RapidRide G is set to open next year as what many consider the first (and only) Bus Rapid Transit system in the state. The buses will run quickly, traveling in the center lanes on Madison for much of the way. Just as importantly, the bus will run every six minutes every day until 7:00 PM, making it the most frequent individual line in the region.
Along with this important addition, Metro is proposing several bus changes in the area. To call these disappointing is to put it mildly. The 10, 11, 12 and 49 would run every 20 minutes at best. The 47 may be eliminated. This is a major degradation in one of the most densely populated, highest transit ridership areas in the state. As an alternative to these plans, I propose the following:
As with the previous maps, you can make it full page (in its own window) by selecting the little rectangle in the corner. Selecting individual routes highlights them, making them easier to see (with a short explanation as necessary). There are different “layers”, visible on the legend (to the left). For example, you can hide or display the routes that haven’t changed. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if there is any confusion.
- 2 — Doglegs over to Pike/Pine to better complement the G.
- 8 — Sent to Madison Park, replacing the 11, and resulting in fewer turns.
- 10 — Goes south to Pike/Pine, combining with the 2 for better headways along much of the corridor.
- 14 — A little more efficient coverage in Mount Baker.
- 27 — Combines with the 14 for more efficient coverage in Mount Baker.
- 47 — Same routing as before, just operates more frequently.
- 49 — Sent to Beacon Hill, to take over that part of the 60. Runs opposite the streetcar.
- 60 — Truncated at Beacon Hill (runs from Westwood Village to Beacon Hill Station).
- 106 — Sent to Yesler to get better combined headways with the 27.
Every bus would run 15 minutes or better midday. The 47 would run every 12 minutes (like the current 60). Buses like the 8 and 48 would likely run that often as well (if not better). This is based on current service levels and the savings found simply by building a more efficient network. It would be expected that these buses run more often as we pull out of the pandemic and its aftermath.
While these numbers represent a big improvement over the Metro plans, it is when you consider combined headways that things start looking especially good. Broadway along the streetcar path would have 6 minute headways. Yesler, east of 23rd would have 7.5 minute headways. So would Pike/Pine, between 3rd and 15th. All of this can occur at today’s heavily reduced service levels. It is definitely plausible that the 2 and 10 run every 12 minutes in the future, for combined 6 minute headways along their very productive corridors.
Metro has struggled with the 47 for quite some time. Part of the problem is that it lies fairly close to the 49. Yet there are no routes to the west of the 47, until you get to Fairview (on the other side of the freeway). Thus the spacing between the lines is relatively close, but if you eliminate the 47, you create a large service gap to the west. Compounding the conundrum is the fact that Summit is one of the most densely populated areas of the state, and very close to downtown. A bus should get good ridership there, as long as another bus doesn’t poach its riders.
Sending the 49 to Beacon Hill solves this problem. The 47 and 49 go to different places. Thus riders in the Summit neighborhood walk to the 47 if they want to go downtown. Those headed to the south end of Broadway (or Beacon Hill) use the 49. This pattern continues to the east, as buses alternate between going downtown and going north-south. The results are striking. For most of the people in the area, bus service to downtown is better than ever, while we have more of grid.
None of this comes without some cost. Service is eliminated on 19th. As a result, I could see a small modification in the northern tail of the 10 to cover it, using Aloha. Otherwise, it isn’t that far of a walk to a fairly frequent bus. At worst you catch the 48, which would require a transfer. Since the G runs every six minutes, this is about as painless a transfer as you can have. Losing service on MLK is perhaps a bigger hit, but it isn’t that far of a walk to 23rd for most riders. If funds become available, I could see adding a coverage route for MLK, and maybe even 19th. But at this point, what the area needs more than anything is better frequency on the core routes.
Likewise, it is clear that the grid for this area is nowhere near complete. It begs for a bus on Boren. Similarly, I could see serving the north-south gap between 23rd and Broadway. These are ambitious, future plans that should be considered when we pull out of the mess we are in.
But for now, we should create a set of core routes that run frequently even in the worst of times (like now). What I’ve sketched out does exactly that. The savings are large, and should be put into running these routes more often, even if they aren’t running as often as we would like.