39, respectively. Before I-90 was complete, their South Dearborn Street pathway was carrying I-90 traffic; when I-90 was completed, they could shift to Dearborn from South Jackson; Metro did that after a few signups. Both routes were deleted after the initial Link segment.

      1. Yes! It was Route 34.

        Since that routing, SDOT removed travel lanes on Dearborn for PBLs. I’m not sure if the faster bus travel times are still attainable with the changes.

    2. The 42 ran on MLK-Dearborn until it was replaced by Link and (after several route changes) the 106 on MLK-Jackson.

    3. Dearborn was also where I-90 ended until the late 1980s. The 226/235 from Bellevue ran on Rainier-Dearborn. The 210 from Issaquah may have; I don’t remember. Peak expresses may have used the Dearborn exit. Cars used Dearborn to get between I-90 and I-5.

  5. What’s the ridership like at Rainier Ave for these eastside routes? I remember when I occasionally rode the I-90 routes, there was little usage at Rainier Ave. If it’s still the same, why not simply eliminate the stop and enter/exit I-90 via the stadiums? The old I-405 routes eliminated Houghton for the very same reason: little ridership wasn’t worth deviating from the HOV lanes.

    1. Prior to the pandemic, when the bus used the downtown tunnel, an eastbound bus would pick up around 225 riders a day, and drop off around 165 at the Rainier Freeway Station*. This was out of around 5,000 boardings. So not huge, but not tiny, either. This is more than any single stop on Bellevue Way, but less than the total on Bellevue Way.

      The big issue are riders heading east. While the bus operated as an express for those heading to downtown (via the tunnel) there are alternatives that aren’t much slower now (since the bus can’t use the tunnel). But for those headed from Rainier Valley to the East Side, it is a big detour to go all the way downtown. It is similar to having the bus use Bellevue Way. Yes, you would save a consider amount of time, but you would also makes things very inconvenient for a considerable number of riders.


  6. Sherwin’s link to his 2022 article was in response to Westneat’s question whether we were entering a period of “untransit”.

    The response on this blog and Sherwin’s current article is no, although in 2023 I think Westneat had a point (and even pre-pandemic ST 3 made no sense) but we should keep overall transit LOS the same but shift peak service to more all day service. That seems to be the thought on STB in response to the drop in peak transit ridership.

    No doubt peak transit use has fallen off a cliff on these I-90 routes, but off-peak ridership is down too. There is little merit in improving off peak frequency on these runs, although the routes can be — and are being — consolidated if off peak ridership is less than pre pandemic. Buses have never been crowded on Eastside buses off peak. Ever.

    What does make frequency easier is there are only a few major areas most ridership originates, it originates at park and rides which eliminate bus stops and shift the costs of first/last mile access to the riders, , and very few transit trips are intra-Eastside. Plus the subarea is flush with ST cash.

    Today any eastsider wanting to go to Seattle can drive to the MI park and ride and get good frequency on the combination of routes. Sherwin makes a good point the 554 needs to go directly downtown. It isn’t a milk run for Seattle, and that isn’t where the few eastsiders taking transit are going. They don’t even drive to Rainier S. Pre-pandemic ridership on the 550 declined 33% and 17% on tje 554 when their Seattle routes were changed.

    It really doesn’t matter how many different buses routes are running. There are 2-3 park and rides in Issaquah, one in Eastgate, and one on MI. That is it (the 550 serves areas north and S Bellevue). You could basically have one route (554) serve these park and rides and then go as directly as possible to downtown and you have served the few Eastside riders on this route. I doubt MI would object to the slight increase in the number of buses accessing the Island with the consolidation of the 212 with the 554.

    I think that is the path Metro and ST are going, but don’t look for greater frequency off peak. The riders just are not there including off peak. Which is why the 554 will go to Bellevue Way when East Link opens and a few infrequent peak buses will truncate on MI.

    The riders are just not there, peak or non peak on the Eastside. At least on the Eastside the subarea did untransit. So consolidate routes to the 5-6 main park and rides and have ST fund it to help Metro. Frequency of 15/30 would be fine if reliable although that cuts frequency on MI today from several buses, but no one is waiting for them anyway. Especially off peak.

    1. The USA has been in a period of “untransit ” since the 1920s. The only way to change that is to improve transit.

      1. Seattle had great transit ridership on the electric trolleybus network in the 1940s; gas and rubber were rationed; the service frequency was great; workers took the buses to/from Boeing, the shipyards, and downtown.

  7. The beginning of the end for the 255 really tarted when it was pulled from the tunnel. Then it lost the brickyard tail and lastly the downtown stops completely. It was all on line with metro current mantra of of “Let them take link”. Except st may or may not ever get link to actually run over I 90…

    1. It won’t end; there’s no other route for the 92,000 people in Kirkland to Seattle. Some of them will always want to take transit in that corridor.

    2. The Brickyard Tail was discontinued because nobody was riding it anyway and even if somebody did, it took over an hour to get to Seattle. Totem Lake doesn’t exactly have a lot of riders easier, but there are way more home and businesses around there for people to ride to, so at least Totem Lake ridership has some potential to grow in the future, in the way that Brickyard never will.

      Also, the Brickyard Tail still has service, in the form of the 231 and 239. It’s no longer a one-seat ride to Seattle, but to be honest that one-seat was so long (over an hour, in fact) that it wasn’t particularly useful for people going that far anyway. Even if you take the 231 and transfer, the transfer time is offset by a more direct route path, so the total travel time to Seattle is probably no worse than it was before.

      1. The 231 is going to hourly all the time in Sept. This is practically a brand new route from when they axed the 234 and they are already cutting its frequency. Wwll done as always Metro!my bigger point I guess qas that the fanatical rush to get buses out of rhe tunnel continues to have unintended consequences but I still miss the 194 to get to the airport versus the slow toy train so what do I know? I don’t have a degree in urban or transport planning…

      2. I don’t miss the 194 one bit. Link runs much more often than the 194 ever did, bypasses the line of cars picking people up at the airport (which the 194 didn’t), and loads passengers with luggage much more quickly once it arrives at the airport. By the time you account for wait time and boarding time, Link is absolutely faster between downtown and the airport than the 194 it replaced, even if the 194 has the faster schedule on paper.

        And, on top of all of the above, Link continues past downtown, avoiding a transfer downtown for people continuing northward, a transfer which ate up a *lot* of time, back in the 194 days. For those headed to the Rainier Valley, it’s worse; Link takes you from SeaTac to Columbia City in 20 minutes; before, you used to have to ride the 194 at least as far as SODO and then backtrack on a bus, a trip which would take at least an hour.

        And also, don’t forget that when the 194 ran, it stopped run on Sundays as early as 5 PM. So, anyone taking a Sunday evening flight into SeaTac would have to instead ride the 174 into downtown, which is essentially a version of today’s 124 that continues onward to the airport, rather than ending at TIBS. That would be an additional 20 minutes, over and above what the 194 would take.

        I’ll also note that back when the 194 was running, capacity was an issue and sometimes, a bus would be full and you’d have to wait for the next one, and that when lots of passengers have suitcases, passenger capacity is way less than what’d you get on a similar-sized bus running a normal route. Between more frequent service and much larger vehicles, Link has much larger capacity, so full trains is usually not an issue. I’ve used Link to fly with a large suitcase, plus a large backpack, plus my dog, needing a combined 3 seats on the train to carry all the stuff. With the old 194, fitting all that stuff would have been impossible, and I’d have to resort to paying for an Uber.

      3. @asdf,

        Ya, I’ve never understood this supposed love for the old 194. There was always long waits for it, and it was super unreliable. By contrast Link is faster, more frequent, and much, much more reliable. And Link goes to more places directly with a one seat ride.

        And your comments about luggage are accurate. I used to commute to England for work, spending 3 weeks at a time there and traveling with the large amount of luggage that an international business/first class ticket allows. Getting all that on/off a Metro bus would be a disaster, but it is easy with Link..

        The 194 is now on the ash heap of history, and it is there for a reason. I don’t miss it at all.

      4. Thank you for talking about the 194 supporters (and some near-future complaining about truncating STX 574, despite the travel time math).

