Alternate Renton-Kent-Auburn Restructure

Metro has recently posted updated recommendations for their upcoming Renton-Kent-Auburn mobility bus restructure. I find these changes exciting as a former rider of some of these routes, especially considering my former weekly 3-seat evening trip from Kent to Federal Way. Though understandably this has gotten less attention than other, more significant restructures like the North Eastside restructure.

Overall, the restructure proposal is quite solid, and is a major upgrade for existing service in the area. However, I have my own take on the proposed changes and some different recommendations for some changes. First, here’s a link to my own map that shows only routes that are changed from the proposal or status quo, as well as entirely new routes that replace other routes in the proposal. Though note that I have not done any service hour math on these to see if it is revenue neutral (though I suspect that it might be), and I have not done any formal route planning work or training.

Routes 102, 148, and 906

Metro notes that Fairwood riders of route 102 to Seattle have a long and slow trip, and that a Sounder connection on route 906 would be faster. While that may be true, it seems to me that the slowness of route 102 is more of a problem of bus routing than an insurmountable obstacle. The fact that route 102 runs as an express for such a short portion of its route between Renton and downtown Seattle seems to be the real issue. If that weren’t the case, then it seems to me that riding a revised route 906 in two loops around Tukwila before transferring to Sounder would not be faster at all.

So my proposal is to move route 102 to run on I-5 south to I-405, and then exit at Rainier Ave S. in Renton, which brings it right to the doorstep of S. Renton P&R. I also propose not making routing changes to routes 148 and 906. Why I-405? It seems attractive because it has good direct access ramps to/from HOV (SB 405 HOV lane becomes a ramp to the left lane of I-5 north, and I-5 south has a left-hand ramp to I-405 north, which is easily accessible from the HOV lane). It also avoids local stops on MLK (which would still be served by the 101) and Rainier Ave S. in Renton (though that’s not so bad since it has BAT lanes). More importantly, route 102 could stay on I-5 until Seneca street in downtown Seattle, skipping SODO, and using the saved service hours to run to South Lake Union to increase the user base. It seems to me that before complaining that the 102 is just too slow for Fairwood, they could at least consider making it an actual express before they throw in the towel.

F-Line, New Route 110

I’ve proposed making the F-line faster for every trip, by making the connection to Southcenter more brief, and spending more time on Southcenter Blvd. It would require HOV or BAT lanes on Southcenter Blvd, which could be from 61st Ave to Interurban Ave eastbound, as well as SW Grady Way east of Interurban Ave westbound (which would probably require some widening or lane reconfiguration on the bridge), and a bus queue jump at the normally right-turn only lane at Interurban Ave. If it sounds like much, it’s not really much compared to real BRT, but these are the kinds of target changes that could make RapidRide F Line at least a little worthy of its name.

This means that RapidRide F line would skip Tukwila Sounder Station. This is because Sounder has only a handful of morning trips and a handful of evening trips (and a few reverse peak trips), and that doesn’t warrant all-day, frequent 7-day service unless it can be served reasonably on the way (which I don’t think it can). For replacement service, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with timed, targeted Sounder service (like there was before the F-line restructure in 2014). So my proposal is also to bring back the 110, restoring a timed Sounder connection to Boeing Renton and Kenworth. The bus would skip Renton TC since its ridership would come from Sounder.

Route 157

It’s curious that Metro recommends transferring route 102 riders to Sounder while not route 157 riders. Route 157 could be more directly routed and truncated at Tukwila Station without being circuitous. If that were to happen, then the very small number of trips (4 morning, 3 evening) could be expanded, perhaps enough to connect to every peak direction train. For efficiency, this route could through route with route 110, something that works because route 157 would drop passengers off who would get on the train, and route 110 would be meant to pick passengers up from the train. So operating both with one bus could be quite efficient, even more so than running trippers all the way to downtown Seattle.

Routes 165, 191

Another weird quirk of Metro’s proposal is the continuation of redundant bus service to downtown Seattle from Kent Station and places east (new route 162), while eliminating routes 158/159. And in fact, they are making this one-seat ride to Seattle slower by merging it with route 192.

My proposal is to not do route 162 at all, and replace routes 158, 159, 190, and 192 with two routes: a north-south route primarily on Military Road to connect to Angle Lake station (route 191), and an east-west route primarily on S. 260th, Reith road, and Meeker street, which is timed to connect to Sounder trains (route 165).