        But why is everyone else suddenly talking about eastside routes? And forgetting the all-important 630?

    3. Good grief: Route 255 was not pulled from the DSTT per se; the DSTT was pulled from the bus routes by the county sale of CPS to the WSCC (March 2019); bus operation ended prematurely. Route 255 was placed on a new pathway on 5th/6th avenues with transit priority only in the peak.

      1. I personally think the 255 should have never been put in the downtown tunnel in the first place, as you maximize the benefits of the tunnel by prioritizing routes that use the I-5 express lanes, which were directly connected to the tunnel.

        Even back in 2000, the tunnel slots that were allocated to the 255 should have instead gone to the 510 and 511 (there was no 512 back then).

      2. asdf2, it was subarea equity. Early drawings of the tunnel had sample Ballard, West Seattle, and Burien routes in it. But when it came time to open the tunnel, the county wanted to spread the benefit to every part of the county. So the 255 was for the northern Eastside.

      3. I personally think the 255 should have never been put in the downtown tunnel in the first place, as you maximize the benefits of the tunnel by prioritizing routes that use the I-5 express lanes, which were directly connected to the tunnel.

        Yeah, but you could have put a lot more buses in the tunnel (it was nowhere near capacity). I don’t think sending the 255 there meant that some I-5 express buses couldn’t use it. I think the idea was to have certain *core* buses using the tunnel, and the 255 fit that description.

        [Edit] I think the key element was the type of buses. The tunnel required hybrids (buses that could run on wire in the tunnel, but gas outside it). Certain routes make more sense than others in that regard. The more you can use those special (and likely more expensive) buses the better. Thus the all-day 41 went to the tunnel, while the peak-only 77 didn’t. My guess is ST didn’t want to pay extra to run the 510/512 buses from the north into the tunnel. I’m not sure, but weren’t they double-decker as well? I think they are also operated by Community Transit, complicating things.

  8. Vaguely recall Metro routes 202, 203, 211, and 213 all running into and out of Seattle, but they’ve all been cut in the last decade.

    Of the routes remaining from the 200 to 220 series, only one that really is a catch-all is the 216. The 212, 214, 217, 218 and 219 are all either shorter and/or skip certain stops. The 216 has been cut down to two trips in the afternoon; the last one of the day is regularly standing-room only leaving Seattle and has been that way since the end of May.

    Also been a few jam-packed buses on the ST 550 and 554 skipping stops on their way out of the city as well these last two weeks.
    With Metro cutting the 21x routes and ST not increasing service on the 55x routes next month, things will only get worse.

    Frankly, both agencies are poor communicators, and my biggest gripe with them as a passenger has been the lack of openness or transparency about service and safety issues.
    No timeline on when the 216 will be restored. No timeline on the randomized, roaming security patrols that were supposed to start on the ST routes several months ago.
    Tired of putting up with rule-breaking delinquents on the 550 and 554. No accountability whatsoever.

    1. commuter: 202, 203, 211, and 213
      Routes 202 and 205 were one-way peak-only Mercer Island routes deleted in fall 2014. Routes 203 and 213 were hourly two-way all-day local routes on MI also deleted in fall 2014. Route 204 was improved and Route 630 added a bit later.
      Route 210 may have been deleted in fall 1997.

      Metro on fall 2023:
      Route 219 may already been suspended.
      A key is the number of trips and not the number of routes.

  9. The whole inner Eastside bus service needs to be looked at especially with Link open. Similarly Bellevue will see a lot of changes, as proposed the western part of Downtown Bellevue will have no service when the 550 goes away and the 271 gets rerouted via Bellevue Way NE. Wilburton will see dramatic growth in the coming decade with high rises but just minimal transit service.

    1. There is the current pilot shuttle, but IMO it sounds from the Geek review like it will be too slow and meandering and serves too large an area (including Wilburton and even Meydenbauer which I don’t get unless the marina is a big destination).

      I also don’t know how many want a “shared” ride experience, especially women. I agree with Mike that when East Link opens the better — and original — plan is to run a constant electric (and at some point driverless) shuttle from East Main to Main to NE 8th to Bellevue Way to Main back to 112th and Main. It would need to have excellent frequency (3 minutes), few stops, and a consistent and known route. It would also serve Stride.

      The pre-pandemic plans for development in Wilburton and The Spring Dist. (and East Main) were mostly office and commercial, with some housing and little retail. No one thought Microsoft would go WFH, and no one knows how many Seattle Amazon workers will shift to Bellevue (the original plan was 25,000 hew hires would fill the Bellevue offices until Amazon began cutting workers). I have my doubts that kind of development is viable today in Wilburtoln or The Spring Dist. (which is just a made-up name). After all, Amazon has space for 25,000 full time employees that is mostly empty in the Class A zone.

      East Link will serve Wilburton and The Spring Dist., and my guess is if they do develop as planned each area will fund their own direct shuttle to Bellevue Way to access the retail rather than try and create their own retail density. Or rely on Uber. Folks who live west of Bellevue Way are not really transit folks and that is a very undense residential area except for some apartments) so I wouldn’t worry about them. Worst case scenario Metro or ST could add a bus. Some argue the walk from the “Main St.” station to Bellevue Way is not that arduous although uphill, but I disagree if we are talking about eastsiders, and no one would argue the walk from Main to NE 8th is short or easy.

      But it does highlight the fundamental error to run East Link along 112th and not Bellevue Way, and to so many stations along East Link that are not attractions with plenty of free parking based on ST’s “optimism” about TOD, although there really are not that many existing areas to support light rail. It could be that ridership on East Link is so low it really doesn’t matter. The shuttle along 112th and Bellevue Way was always designed to bring workers from East Link to Bellevue Way. I don’t think Freeman or the businesses along Bellevue Way see East Link as a source of shoppers and diners (although a shuttle along Bellevue Way from NE 10th where the new performing arts center will be and Old Main St. on Main would be nice), which is why Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square have so much free parking.

      1. I would extend the Rapid Ride B line from the BTC to Meydenbauer Bay Park and just have one frequent, highly viable route go over to the west side of Downtown. The electric shuttle is a low capacity novelty toy ride for a couple hotel guests who didn’t rent a car. It is not a serious option for moving people.

        There is still a decent amount of multi-family housing near Meydenbauer Bay Park. But the real reason is to send a major route there is to serve Old Main shopping district, Meydenbauer Bay Park (which will be expanded and become more of a destination), Downtown Park, Bellevue Square and all the new dense development newly built and planned on the western half of Downtown. Hard to build a walkable dense transit-oriented neighborhood without the transit.

      2. It’s a pretty easy walk from Old Main St. to Meydenbauer Bay (the marina), Meydenbauer Park, and downtown park, even for eastsiders. Even my wife and I do it when we boat over to Meydenbauer marina. (Personally I think Meydenbauer Park turned out poorly and from what I see it isn’t that popular).

        The keys are at some point a shuttle or bus needs to connect to a park and ride because parking in Old Main St. is tough (although there is parking around the downtown park) and those folks got there by car (unless the shuttle runs to East Link), and where a shuttle is really necessary is connecting NE 8th and Bellevue Way (the mall and Lincoln Square north and south where all the parking is) to Old Main St. which is mostly a restaurant area, not so much retail. Freeman plans to basically extend the mall to NE 4th and Bellevue Way and hope that works as a bridge between Old Main St., NE 4th and the park, and Bell Square and Lincon Sq. N & S.

        Personally, I just don’t see the need for much transit west of Bellevue Way. I think the ridership between Meydenbauer park and Old Main St. would be weak, even in the summer.

      3. That’s an expensive extension. Probably a good ten minutes in each direction because of the lights, and I’m not sure that there’s even enough space on Main Street through Old Bellevue for an articulated bus. It would just about always block an intersection. Unless you mean to run it on 8th or 4th to 100th Ave, then onto Lake Washington Boulevard, bypassing Old Bellevue? I guess that that might work, but you still have to turn around somewhere – which means going all the way to Medina and turning around (with no layover spot). Since the B line lays over at BTC, that would require laying over at the other end, which has its own set of issues.

        This is getting a bit off topic for the “streamlining I-90 commuter service” though – I posted an alternative in the open thread.

      4. “I would extend the Rapid Ride B line from the BTC to Meydenbauer Bay Park”

        Cost considerations aside, there is nowhere to turn around or layover a bus there. It is also close enough to the rest of downtown Bellevue to walk. And Bellevue Way/Main to BTC is already covered by a bus anyway, and a frequent one at that (the 550).

  10. Going back to the topic at hand, in the short term, consolidating I-90 routes and having the 554 take the direct path into downtown seems like a good idea to me.

    In the longer term, I think things are going to look rather bleak. I’m imagining everybody who rides the 554 today switching to driving to the train, to the point where there’s not enough riders left to sustain the 554 at it’s planned frequency. There’s enough ridership from Seattle residents that I don’t see the 554 going away completely, but it could end up dropping to once or twice per hour, while Sammamish loses it’s I-90 express entirely and ends up with an extended 554 rather than a 269.

    It’s a combination of equity focus leading to Eastside in general getting worse and worse service because we don’t have enough people or color, and also the cost per service hour itself marching to higher and higher levels each year, due to ever rising equipment and labor costs.

    1. It’s not politically correct these days, but making transit an equity issue is a death knell for useful transit. Instead of a focus on designing useful service and transporting people, now it’s a social service. I guess that means the roads are the transit service for the rest of us. More acres of free parking and unwalkable environments. The opposite of what we should be designing for climate change and integrated communities. How sad what we have come to.

      1. In the 2010’s Metro executives talked about Metro as “mass” transit, wanting as many riders as possible. Since the pandemic, they have completely flipped the script, talking nonstop about equity and socially vulnerable people, to the point where I really start to feel that they could not care less what a person who is neither poor nor black thinks about the service and whether they are willing to ride it. In the long run, this is a mistake. The more people think of transit as a service for poor people, the less people who are not poor will be willing to pay taxes in order to fund it; this will, in turn, lead to service cuts, and the very people they are trying to help will be the ones that will suffer most (the rest will just drive cars and say “not my problem”).

      2. @asdf2,

        More and more of the “mass” in mass transit has moved, and continues to move, over to Link. This is as it should be, because that is exactly why you build a high capacity, high reliability, high frequency system like Link.

        This shifting of the “mass” in mass transit over to Link is only going to accelerate over the next few years with the openings of Lynnwood Link, East Link, and Federal Way Link. It’s why we are building those extensions.

        Metro knows this and seems to be a bit rudderless at the moment. They know their future is more of a feeder service to Link, but I think they are a bit reticent to admit that publicly. So they seem to be searching around a bit for a public mission. Hence Metro’s focus on “equity” and things like “Rapid”Ride.

        RapidRide is an interesting example. We would never have RR if it wasn’t for Link. RR is nothing more than Metro’s response to Link. It’s Metro’s attempt to compete with Link and remain in the public spotlight at least a little. Hence the never ending parade of RR lines that aren’t really any more “rapid” than an express bus. It’s Metro’s attempt at finding a new mission in a post-Link world.

        But if Link hadn’t been built? Metro would still have us sitting on the same old buses they ran in the 80’s. And they would still be calling it “mass” transit.

      3. “This shifting of the “mass” in mass transit over to Link is only going to accelerate over the next few years with the openings of Lynnwood Link, East Link, and Federal Way Link…. Metro knows this and seems to be a bit rudderless at the moment. They know their future is more of a feeder service to Link, but I think they are a bit reticent to admit that publicly. So they seem to be searching around a bit for a public mission. Hence Metro’s focus on “equity” and things like “Rapid”Ride. RapidRide is an interesting example. We would never have RR if it wasn’t for Link. RR is nothing more than Metro’s response to Link.”

        Only in your imagination. The vast majority of Metro trips can’t be replaced by Link or a Link transfer because they’re too far away from Link. The E, 62, 70 (J), 271 (270), 255, 240, 105, and 168 will continue to run. Even the 106 will continue to run, because of in-between destinations on MLK and trips to Renton.

        “Equity” is a political movement embraced by all levels of local government, so it’s far larger than Metro or ST. Metro kept covid-era frequency up because the county council urged it to and helped it find funds for it. I was going to comment more at length elsewhere about the rise of equity, but the short story is that covid-era ridership patterns and the necessity of essential workers shook things up.

        Both Link, RapidRide, and the failed Monorail project are part of a general move to modernize transit. Each has its role. RapidRide was an attempt to do something relatively cheap compared to limited-stop routes (like Swift) or rail in the RapidRide corridors. It could very well have happened without Link.

        Without Link, the RapidRide corridor priorities might have been different. For instance, U-District to downtown (J) would have had to be first, with major transit priority on Eastlake Avenue, because it’s the highest-volume corridor and was melting down with overcrowding and bus bunching.

      4. “Metro would still have us sitting on the same old buses they ran in the 80’s.”

        I recently learned that Metro’s problem in the 80s was a bad director. He didn’t believe in buses and thought we should invest in vanpools instead. So that’s why bus service was so minimal and infrequent and long milk runs without Metro pushing for something better.

        In the late 2000s I heard a lecture he and Kemper Freeman gave an Eastside transportation group. They said they only transit problem in the region is peak-hour congestion, and their solution was more vanpools. They said there’s no transit problem off-peak because people can drive. That’s NOT what the county’s goals should be or what a transit agency is for. The goal should be to make a robust frequent/fast/comprehensive network so that the most people choose to take transit as their first choice. As many other cities have done or have taken significant steps toward, and thus have higher ridership per capita than Metro/ST.

        Since then Metro has had better directors, which led it to pursue restructures, RapidRide, and better long-term plans, and I’ve also been impressed with many of the planners’ ideas. I’d say Metro now does better planning than ST does, and often comes up with ideas activists hadn’t thought of.

      5. “RapidRide is an interesting example. We would never have RR if it wasn’t for Link. RR is nothing more than Metro’s response to Link. It’s Metro’s attempt to compete with Link and remain in the public spotlight at least a little.”

        Oh this is a silly statement. RapidRide and the starter Link segment design are both attributable to technology — not each other. There’s more advanced traffic signal technology that allows for transit priority, fare payment technology that allows for off-vehicle payment and vehicle location technology that lets an agency know where an in-device vehicle is.

        RapidRide was obviously developed as a response to using new technology to speed up buses and not to compete with Link.

      6. “This shifting of the “mass” in mass transit over to Link is only going to accelerate over the next few years with the openings of Lynnwood Link, East Link, and Federal Way Link…. Metro knows this and seems to be a bit rudderless at the moment. They know their future is more of a feeder service to Link, but I think they are a bit reticent to admit that publicly. So they seem to be searching around a bit for a public mission. Hence Metro’s focus on “equity” and things like “Rapid”Ride. RapidRide is an interesting example. We would never have RR if it wasn’t for Link. RR is nothing more than Metro’s response to Link.”

        “Only in your imagination.”

        I agree with Mike Lazarus, and have never understood the animus rail advocates have toward buses or Metro.

        Metro’s focus on equity is because it does not have enough drivers, and its future funding is going to require cuts. That includes for feeder routes to Link. I agree Metro looks a little rudderless, but it is going through a painful paradigm shift in which transit must be cut, which is hard.

        The big problem is the predicted savings from truncation are much less than estimated, and Link serves such a tiny sliver of the ST taxing district so buses do most of the work. The feeder routes are much more difficult than running a train along a freeway in grade separated corridors. Plus, since Link adds a transfer riders want even more frequency on feeder buses to make up for the transfer when Metro’s budgets and driver shortage will require less frequency. Link can run every 3 minutes but if the feeder buses run every 30 minutes guess which determines time of trip?

        The good news today is ridership on the suburban Link lines like East and Lynnwood Link will be low enough the park and rides will handle most of the first/last mile access, which based on ridership today won’t be full. The irony in your comment about mass transit shifting to Link is there isn’t mass transit today, because there is not mass ridership, which is why Link’s farebox recovery is around 20% while estimated O&M budgets were just increased $1.2 billion from original estimates. Link is going to have funding issues too in the near future.