Route 191 would run like route 190 from Redondo Heights P&R, run on Military Road like route 190, and continue on Military Road (or could also take a short hop in I-5) until S. 200th Street, where it could end and connect to Angle Lake Station. This would be a hard sell because everyone’s trip would likely be slower, but in turn, route 191 could run very frequently or possibly even all day. And while Link would probably be slower than an I-5 express, it would be a consistent trip, and passengers would get first access to coveted rush-hour seats on the train. It would also greatly simplify access to other places like UW and the Airport.

Route 165 would bring new service to certain areas of Kent and Des Moines. It would start at Highline College where other buses have a layover space, and run on 16th Ave S (a major neighborhood corridor paralleling the even more major Pacific Highway corridor) until S. 260th Street, turning left and following the road as it becomes Reith Road and then W. Meeker Street. Then it follows the current 183 route, except following Lincoln Ave to James Street P&R, and dropping off at Kent Station timed to meet Sounder to Seattle. Routes 191 and 141 together (along with routes 166 and 183 both running east-west to the north and the south, respectively) would create a robust peak coverage grid, giving a large portion of local residents access to some form of rail service to Seattle with a connector bus.

Route 141

This is another Sounder connector route created to fill in some of the gap made by speeding up the F-Line. The route would run from Angle Lake Station, following a coverage route through SeaTac and Southcenter, connecting to Sounder trains at Tukwila Station. Service would partially duplicate route 156, so route 156 could be consolidated to run in both directions on Military Road and S. 164th Street, while rotue 141 could take the other branch on S. 170th Street. The route would through route with the current route 154 to Federal Center South in exactly the same was as my proposed route 157 would through route with proposed route 110. Additionally, the reason route 141 would start at Angle Lake Station even though very few if any riders would ride from that far to get to Sounder is that certain trips from route 191 could become route 141 (after a longer than usual layover, to ensure that it gets to Tukwila in time to make the train reliably), so it’s operationally efficient in this scenario to start all the way at Angle Lake Station.

This means that on the whole, instead of spending a ton of money on trippers from park and rides to Seattle, we instead have three routes (191, 141, and 154), all with different use cases and audiences, all being able to be run with a single bus.

Route 183

Metro’s proposal has route 183 run every half hour rather than every hour on Saturday, but still not run at all on Sunday. I propose instead running the bus every hour on both Saturday and Sunday, and expanding frequency later when more resources become available. Especially with route 166 being moved off of Meeker Street, and considering that the rest of route 183 serves a unique area with no other options, expanding baseline service to 7 days/week seems more important than expanding frequency at this point.

Route 184

I suggest extending service from the proposed route 184 (the south part of current route 180) into Lakeland Hills, currently only served at peak by Sounder connector Pierce Transit route 497. It is a opportunity created by separating off route 184 from route 180. Funding for service could be done by consolidating with route 497 and maybe working out an agreement with Pierce Transit. Marginally not a ton of additional ridership would be added, but in aggregate this route could be quite popular and bring much more neighborhood transit access to more of SE Auburn.

Light Rail on the 520 Bridge?

Things are getting busy on the Eastside. Light rail tracks and guideways are popping up around Bellevue and Redmond, in a preview of the future of transit on the Eastside. But with the June closure of the Montlake freeway station, SR 520 is about to get busy as well. And with Metro considering various options for truncating 520 bus service at UW Station to take advantage of our existing light rail network, the old life of transit on 520 as an Eastside-downtown workhorse may be finally coming to a close.

Some of this has been a long time coming. Ever since the plan to connect Redmond and Bellevue to Seattle with East Link was approved, the days of the frequent 545 route to downtown Seattle were numbered. Once planning for U-Link restructures began, planners belatedly realized the potential utility in removing buses from downtown in favor of a UW Link transfer, a plan that has (to date) nothing to show for it except evening and weekend 542 service (and even that was likely only done because of the closure of the Montlake freeway station).

There have been various discussions on how to use SR 520 for transit in the long term. Sound transit 2 envisioned a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, which has apparently devolved into more frequency on the most popular bus routes on the bridge already. There have also naturally been discussions on building light rail on SR-520, becoming more relevant since WSDOT has kept the option of light rail on 520 in consideration in recent designs (realistically meaning that the rail could be build without needing to demolish and reconstruct the main spans of the bridge). Seattle Subway has had shifting opinions on this, at one point favoring a new light rail bridge from Kirkland to Sand Point, then coming around to proposing light rail on 520 and connecting the line to a real First Hill subway.