        In any transit trip the time of trip is determined in the following order: 1. from doorstep to first stop (whether driving to a park and ride, walking, walking to feeder bus). This is usually the longest part of the trip; 2. frequency of feeder bus and time of trip; 3. wait for Link and time of trip on Link; 4. last mile access, which most insist is walking less than 1/4 mile, not another form of transit.

        Link is completely dependent on 1 and 2 (and 4) unless it can get folks to walk to Link or live in TOD near stations and freeways, and Link goes to their destination. This idea that Metro is cutting routes and frequency on eastside bus routes today but will magically increase routes and frequency to feed East Link is unrealistic because like today Metro simply won’t have the funding, which is why it is looking at how to allocate cuts, in part based on equity. If eastsiders are not riding transit do you increase transit on the eastside, even though they pay a ton of taxes for transit? No. Even to feed East Link.

        Since Link adds a transfer and wait frequency and time of trip on Metro needs to be greater than a one seat bus ride. But Metro budgets are going to result in the opposite. And all those potential suburban Link riders who are not riding the bus today have cars in their garages. Whether they will drive those to park and rides to catch Link will depend on whether their trip is peak or not, they can take transit to work, and whether there is free parking at their destination. And of course time of trip between Link and just driving.

        If Metro fails Link fails.

      7. Faster fare collection is a key benefit of RR and perhaps it larger speed advantage. Smart card technology is used, but was not necessary. I saw proof-of-payment fare collection in the Paris RATP with a mechanical system. It is a question of will and funding to speed transit.

      8. “Metro’s focus on equity is because it does not have enough drivers”

        The equity bandwagon started in 2020 before the driver shortage. It was a response to the fact that ridership didn’t fall in South King County; everybody realized transit-riding essential workers were critical to keep stores and hospitals open and electricity running and package delivery; laid-off workers needed a reprieve from transportation costs (i.e., cars); the George Floyd protests; etc.

        The driver shortage manifested around 2021 when Metro tried to restore suspended routes and ramp up for Northgate Link.

      9. @Al.S,

        New technology had absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of RapidRide. BRT systems have been around at least since the mid 70’s, and various forms of signal preemption since well before that.

        And ticket vending machines have been around for well over a century. And RapidRide isn’t even a fully off-board payment type system. Many RR routes have the bulk of their ticket sales being onboard, just like a regular old express bus. It’s hardly high tech. In fact, it is fairly low tech.

        Plus Metro waited until 2010 to open their first RapidRide line, well after the technologies it relies on were widely available.

        Na, RapidRide is purely a response to the arrival of Sound Transit and Link.

      10. “If Metro fails Link fails.”

        True, because non-drivers won’t be able to get to Link stations. It’s like the Starter Line only much bigger. Link on I-5 and no Metro doesn’t help you if you’re starting from north Ballard.

      11. “Since Link adds a transfer and wait frequency and time of trip on Metro needs to be greater than a one seat bus ride. But Metro budgets are going to result in the opposite.”

        You’re overestimating the problem. Metro might be cut 20%. It was cut 20% in 2014 and the world didn’t end, and most Metro routes continued operating. Link restructures sometimes add a transfer, but they sometimes subtract a transfer or create new one-seat rides. There’s no direct bus from Seattle to the Spring District, no limited-stop bus from downtown Bellevue to Redmond, no bus from the Eastside to Capitol Hill or Roosevelt — but Link will do all of these.

      12. @Mike Orr,

        Nobody expects Metro to “fail”. That is laughable. I don’t know where you guys came up with this stuff, but there is no truth to it. Metro is not going to “fail”, at least in the aggregate sense.

        However, it is possible that we are currently at, or approaching, peak Metro.

        Link will continue to take on a larger and larger share of the “mass” part of regional mass transit, and Metro will continue to evolve more into a feeder type service to Link. That likely means a smaller Metro footprint as costs will go up while ridership stagnates. We are already seeing this with Metro’s post-pandemic recover problems.

        There might be a move to merge the various bus agencies at some point down the road, but I think this is probably unlikely for political reasons.

      13. “ Plus Metro waited until 2010 to open their first RapidRide line, well after the technologies it relies on were widely available.”

        Even Wikipedia attributes RapidRide to a 2006 effort called “Transit Now”. That’s two years before ST2. By the time ST2 was adopted, engineering had already begun. It’s part of the reason that some RapidRide corridors were selected before the ST2 package had been identified and now seem a bit redundant.

        Also, the technology was available earlier — but KCM wasn’t using it on a widespread basis before they started creating RapidRide. These things require financial commitment which Transit Now provided. Plus, every technology gets better over time and that often makes implementing that investment get easier and cheaper to make. At some point a technology investment progresses from unrealistic to expensive to affordable.

        So if RapidRide was a response to Link, was Swift created for the same reason?

      14. “some RapidRide corridors were selected before the ST2 package had been identified and now seem a bit redundant.”

        Which ones? Not the A, B, or E. The A is needed for in-between stops and is one of Metro’s most popular and efficient routes. The B is too far away from Link to be in the same corridor in east Bellevue, and serves Crossroads, which Link doesn’t. The E is too far from Link to be in the same corridor. Some people could vaguely take Link from downtown to Shoreline and transfer to an east-west bus, but most E trips can’t, and it’s unclear how many who can will do so. The C, D, and F are nowhere near Link. The C and D will be in ST3, but that was decided ten years later. The C and D are really the result of the failure of the Monorail project: something had to be put in instead for the western half of the city.

        “So if RapidRide was a response to Link, was Swift created for the same reason?”

        Swift is a kind of “poor man’s tram” for a county that wouldn’t even consider real intra-county trams. Link serves regional trips to King County and between the largest city centers (Everett, Lynnwood). Swift serves smaller intra-county trips around it, or trips from Link to smaller centers. If Snohomish Link didn’t exist, Swift would be even more important as a fallback, and would have to have a route to fill in the gap (Lynnwood- Mountlake Terrace).

      15. Metro ridership exceeds Link ridership by quite a bit. This should continue for the foreseeable future, and likely forever. Link would have to be far more comprehensive — with a lot more stations and lines — but that isn’t the system they are building.

        But that doesn’t meant that Metro won’t continue to truncate buses and turn them into feeders, as they have in the past. The same is true of ST Express as well as Community Transit express bus service. The thing is, these just don’t make up a huge portion of the ridership within the system. The express buses that used to carry a big portion of the ridership (41, 71, 72, 73) are already truncated. The various extensions will to an increase in Link ridership — it all adds up — but the big switch from Metro express buses to Link has already happened.

      16. I would also add that too many express buses is the least of Metro’s problems. To be clear, I think there are still too many express buses. Even after the restructure for Lynnwood and East Link, there will be too many. But there are only a handful of trips every day. Truncate those buses, and you have a better network, but only by a tiny bit.

        In contrast, restructure the buses in the greater Central Area, and you improve things for tens of thousands of riders. It is easy to say we should truncate the buses, and not send them to First Hill. But since ST decided to skip the neighborhood, it puts Metro in a tough position. It requires a trade-off, and one that in my opinion is harder on riders than a sensible restructure in the greater Central Area. It should happen, but there is no way that the biggest weakness within the Metro bus network is that they don’t feed Link very well. The biggest weakness is that they are unwilling to address a network that should have changed a long time ago. I know it isn’t cheap (especially to move wire) but the network is long overdue for a major makeover. This is what is needed (along with SDOT providing more right-of-way, more off-board payment, more service in general, etc.). Metro buses actually feed Link quite well, and that will continue as Link adds more service in areas well suited for that (Lynnwood, Federal Way and Mercer Island).

      17. @Ross,

        “ Metro ridership exceeds Link ridership by quite a bit. This should continue for the foreseeable future, and likely forever.”

        Ah, don’t look now, but Link just came within about 18% of Metro bus ridership. Yes, extraordinary circumstances, but Link is also just one 24 mile starter line.

        “Link would have to be far more comprehensive — with a lot more stations and lines “

        Exactly my point. Look around. In 5 years Link will be “ far more comprehensive” and will have “a lot more stations and lines.” If those stations and lines had been available during the Swift concerts then Link ridership would have easily surpassed Metro bus ridership.

      18. In 5 years Link will be “ far more comprehensive” and will have “a lot more stations and lines.”

        No, it won’t. In five years it will extend to more suburban areas. It will have much better freeway feeder stations and cover a handful of moderately dense suburban areas. It will make an important trip across the lake. These are all good things. But it won’t be comprehensive — not from a transit standpoint.

        I guess I should have been more detailed. I’m talking about a real subway system that thoroughly covers the urban areas. Link will never be that, despite being quite long (top five in North America, behind New York City, Mexico City, L. A. maybe). Check out this map of the Paris Metro on top of Seattle: It is a bit silly, but you get an idea of scale. Move a few of those lines (so they don’t extend into the water) and you’ve covered the entire city. This is they type of comprehensive coverage I’m talking about. Lots of stops and lots of lines. We are closer to the other extreme.

        Consider a concrete example — the same area I mentioned in a different comment. The greater Central Area can be roughly defined as everything in Seattle east of I-5, north of of I-90 and south of the ship canal. It is home to the biggest swath of density in the state. Tens of thousands of people ride transit to and from this area (or at least they did, before the pandemic). Within this area, there is only one line, and one station. A second line, with a single station, will skirt this area. A normal, standard subway (like the one planned for Forward Thrust) would have had at least three stations between downtown and the UW with the first line. We only have one. A thorough subway system (like that in Paris) would have another line (or two) along with several additional stations. If you actually expect the subway to do the lion’s share of the work, this is the type of system you build. The problem is, we are building the opposite.

        In our zest for long distance travel we have skipped over the areas that are likely to have a lot of riders. Most transit riders are not trying to get from Tacoma or Everett (or even Lynnwood) to Seattle. Most transit riders are simply trying to get from one neighborhood of Seattle to another. Worse yet, the trips that are best served by a subway are those that have been skipped, while the trips that are best served by buses will be replaced by trains. If I want to get from Lynnwood to Fremont the slowest part is UW to Fremont. The fastest part if being made a tiny bit faster; the slowest part — the part that gets more riders per mile — is being ignored. It gets worse as the line goes farther. Lynnwood Link is a significant improvement for suburban riders. It is not as important as a thorough urban subway, but still quite helpful. You need a good terminus for the buses, and Lynnwood is much better than Northgate (since it has HOV ramps for the buses). But going from Lynnwood Link to Everett Link will only help a handful of riders. It will be slower for many. The same is true for West Seattle Link as well. Terminate the buses there, and Link ridership goes up, but overall ridership goes down (as it takes longer for most riders in West Seattle to get … well, anywhere).

        Metro had over 400,000 riders before the pandemic. I doubt very seriously that Link will ever come close to that number. That by itself doesn’t mean it is a bad system. It is rare for more people to ride rail than buses. I believe Boston and New York are the only cities in North America where that is the case (although Chicago is about 50-50). Both rail systems are thorough, in part because they were built a long time ago. Just look up the road at a very successful system that should have been our model. Prior to the pandemic, SkyTrain carried around 475,000. Again, this is more than our rail system will ever carry. And yet even with those fantastic numbers, more people (750,000) take the bus. Of course rail has (and will continue) to replace bus service for core routes. But one of the reasons their system is so much more successful than ours is that the buses and trains work together really well.

        Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here. I find it odd that you criticize Metro for not doing enough to feed Link, while turning around and saying that major feeder stations (like 130th) are not important. This is a two-way street. You have to make it easy for the buses and trains to work together (like they do in Vancouver). You can’t have buses making turn after turn to get to a station, and then wonder why so few people ride the feeder buses. You have to enable a good grid (like they did in Vancouver) otherwise, you end up with a system that isn’t that good, and people just drive.

        At the end of the day, what matters most is modal share. According to Wikipedia ( about 23% of trips in Vancouver involve transit. In Seattle it is 10%. It is possible our number will go up, but I doubt seriously that it will ever be as good as Vancouver. Partly it is because our system isn’t that thorough, but mostly it will be because it doesn’t complement our bus system very well. Trips that are relatively fast by bus will be replaced by trains that are not much faster (if they are faster at all). Trips that carry a lot of riders despite being very slow — buses like the 3/4, 8 and 44 — will have to muddle along with whatever improvements SDOT has in store. Any optimism I have in the future of transit in the city is based on the latter. Maybe Seattle will make the buses really fast, and we will have good system for the vast majority of trips people make. If not, we will muddle along with a very expensive rail system, and buses that do the lion’s share of the work, despite being fairly slow.

  11. I did not realize that it was coming this soon or would be this brutal.

    Route 255 to Kirkland drops to 30 minute headways at 7:30pm weekday evenings (strangely 20 minute headways until 9:40pm Saturdays and 10:40 Sundays).

    What was once a 20 trip to Kirkland in the evening is now a hit or miss, 5 minutes to Link station, 5-15 minute wait, 10 minute ride, 5 minute to surface, possible 30 minute wait, and then 20 minute ride (unless there is a disruption.) Figure on an hour instead of 20 minutes.

    The promise of the 255 disruption was 15 minute headways. Gone.

    Usefulness of the service. Gone

    Ridership. Gone.

    Car Use. Up.

    Transit is only for the transit-dependent and we can provide inconvenient marginal service.

    1. And, unfortunately, when the driver shortage ends, I don’t trust Metro at all to restore the 255 to its current service levels. More likely, the “temporary” cuts become permanent and the new drivers go to some other route that scores higher on Metro’s equity index.

  12. It’s alright. According to DT, Eastsiders don’t take or want to take transit anyway.

    1. Does anyone “want” to take transit? Eastsiders are apparently not taking transit today although they could.

      The old transit model was based on the transit slave. When WFH came around and the hub in Seattle became too dangerous and dirty to use the old Soviet style of transit imploded. Not just here but everywhere in the U.S., even in the most urban of urban cities like NY and SF.

      Damn right we are in an era of untransit. I have predicted these cuts for some time, and the fraud that is ST project cost estimates and farebox recovery goals.

      Cutting transit service on the Eastside is easy, because as noted no one is riding it. Transit just can’t adapt to a world in which transit trips are discretionary.

      It is just too late for mass transit because that takes mass ridership. Uber, lack of congestion, free parking, WFH, private shuttles, driverless technology, urban crime, HUGE capital maintenance deficits are starving transit of the enormous subsidies it needs to provide not coverage because that is dead but frequency for those who must ride transit but often need subsidized fares.

      We haven’t even gotten into the beginning of 2023-24 operating budgets for cities like Seattle when WFH and declining office building values will require significant budget cuts across the board including transit.

      I point these things out and folks on this blog think I am the bad person. Not really. Post pandemic life is really good for folks. Commuter slaves got back two hours of each day. Businesses like mine are saving a fortune in rent. Uber is booming because folks have money to spend and it is safe and solves the artificial parking shortage in Seattle. 95% of trips are not by transit so service cuts don’t affect 95% of citizens.

      For a long time now I have suggested to folks on this blog to get serous about where to cut transit so it hurts the least. But folks spending other people’s money don’t want to do that, although that is exactly what Metro is doing in an uncoordinated way.

      The next big reality is ST 3 is not affordable (shock and surprise) and ST’s future O&M budgets are a house of cards.

      Forget about eastsiders. 520 is correct: they are not taking transit because they don’t have to. But start to think about how to allocate transit service to those who must ride transit. That is not easy when ST will suck out $152 billion from the transit pie and allocate a huge portion of it to the same Eastsiders who are not riding transit.

      1. This is not 2020 anymore. I just rode transit today, on the eastside, and was far from the only person on my bus.

      2. People want access. They want transportation is safe, reliable, and convenient. Whether that is transit or not is always dependent on the specific trip and the alternatives.

        Some people like driving trucks or sport cars. Some people like training trains or double decker buses. But most people just want to get somewhere.

    1. That is both encouraging and a little disconcerting. Encouraging because I think that it will get more use than the nay-sayers expect, but disconcerting because it makes me wonder if there’s more bad news to come about the lake crossing segment.