Though the possibility of light rail on SR 520 is exciting and would dramatically transform how commuters in the Eastside get to Seattle, it’s easy to forget how large of a project that is and how far off it would be. Sound Transit is pushing the limits of its building ability with Sound Transit 3, meaning that work on a 520 line would likely extend well past the 2041 timeframe of the last ST3 projects. Further complicating matters is that construction beyond this point is facing fierce competition from other priorities, such as Ballard-UW, extensions of the planned Ballard and West Seattle lines, and filling holes in our network in First Hill and Belltown. With light rail coming to I-90, many will view an additional line on 520 as redundant and unnecessary. With many (and ofter better) projects competing for resources, it’s hard to think that SR 520 will get light rail on any reasonable timeframe.

The good news? I actually don’t believe that light rail on the 520 bridge is necessary at this point, for a few reasons:

  1. The bridge itself does not have a dedicated bus lane, but it does have the next best thing: HOV 3+ lanes. Convincing WSDOT to convert an HOV 2 lane to HOV 3 is like pulling teeth, but the 520 bridge has them today. Furthermore, all vehicles (including HOV 3+) are subject to a toll, which is an additional incentive to get people to take transit across the bridge, or to take I-90 instead if they must drive (both of which leave more room on the bridge for buses).
  2. There are already two left-side freeway stations on SR-520 between I-405 and the bridge, where light rail would be should we decide to build it. These stations, as they stand today, are almost as high quality from a bus priority and access standpoint as it is possible to build. To access them, buses exit from an existing HOV 3+ lane into a dedicated bus-only lane that extends through both freeway stations all the way to the bridge!
  3. There is direct HOV and bus access at 108th Ave NE, allowing buses from S. Kirkland and Bellevue (both future light rail connection points) to enter the freeway in the HOV 3+ lanes.
  4. Starting this year, SDOT is pouring money into a redesigned Montlake boulevard/SR 520 interchange that has direct HOV 3 access and inline bus stops, that UW-bound buses can use to avoid the long queue of cars at the general purpose ramp.
  5. SDOT is building a reversible direct access access ramp from the SR 520 HOV 3+ lanes to the I-5 express lanes, which will continue as a fifth express lane until Mercer Street, which will be a direct entrance/exit to South Lake Union. When ramp opens in 2023, it will be bus only to start (though it’s unclear why HOVs would be initially excluded), with HOV access coming later. This completely solves an issue that has been puzzling transit planners for years, who have been contemplating painfully circuitous routing to try to directly serve SLU while avoiding a slow downtown. The interim solution is a decent-but-not-ideal route 544, which gets off at the first downtown exit it can safely reach, and heads up a relatively non-congested Fairview avenue, avoiding Mercer Street like the plague.
  6. There are lower-quality right-side freeway stations in Redmond at NE 40th and NE 51st streets, in the vicinity of Microsoft and East Link stations. Though sub-optimal, these stations are past the biggest bottleneck (namely the bridge), and have the benefit of an unusual right-side HOV 2 lane running from I-405 to just north of NE 51st street (with breaks in it to allow SOVs to access freeway exits).

While this may not be the 520 universe you might build from scratch, the fact that this is all already happening and will be fully complete by 2024 with no tax increases, ballot measures, and fights over tunnels is something to be taken full advantage of, rather than torn up to squeeze light rail into. To that end, I propose a comprehensive network of SR-520 buses that serve places all over the east side, combining to form a “virtual light rail line” across 520 that could take advantage of every piece of HOV and bus priority to be nearly as fast as an actual light rail line.

Here are the route maps for peak, off-peak, and downtown Seattle peak detail.

Here are some broad themes:

  1. Though this can be nearly as fast as rail would be, it still would probably be somewhat unreliable (though this could be mitigated with some schedule padding at strategic locations). It also has much less capacity than light rail, which is stretched today by peak-level demand on the 541/542. This is primarily mitigated by high frequency service, where there are multiple branches (4 peak, 3 off-peak) that are all frequent on their own, overlapping on 520 creating very frequent service (2.5 minutes peak, 5 minutes off-peak).
  2. Bellevue is getting express service to UW. This is significant because Sound Transit currently plans on having riders from Bellevue to UW take the blue line south through downtown Seattle (a hefty 29 minutes). Though they need to draw the line somewhere, I feel this puts Bellevue at the point of highest inconvenience, and many riders (especially those heading to places north on Link) will be turned off by needing to do a large amount of backtracking.
  3. Sammamish would be well-connected to the regional transportation network, with nearly every destination being two seats or fewer away. North and south Sammamish service is now split at S. Sammamish P&R, where the north route takes the 520 bridge and the south route takes the I-90 bridge. There is no longer a dedicated Sammamish route, as now the Redmond and Issaquah routes simply continue to Sammamish at half frequency, eliminating the need to transfer. This makes Sammamish, which (not incorrectly, in my opinion) felt like a non-consideration in ST3, less of an afterthought by making some sensible tweaks to bus service that already terminates near Sammamish.
  4. South Lake Union is a major destination, which is served during peak by the Redmond lines during (the Kirkland/Bellevue lines go to UW during peak, and all lines go to UW during off-peak). Since the ramp to the I-5 express lanes/Mercer street is reversible, only going one direction at a time, the configuration proposed has a loop through downtown (ideally with a 5-10 minute layover somewhere downtown for buffer time) that starts at SLU and goes counter-clockwise in the morning, and starts at downtown going clockwise in the evening. This ensures that all 520 bus trips (both SLU and UW) have a connection to Link (Westlake and UW, respectively).

Overall, this would require a big increase in service hours, so realistically this kind of thing might be tied to a 2024 ST4 vote, in which ST could fund all these lines. But for the time being, I’ve proposed a Metro/ST split that flips the agency of some existing lines:

  • The 555/556 would be replaced by the 254, and Metro would operate this route.
  • The 269 and all the peak Sammamish and Bear Creek Seattle expresses would be replaced by the 543 (peak), 546 (off-peak), and the extended half of 554 trips, all of which ST would operate.

Here are some details by route:

  • 255: The same 255 from Kirkland to UW that is coming in March 2020. Peak headways: 10-12 minutes (slightly worse than 2020), midday/weekend: 15 minutes (same as 2020), evening: 30 minutes (same as 2020)
  • 254: A new route similar to the 555/556 that replaces both, and provides all-day service from UW to S. Kirkland, Bellevue TC, Eastgate and Bellevue College. S. Kirkland P&R is added because Sound Transit operates the 555/556 along 112th Ave NE instead of I-405, believing it to be faster, so adding a stop at S. Kirkland to this route is relatively non-disruptive (because it’s already on the road to S. Kirkland P&R anyway). This route also continues to Bellevue College and Eastgate, since this idea opens up the possibility of giving Bellevue College & Eastgate a fast ride to Bellevue TC all-day, and I don’t believe this route needs to continue to Issaquah (since the 554 will be more frequent by this point). My preferred routing has it take NE 6th to I-90 (utilizing the express toll lanes available in 2024), but this requires using the right-side exits to switch between 405 and 90, so routing along Bellevue Way or the 271 route (with no stops between BTC and BC) may be more sensible. Truncating the 271 in Medina (ideally at one of the freeway stations, and not cross the bridge to Seattle) could partially pay for this route. Peak headways are 10-12 minutes, midday/weekend: 15 minutes, evening: 30 minutes.
  • 544: A variant of the 544 coming in 2020, except more resembling the 545. This route would replace the 545, and would serve downtown Redmond and Redmond TC (rather than Overlake P&R). There would be no stop at S. Kirkland P&R (but an added route 254 would ease transfers to this route from S.Kirkland). It would serve SLU using the previously described loop (a more convenient route than route 544 in 2020). Unlike the 545, this route won’t go to Bear Creek, leaving that to the 543 (which offers a faster and more direct route to Seattle than the 545 does). Peak headways: 10-12 minutes (slightly better than 2020). No service off-peak, as that is offered by the 546.
  • 543: A different variant of the coming 544, except skipping downtown Redmond to serve Bear Creek and Sammamish. Meant to complement the 544,this route takes a direct route between Sammamish, Bear Creek, and SLU. Residents of Sammamish who want to take transit to Seattle or Overlake, but struggles with the weird peak-oriented service that takes them down to I-90, would find this route easier to use. Peak headways: 10-12 minutes, no off-peak service (route 546 is available off-peak)
  • 546: An off-peak-only route that combines the 543 and 544, and goes to UW instead of SLU. Service follows the path of the 542 in UW, the 545 in Redmond, and half of the trips continue to Sammamish. Midday/weekend headways: 15 minutes, weekend: 30 minutes.
  • 554: This route will be largely unchanged, presuming it exists in some form in the East Link restructure. It will likely terminate either at Mercer Island Station or South Bellevue Station (in this case, likely also continuing to Bellevue TC, but could sensibly terminate at S. Bellevue if route 254 is introduced). The important tweak to this route would be extending half of the trips from Issaquah Highlands P&R to South Sammamish P&R, providing the southern portion of Sammamish access to Seattle and Bellevue via I-90 (whereas the northern part accesses Seattle and Bellevue via 520 and the Redmond routes). It seems like such an opportunity that frequent 554 service is coming nearly to Sammamish, and then stops (except for a few late night trips on the 554 heading back to the base through Sammamish). Headways would likely be comparable to the 543/546, but depend on what the headways for the restructured 554 will be.