      1. @Anonymouse,

        I don’t think this announcement has any bearing or hidden meaning regarding the schedule for the rest of East Link. However, that contractor hasn’t exactly been over performing. I’ve heard nothing official or rumored about additional delays, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

        That said, I bet Metro is quaking in their boots this morning at this news. They have two major things to figure out, and they don’t have a lot of time:

        1). What sort of bus restructure should they implement to support an ELSL? And,

        2). What sort of bus bridge do they need to support between SBS and DT Seattle?

        Note. Even if the bus bridge is operated by ST, the operators come from Metro. And Metro can’t even get enough operators to run their current service levels.

        I anticipate hard decisions regarding bus route deletions and frequency reductions.

      2. IIRC ST staff and Lazarus were adamant opponents of an East Link starter line. Putting aside cost, it is just bad transit. Unless of course there are longer term issues with Link crossing the bridge — either at maximum capacity or at all — than is being let on. If it is just to show East Link works on the eastside I think most of us assumed that. Or hoped.

        The biggest issues are:

        1. How do folks get to the starter line? Any “bus bridge” would be at S. Bellevue because MI is not set up to turn buses around westbound, just the opposite, but any buses running from Seattle to the Issaquah region will have to continue to Issaquah. They are not going to divert to S. Bellevue because these folks are going from Issaquah park and rides to Seattle and back, not to Bellevue Way let alone Wilburton.

        That leaves only the 550, and who would transfer from the 550 so close to Bellevue when East Link doesn’t go to Bellevue Way? I can’t imagine ST truncating the 550 at S. Bellevue, or Bellevue agreeing to that.

        2. The starter route has two large park and rides on each end. But why would any eastsider park at one and get on the starter line when they are already in their car? To go to the other park and ride? Eastsiders use transit for peak work commutes, not off-peak discretionary trips because they are usually carrying things (kids, groceries, stuff from Home Depot), there is little congestion, free parking, and plan to go to many places because there is very little housing or commercial density on the eastside.

        Who in the world is going to take East Link to Wilburton, “The Spring Dist.”, or Overlake when they have free parking and are decades away from being developed? Ever try walking along 148th to shop. It is a 1/4 mile from the road through the parking lot to each store, and a 1/4 mile between stores? Meanwhile Microsoft is WFH and just built a 2 million sf parking garage.

        What a starter line will do is highlight how badly compromised East Link’s route is on the eastside, and how a single light rail line through an area as large and undense as E. KC is going to be tough sell. Today the buses (intra-eastside and across the lake) are empty, and they go where folks live (park and rides) and work because …. drum roll…. the buses after decades simply follow where folks want to live and work, and if that changes so do the buses (which today means getting eliminated).

        The other thing the starter line will highlight for places like Issaquah, especially if any of the buses serving Issaquah are diverted to S. Bellevue, is that even if East Link can run full capacity across the bridge Issaquah is still going to want a one seat bus from its park and rides to downtown Seattle (directly, not along Rainier or even Dearborn, probably peak only but with stops at Eastgate, MI and then downtown. Plus maybe their own 630. Yes, folks from the Issaquah region can just drive to the park and ride at S. Bellevue or MI to catch East Link if it goes across the bridge (although they are not going to Seattle on buses today), but at some point they will tell the Issaquah council it is a hassle, and they want their one seat peak bus to Seattle back. If the subarea has the money for a toy starter line it has the money for a few one seat buses to Seattle.

      3. The bus bridge I think is easier (as a thing) – just run a truncated 550. Some of the reductions in operator time can be used to “fund” the operator pool for short-East Link. The rest of the East Link drivers will have to come from other places, though, as you said, and that may (likely will) drive some reductions in other routes.

        I do still want to go back to the bridge operation side though. The way I see it, if solving the plinth issue (and whatever else may be going on) is going well, then there would be little value in starting with short-East Link now. So the fact that it’s happening suggests that we may be stuck with this for a while.

      4. Lazarus, don’t you think Metro has already explored possible starter line scenarios and opening dates, and what route adjustments the agency should make? Hopefully, they thought this through months ago.

      5. “trains have already been spotted occasionally running along the length of the Starter Line”

        Sam, trainspotting opportunity alert. I expect a Page 2 article next week on how many moving trains you’ve seen, with photos and a drone tour. You have a drone for this, right?

      6. “Who in the world is going to take East Link to Wilburton, “The Spring Dist.”, or Overlake when they have free parking and are decades away from being developed?”

        People who don’t have cars, don’t want to drive, or can’t drive, of course. Not everybody thinks free parking is a plus. There are existing stores in Overlake; people have jobs at Bellevue, Spring District, and Redmond Tech; or they may go between them midday.

        I don’t expect a lot of people though, because the total number of potential trip pairs on the Starter Line is small. That raises the question of why open it now. A bus could do the Starter Line if ST is so hot to get service started now. Maybe it’s Like Tacoma Link (now the T Line): it serves little purpose but it allows Tacoma/Pierce to say they have train service now.

      7. Haha, actually, I did go over by Bel-Red/130th station a few months ago on a day they were running test trains. I was hoping to take some pics or a short video, but no trains came by.

        I understand that it wasn’t a normal speed, or continuous test. The train would slowly move a short distance, then an accompanying worker in a truck would have to stop, get out, unlock and open up a blocking fence, like at 136th and Northup, to let the train through. There’s quite a few of those kind of temporary fences along the line that need to be opened and closed for the test. The same worker would even stand in the road to make sure cars stopped for the train. Maybe some RR crossing arms weren’t working? Or, they were, but he needed to make doubly sure cars stopped?

    2. Running the starter east 2 Line one station further to MI may be more hassle than it’s worth. It seems to depend on if the track replacement can be fully completed before testing begins. If it can’t make the testing phase then it seems reasonable to postpone it.

      I see value in getting the starter line running in that it gets the stations, track and supporting systems like signals and passenger info fully field tested before the full opening date. It should be mentioned that systems problems have delayed rail openings elsewhere in the past several years (East San Jose BART, Dulles extension). It would look pretty bad if ST couldn’t open East Link in 2025 due to a systems problem that was undetected until testing began.

      I’m not sure how the vertical conveyance warranties work, but it’s useful to get those up and running with riders before the full line opens too. If there is a problem, there is time to address it before the full system is up and running.

      I would like to see better analysis about the 2 Line west opening overcrowding concerns need for train cars. After all the hoopla about it several months ago, it doesn’t seem fully resolved. However, the memo for the board strongly implies that it’s an issue that can be managed. It is notable to me that there is still no presented overcrowding analysis; it is being kept from public view, or is it that the management is too lazy to even assign the analysis to staff? It seems pretty easy to do — just add the bus volumes from each run entering King County to each train run load today and attach a slight buffer (like 10%) on top to be sure, resulting in a percent of capacity number for each planned train set. The memo says that the overcrowding analysis is on-going which seems very odd to me because it doesn’t look that time-consuming to do.

      I may have missed it in the memo text, but I don’t see a clear explanation of when light rail vehicles are anticipated to be able to cross from South Bellevue to CID in non-revenue service. The inconvenience of a three-car train to Lynnwood may only be several weeks.

      1. What is the testing period on the starter line before it can open to the public? Pre-pandemic, and before East Link was delayed from opening in 2021, ST claimed testing would be a minimum of 9 months, but that included the bridge which has had one issue after another. Is ST testing East Link today? I haven’t seen any trains running. ST used to claim East Link had to open all at once due to the electrical system.

        You can’t do a bus bridge on MI because buses can’t turn around to go back west. A bus bridge on MI would require an addendum to the EIS and that would take until 2025 at least. ST just spent a fortune to allow buses to turn around and go back EAST on MI. It seems unfair to ask riders coming from Seattle to get off the 550 at S. Bellevue, wait, and catch East Link to 112/110th (unless they are going to Wilburton).

        The biggest issue is eastsiders are not riding transit today, and that transit (buses) actually goes where they live or work. Metro is not cutting eastside routes because the buses are full. That ridership will decline on a starter line because the route is where eastsiders are not going, so I don’t see the 550 being truncated, which simply will prove the 550 and its route is better transit than East Link, or at least a starter line.

        I have been involved in the bridge issue for nearly a decade. At its core is the fact I-90 is a floating concrete bridge — with a “joint” between the fixed deck and floating span — and its concrete was never tensioned for the weight and vibrations of a four-car light rail train on steel wheels and narrow rails going 50 mph every 8 minutes. The plinths are simply one more effort to reduce those vibrations from reaching the rebar and micro fracturing the concrete, especially the pontoons.

        It has never been done before on a concrete floating bridge. The first engineers ST hired said it couldn’t be done. ST claims it invented a new “hinge” that with better guy wiring to reduce pitch and yaw between the deck and span will reduce the impact in the drop from the fixed deck onto the floating span, that post tensioning the concrete will reduce the vibrations reaching the concrete and micro fracturing it, then raising the rails onto plinths off the concrete roadway.

        Either way, I think buses will run concurrently when East Link opens across the bridge. The 630 and probably a similar bus from the Issaquah region will go where East Link does not: First Hill, without a transfer. I don’t think eastside peak commuters will do feeder buses to an East Link station, certainly to SLU, so the question is whether they get tired of driving to S. Bellevue or MI (which they are not driving to today).

        Unless Seattle’s downtown offices refill and eastsiders are forced to commute to downtown Seattle East Link is never going to have any better ridership than eastside and ST buses today, probably worse because its route is not where folks go, certainly on transit, at least today.

      2. DT: Mercer Island is not necessary for a “bus bridge”. Route 550 is BTC to CBD via South Bellevue and MI; Route 554 is Issaquah to CBD via Eastgate and MI; the peak routes could continue or be suspended on their own.

      3. “DT: Mercer Island is not necessary for a “bus bridge”. Route 550 is BTC to CBD via South Bellevue and MI; Route 554 is Issaquah to CBD via Eastgate and MI; the peak routes could continue or be suspended on their own.”

        That is what I said Eddie. I understand the routes of eastside buses.
        Lazarus mentioned using MI as a bus bridge, or truncating the 550 at S. Bellevue for a starter line. In the past a bus bridge was discussed if East Link has issues running across the bridge. You can’t truncate buses on MI that run to Issaquah if they have to cross the bridge. The only bus that could be “truncated” with a starter line is the 550, and that makes no sense at S. Bellevue because it is so close to BTC and gets closer to Bellevue Way. If a bus bridge ever was necessary it would be at S. Bellevue, and be the 550.

    3. “The motion to move forward with opening the Starter Line still needs to be approved by Sound Transit’s full board on August 24th, but a unanimous vote in committee this week suggests that approval isn’t in doubt.”

      Balducci said the alternative was, quote, “to wait for a significant and possibly as yet still-uncommitted period of time until the [I-90] bridge opens”. Is that an indication that the full East Link might not be ready by its (2+ times postponed) 2025 target? I’ve always wondered whether 2025 would be met. Just like I’ve wondered whether trains will really be able to cross the Hadley bridge.

      I don’t expect many riders on the Starter Line. The main potential of East Link is for trips that cross the South Bellevue or Redmond Tech terminus. If you’re going from downtown Bellevue to downtown Redmond, or Wilburton to Mercer Island or Seattle, it’s probably not worth it to take a train for a short 3-mile trip that terminates a mile or two short of your destination. The trips that would most benefit from the Starter Line are limited: those where both ends are within walking distance of a Starter Line station. Those exist, but are a small part of East Link’s total ridership. You could also look for a good bus transfer, something substantial like 240+Link or 250+Link. I don’t see B+Link or 226+Link because one segment would be too short to be worth transferring.

      1. “Is that an indication that the full East Link might not be ready by its (2+ times postponed) 2025 target?”

        That’s how I have read it, too, hence my concern about what it actually leaves unsaid about the progress. The fact that they seem to be doing the starter line first makes me particularly worried.

      2. I think starting from Redmond Transit Center, you definitely get to downtown Bellevue faster using Link than not using it, especially during commute hours when the B line gets stuck in traffic and often gets stuck with long waits at traffic lights. Remember, the ride to Link doesn’t have to be the B line itself; you can take the 545 or 542, which is faster.

        I don’t think the trains will be full, but they won’t be empty, either. If the train tracks were a road, Metro would absolutely find it worthwhile to run buses down it, and I would consider that the minimum bar to run the train service. Train tracks are very expensive to build, but once all the infrastructure is built and the trains are there, a one car train doesn’t really cost any more money than operate a bus would; maybe less if the train, by being out of traffic, doesn’t need so much schedule padding. Either way, it’s one vehicle, one driver.

  13. I can’t blame Mercer Island residents for opting for the 550 instead of the 554. Jackson between King Street Station and Rainier is horribly slow, and it confuses me that a route branded “express” goes on a street like that. The old 7 Express never ran on Jackson, it ran both directions on Dearborn (correct me if I’m wrong), so why can’t the 554 do the same?

  14. With the Metro peak hour routes almost eliminated Issaquah has only the slow 554 to get to Downtown Seattle. This can’t really compete with a car taking the I90 with no route diversions. Perhaps this is so that ST can forget about its long term in the future light rail link to Issaquah. If you destroy demand then there is no need to provide a service.

    1. Bruce, it wasn’t that long ago ST and MI were locked in litigation over ST’s and Metro’s demand to drop bus riders coming from the east on the north side of North Mercer Way so MI could handle up to 20 articulated feeder buses per peak hour.

      Now the concern is there will be too few buses. At first the concern was 30-90 minute off peak bus frequency from MI to different park and rides in Issaquah (and North Bend), but now the complaint is lack of peak buses to and from MI.

      ST won the litigation and was allowed to build a bus stop on the north side which will now require every bus rider coming to Link to cross the busiest arterial on MI, except the number of buses per hour will be so low they can be handled with the stop right across the street on the south side next to the Link station entrance. The only point of the north side now is driver breaks and a layover space, which probably won’t work if the buses go electric because the charging infrastructure and space for it are not on MI.

      The reality you mention and we tried and tried to explain to ST (that Metro finally got in the Eastside transit restructure) is when East Link opens someone going from the Issaquah area to downtown Seattle will either drive to their destination or drive to a park and ride in S Bellevue or on MI.

      Under both scenarios Metro gets no fare, so those feeder buses won’t have the farebox recovery to support them.

      Of course it was arrogant of ST to think eastsiders would add a transfer and feeder bus to their trip to Seattle, although Metro and ST couldn’t foresee eastsiders would stop making that trip altogether.


    This is Oran’s excellent discussion about how Metro and ST share fares. Ironically it benefits each agency if a rider doesn’t use the other for their trip (walk, park and ride, bike, no transfer).

    I don’t know what percentage of Link trips don’t involve a feeder bus (but imagine this info is available from the fare sharing info). But when it comes to ridership numbers Metro will get credit for a rider every time that rider is going to Link. So it is going to be difficult for Link to ever surpass Metro ridership unless more folks get to and from Link by something other than a bus.

    My guess is the split fare is part of the reason truncation has not saved Metro as much as anticipated, unless the run is eliminated altogether. Same for Link’s O&M revenue and cost estimates. I guess the thinking is truncation allows Metro to allocate the service hours for the part of the trip Link now covers someplace else, or just cut those hours, but when you add a transfer and wait at a Link station — and Link goes to fewer destinations so there is more last mile access time at the end of the trip which can mean two bus trips for 47% of the total fare — riders want that time made up either by better feeder bus frequency or bus frequency from Link to their ultimate destination like First Hill or a significantly faster trip on Link than the bus Link replaces.

    I wonder if buses like the 630, especially if subsidized by a city, are not a better deal for Metro rather than running the 204 to Link and then a bus from 3rd to First Hill with the necessary frequency to make up for all those transfers, which ironically is better for the rider in having a one seat ride for 47% of the fare.

    Some on this blog automatically think an express say from Kenmore to First Hill is a waste of Metro’s money without calculating the fact Metro keeps all the fare, and would have to provide bus service to Link and from Link to First Hill while getting 47% of the fare with greater frequency on each end of the Link route to make up for the two additional transfers.

    1. The major cost to running express routes at peak hours only is that half of the assignment is usually a non-revenue bus ride or it picks up very few riders in one direction. There are exceptions (like how Sounder trains can lay over Downtown in midday) but even if midday storage is available the beginning and end of each express service day is typically not picking up riders.