With that, I think this transit network on 520 will provide service comparable to light rail on the bridge, without:

  1. Absolutely needing to transfer to another bus route to get where you want to go on the eastside.
  2. Spending a lot of money, years, and political capital on building rail when there is already top-tier bus stations and freeway access either built already or under construction.
  3. Focusing Link construction away from places that really need Link light rail service to get much better (like UW-Ballard, Metro 8, or a number of others), and better bus service simply won’t do it.

Let me know what you all think in the comments!

RFA Revival: Make Link Free in the Tunnel

Until 2012, Seattle had the Ride Free Area, a certain section of downtown Seattle (including the entire DSTT) where one could board any bus through any door, exit any bus through any door, and not have to pay a fare. Funded by the city of Seattle, this was meant to make it easier for people to get around who couldn’t afford a fare, to make it more feasible to make short trips through downtown without a car and without needing to pay full fare for a short trip, and to speed boarding in the busy downtown core and the DSTT (which, at the time, also had bus service in addition to Link). In practice, this resulted in a complex payment arrangement, where you sometimes pay when you board, and sometimes pay when you exit, depending on which side of the RFA your bus was on. And because King County Metro ran many bus routes into downtown Seattle from every part of the county. You could take a bus from Eastgate to Issaquah, or the Federal Way Transit Center to Twin Lakes Park and Ride, and need to pay when you exit if you are taking a bus that happens to be originating in Seattle. This created lots of confusion, and many people just paid as normal, and some undoubtedly exited the bus at the back door without the operator noticing and evaded their fare.

The RFA applied to everything but light rail trains (and I think the Seattle Streetcar as well), which is weird since that is the easiest mode to make free for a specific area. With buses out of the tunnel and trains remaining at 10 minute frequency midday, most of the intra-downtown trips in the DSTT will move to third avenue, overcrowding the already busy corridor and under-utilizing the tunnel. ST is not likely to add midday frequency to the tunnel until East Link opens in 2023, so that leaves four years of significant under-utilization of the tunnel.

One solution that both increases utilization of the tunnel and achieves the goals of the RFA? Make train trips within the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel fare free.

Making a “ride free area” is easy to do with trains; simply make all trip pairs within the tunnel fare free, and don’t do fare enforcement in the tunnel. Riders who are riding within the tunnel don’t need to tap their card at all, and this can make it easier to catch a train if they are in a hurry. This will also increase throughput a little bit during rush hour. It provides an incentive to wait for the train during off-peak hours, since it might take a little more waiting, but you can get a free ride for the wait. And it makes things quicker for fare enforcement, which doesn’t need to check every rider on a train within downtown, but can simply wait until a train exits Westlake Station or International District/Chinatown station, and check riders which are still on the train. There could also be an automated reminder that if you didn’t tap their card, then you need to deboard, tap, then wait for the next train if you wish to continue past the tunnel, which should minimize confusion and give people warning before they are subject to fare enforcement. This would also move some impromptu trips off of busy third avenue, and make better use of the tunnel.

Seattle to improve pedestrian crossings

Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is presiding over a growing city facing transportation challenges, ended the first quarter of 2018 with a cliffhanger for the streetcar. This, after getting pressure from Bellevue to improve matters for pedestrians after Seattle did not nothing but worse than nothing, leaves a bad impression on Seattle’s leadership.

Fortunately, in the time after becoming mayor, Durkan had planned up some “early wins” that can be rolled out in short order that would greatly improve matters, and today the city is launching a much needed improvement in pedestrian walk signals.

As you know from experience, most pedestrian walk signals do nothing (except to tell the signal not to stop you from crossing even though you have enough time to cross, but that doesn’t really count). Of course there are a few oddballs where it does make a difference, but these are usually in places where the green signal is normally so short anyway (1-5 seconds) that a push-button is needed to allow enough time for pedestrians.

Nothing is more frustrating than running to an intersection and missing the light turning green by half a second and you don’t get your walk signal. Also frustrating is a group of people waiting to cross, just to find that none of them pushed the beg button, and now everyone is waiting another cycle.

This is why on April 1st, 2018, Seattle will be rolling out automatic button pushers on all intersections, relieving the frustrations of thousands of pedestrians in a single day. Sure, it’s not anything on the scale of fixing Mount Baker station, but it’s certainly an improvement. Plus the numerous construction projects that close the sidewalk often require pedestrians to zig-zag across major arterials, and this is a helpful mitigation. Never again will you experience the frustration of missing a pedestrian walk signal in Seattle.

Magnolia/Fremont Restructure after Ballard Link

There’s already been a community post about what could appear in the Ballard Link restructure. I had some ideas for how changes might look south of the ship canal, and how forcing transfers could allow delivery of very frequent and fast service to Magnolia:

31_32

 

The changes from today’s network:

  • The 24 is deleted
  • The 26X is truncated to U-District station
  • The 31 and 32 routes are reconfigured, and frequency is improved dramatically:
    • Both go to Magnolia, and go along 15th to W Dravus street, connecting to the future Interbay light rail station
    • Both go along W Dravus street to 28th Ave W, where they split to serve different areas of Magnolia:
      • The 31 resembles its current route, though less circuitous and less redundant with the 33
      • The 32 leaves its routing to Seattle Center to follow a routing that covers parts of the wandering path of the current route 24, but skips the parts covered by new route 31
    • Both routes are split for a short distance in Fremont, where the removal of the 26X would leave a hole
    • Both routes run at a frequency of 15 minutes each, meaning:
      • Each branch in Magnolia and Fremont have frequent service, and a connection to fast and reliable Link light rail
      • Overlapping segments are double frequent, with a bus every 7.5 minutes, while connecting to two different Link stations
  • I imagine keeping the 19 during peak (as it exists today) as a similar rationale for its existence today will exist then (namely, convenience during high usage periods), since today it lets certain 24 riders avoid a circuitous route during rush-hour, and in this plan could let 31 riders avoid a forced transfer. I could easily see eliminating the 19 should that be necessary to pay for other service
  • The 33 is retained as is at 30 minute frequency. Could also be truncated at Seattle Center or re-routed to SLU should funding be required, or if doing so could allow it to be upgraded to 15-minute service

The centerpiece of this idea is a dramatically improved 31/32 pair running 7 days/week, providing a strong frequent connection to Link that together provides the following outcomes:

  • Most places in Magnolia now have 15 minute or better service that connects to a fast Link ride to downtown, Seattle Center, and SLU
  • Most places in Magnolia also lose a one-seat (albeit super long) ride to downtown, but get frequency upgraded
  • SPU has 8 buses per hour to both Interbay and U-District stations, providing good commuter access to a wide range of commuters from both north and south
  • Fremont gets frequency doubled on both legs of the new route despite losing the 26X, and the 31/32 are frequent enough to split in that area (partially restoring the pre-U-Link service pattern on Stone Way) and still double the frequency on both paths
  • Northern 26X riders need to transfer to Link, but will enjoy a faster ride because they no longer have to go through Fremont

Paying for this kind of service could be difficult, but if we considering truncations to the D-line and routes 40 and 62 that are very likely with a Ballard Link restructure, I could see it being done.

Your thoughts?

ST Express Truncation at Kent-Des Moines: A Concept South Sound Service Network

I have long opposed the plan that it seems that Sound Transit is planning to adopt (from https://seattletransitblog.com/2016/01/08/the-future-of-st-express-frequent-feeder-service/) where ST will end all express bus service to Seattle, and instead truncate buses at Kent-Des Moines station, on the basis that travel times will double overnight from all destinations south of and including Federal Way due to slower travel and added transfers, and that fares would be higher as well. What’s even more deplorable is that Sound Transit is not really considering major network changes or service additions to accommodate for this, but instead is mostly considering reducing the amount of service hours allocated to ST express, meaning that we’re essentially building out billions of dollars of light rail lines just so we can have less and worse express service without any new connections or anything.