      Another drain is related to driver work assignments. I’m not familiar with Metro specific practices and union work rules, but these typically have minimum blocks of time that a driver gets paid.

      So the actual costs vary more the fewer runs a route has — thanks to these “lumpy” cost components.

      Route 630 is only scheduled at about 40 minutes from one end to the other, and there are just two runs a day in each direction. With the two routes scheduled at about 80 minutes apart, it looks like it’s running just one bus for 4 hours in the morning and 4 in the evening — 5 days a week.

      Of that 40 minute trip, only 15 is between Mercer Village and I-90. It appears that Route 630 could run five times rather than two for the same labor cost if the route ended at MI Link after it opens. That’s the advantage of changing a bus from long distance to feeder.

      It should be mentioned that feeder bus restructures can hurt ridership if routes don’t mesh at or away from Link stations. A double transfer is a big hassle if just one of the three routes is infrequent. Forcing transit riders to use Link for just a mile between two feeder buses is an unpleasant effort — particularly when stations are very deep or have no adequate vertical conveyances. (Aside: That’s actually how some light rail projects in the US got ridership forecasts higher on paper than what actually materialized.) That’s a concern on top of the concerns of personal safety at a bus stop. Another good thing from a feeder bus is when riders can get on an idling bus rather than wait in the elements — although I have found that Metro doesn’t usually like to let riders onto the bus during idling/ driver breaks.

      It may take several more years to materialize, but once East Link opens, I expect a growing interest to directly connect Judkins Park station with both First Hill and Cherry Hill — not only for MI and Eastsiders but also for SE Seattle residents (population about 84k) most of whom can’t even ride a direct bus to get them to the nearest emergency rooms. It just don’t get why Metro cut most of Route 9 service about 9 years ago when they started redundantly running Route 7 plus Route 106 on Jackson — and I hope that the 2 Line opening someday will compel Metro to add buses to Route 9.

      1. A feeder bus needs twice the riders to generate the same farebox recovery due to fare sharing.

        So number one the hassle of the transfer(s) can’t cause riders to skip transit. Part of that is more frequency on feeder buses to offset the transfer(s) which drives up operating costs.

        Number 2 truncation has to shorten any bus trip to where it can carry double the number of riders due to fare sharing, which means there needs to be double the number of current riders who will suddenly switch to a feeder bus because it goes to Link. I think few routes — like the 630 — will see any more riders from truncation. There are only so many riders whether the 630 goes to First Hill or to Link.

        Then you get into park and rides in suburbia. Metro knows riders from say Issaquah are not going to drive to a park and ride to catch a feeder bus when they can drive to a park and ride that serves East Link, especially today with so much space available in the park and rides. So Metro is cutting those routes because they will have so few riders, and will leave the cost up to ST with the 554.

        A mistake I think some make is believing transit riders are slaves, and if you make their trip slower or less convenient with one or two transfers than with a one seat bus they will still take transit. That is the real problem today. About 1/2 of the pre-pandemic estimated Metro/Link riders are not riding transit at all, which means there are alternatives, and if someone can avoid transit they will. Or at least they will find a way to skip the feeder bus (park and ride) or Link (630, 332).

        Metro is really going to struggle when Link reaches the suburbs. First ST wants to truncate most of the routes which cuts farebox revenue in half for Metro. The park and rides have plenty of space every day Riders will drive to park and rides that serve Link. Many will WFH or drive to work. Those still taking a feeder bus will demand much better frequency to make up for the transfer when Metro is cutting frequency. Plus I think some cities like Issaquah will demand a few peak one seat buses, probably from ST not unlike the 554 continuing to Bellevue Way.

        Most suburbs are not high equity zones. They are large and undense so hard and expensive to serve unless park and rides. Metro is already reducing coverage and frequency on the Eastside because it sees the writing on the wall: fewer and fewer riders demanding greater and greater frequency to make up for the transfer while suddenly splitting every fare with ST, while the county keeps basing equity on race.

      2. A feeder bus needs twice the riders to generate the same farebox recovery due to fare sharing.

        Yes, but since fares are a tiny portion of an agency’s funding, this may be offset by the service savings. For example, consider Community Transit, which has a system wide farebox recovery rate of 18%. Assume that this is the case with express buses as well. If they share the revenue, they lose 9% of their revenue. But by truncating the buses, they can recover a lot more than that. In other words, if costs drop 50%, but revenue drops 10%, the agency actually comes out well ahead.

        Of course in some cases, the riders completely switch, and drive to the park and ride and just use Link. There are a lot of considerations, and it likely gets fairly complicated. But my guess is every bus agency is OK. Community Transit gets a small portion of their money from fare revenue, and Pierce Transit doesn’t run expresses into Seattle.

        I could see things changing for Metro, but for them, the big change was U-Link. Prior to that, lots of riders used express buses that ran from the UW to downtown. These buses were very cost effective (since they spent very little time on the freeway, and picked up lots of riders). Yet I don’t remember anyone at Metro suggesting that sharing that fare with ST made any difference at all. As Link goes further north, it is the same story. The 41 was cost effective, and a lot of that money is now being shared with ST. But overall, that is just a drop in the bucket compared to operating costs or other issues effective fares.

        The biggest problem by far remains the pandemic. Transit ridership is nowhere near what it was before the pandemic, despite the very important extension of the light rail line. I believe that Capitol Hill Station is the only station that exceeds ridership since 2019, which is striking given the extension. With U-District Station, we finally have completed our “core” (U-District to downtown). The other stations are also very important. And yet ridership on almost all of the old stations is still down. I’m sure they would be way up, if not for the pandemic.

      3. Metro is really going to struggle when Link reaches the suburbs.

        Link is already in the suburbs.

        In any event, the changes for Metro will be minor. Metro has very few suburban express buses that will be truncated because of Link expansion. It is mostly ST and CT that run the express buses that will be truncated. Even across the lake there aren’t many Metro trips. It is only peak-only expresses, and there simply aren’t that many trips.

      4. once East Link opens, I expect a growing interest to directly connect Judkins Park station with both First Hill and Cherry Hill

        I don’t. Just consider your use cases. You are on the train from the East Side, and want to get to First Hill. The best option is to stay on the train and get off at Seneca, then walk a block to catch the most frequent bus in our system — the RapidRide G. Second use case: You are on the train from the East Side, and want to get to Cherry Hill. You get off the bus at Pioneer Square and catch the 3/4, one of the most frequent buses in our system (it runs every 7.5 minutes, all day long). Going the other way might save you a little bit of time, but only if you managed to time it just right (which is unlikely). Third use case: You are riding Link from the north and want to go to First Hill. You get off at Capitol Hill and take the streetcar or the 60 (or just walk) depending on your destination. Final use case: You are riding Link from the north and want to go to Cherry Hill. You stay on Link and get off at Pioneer Square, and ride the bus up the hill.

        So only one potential trip would be made faster with a bus that turns like that, and even then, it is unlikely it would be frequent enough to compete with the 3/4. There just aren’t that many people going from the East Side to Cherry Hill. If you are saying there will be growing interest in making the 3/4 more frequent, I definitely agree. It is a very important bus; it has very high ridership per mile and is way too slow during rush hour. But the same is true for the 8, the 44 and plenty of other buses. Seattle voters definitely want to spend money making those buses faster — it is why Move Seattle passed by such a huge margin.

        There will be people who want a one-seat ride (from the Judkins Park neighborhood to Cherry Hill) but you can say that about every trip. I’m sure a bus that turned on Yesler would get some riders, as would a bus that turned on Union. The problem is, if you create all of these turning buses to reduce two-seat rides you end up with really bad headways. It means that even one-seat rides are way too time consuming, let alone the two-seat rides that you can’t possibly eliminate. You are much better off just running the buses more often, in a grid pattern. The only bus that I could possibly see being added is one that runs on 14th/15th, connecting Swedish First Hill with Kaiser (since it enhances the grid). But I’m not sure that there is enough money for it, given all of the other, more pressing needs.

  16. I am fine with canceling the peak direction of the 212 if selected 554 trips skip Rainier, but I think the reverse peak direction should be retained for access to Factoria, potentially operated with coaches that finished its shift on 257 311 (or future 256) and custom Lakeside school routes.

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