But as poor of a deal this is for the Federal Way or Tacoma or Lakewood to Seattle travel scenario, which has gotten a lot of love from Sound Transit in recent years, this potentially opens up a whole new network of express bus scenarios. I made a map of one such scenario, with the assumption that Thurston County joins ST (a big assumption for sure, but can be adjusted if that doesn’t happen). Of course, truncating and reinvesting alone won’t be enough to cover all of this service, so there will need to be a service hour increase, but I think it makes sense in a time when new transit investments are being made. This would provide a nice immediate service element of ST3 (or maybe a second ST3 vote if the first one fails), since a common criticism of big ST measures is that the timeline is always 15-25 years before we see new service. Also, there are improvements for essentially everyone in the South King/Pierce taxation area of Sound Transit, so this may be a winning plan for the suburbs, although it will bother urbanists who think “Sound Transit” is really “Seattle Transit” and then is confused why the ST3 draft plan has light rail going to suburban areas.

Some themes in this plan:

  • Pierce County is a first-class citizen, with new off-peak service to South Hill, Bonney Lake, and (yes) Orting
  • All Seattle travel is done via a transfer to Link Red Line at Kent-Des Moines Station
  • Bellevue is treated as a job center and commute destination, and gets direct service to make up for long Seattle travel times (which cause even longer Bellevue travel times without direct service)
  • Olympia Express is integrated into Sound Transit Express, streamlined, and expanded to accommodate Seattle and Bellevue travel with one transfer
  • I-5 has distinct peak-only routes and off-peak-only routes, mirroring today’s system, while 167 has off-peak system that is sufficient for peak hours as well
  • Three routes to more remote Pierce County destinations run hourly, all converging to form a 20-minute spine that runs from Sumner to Auburn to Kent to Kent-Des Moines station
  • Peak-only two-directional 599 accommodates non-King County commutes, with service to Tacoma shadowing peak-only 592 (and catching Pierce/Thurston commuters that fall in the cracks of lost Tacoma connections during peak), and service to Tumwater (shadowing the 609).
  • Most (not all) service to Lakewood serves Lakewood Sounder Station, transit center, and 512 park and ride in a triangle, expanding on the one route (574) that serves Lakewood TC, and better enabling people to (love it or hate it) park at Lakewood TC and take transit to Seattle or Bellevue
  • Services that connect to light rail have headways of multiples of 6 in peak and multiples of 10 off-peak to match Link
  • Services that connect to Sounder AND are specifically designed to be Sounder connectors have headways of multiples of 20 (30 at the edges) to match Sounder
  • I-405 BRT is not a single arbitrary route, but is a redundant overlapping of several routes. These routes are BRT on I-405 between Bellevue and SR 518, and have all the speed advantages of BRT on that segment, but also have the flexibility to go off BRT and (less rapidly) go to areas beyond the BRT portion of the route. Combined BRT routes run every 10 mins from Renton to Bellevue and every 20 mins from Burien to Bellevue
Here is a link to a map of what the network would look like:
https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=2A0DB5BC0799AD24!836064&authkey=!APYBPKMLY4BLcKs&v=3&ithint=photo%2cpng
(just an aside, being able to embed images into page 2 posts would be a good improvement. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to stick maps into their posts)
(KDM = Kent-Des Moines, 512 = S.R. 512 Park and Ride, TIBS = Tukwila International Boulevard Station)
Peak Network:
577 (every 12 mins): South Federal Way to Federal Way to KDM to Kent to Renton to Bellevue
Same as current 577, except with transfer at KDM to Seattle, rerouted to Bellevue, and extended to south Federal Way park and ride. Service connects to every other peak link train.
590 (every 6 mins): Tacoma to KDM to Kent to Renton to Bellevue
Current 590 with transfer to Seattle at KDM and rerouted to Bellevue. Connects to every peak Link train.
595 (every 18 mins): Purdy to Gig Harbor to Tacoma to KDM
Current 595 truncated at KDM. Connects to every third peak Link train.
597 (every 24 mins): Lacey TC to DuPont station to Lakewood (Stn, TC, and 512) to KDM
598 (every 24 mins): Olympia TC to Hawks Prairie park and ride to Lakewood (Stn, TC, and 512) to KDM
Routes 597 and 598 are based on the current 592 with truncation at KDM, alternating stops in Thurston/South Pierce counties, and redundancy in Lakewood. The result is effective express service for far-south destinations, and double frequency in Lakewood. Lakewood connects to every other peak Link train, and DuPont and south connects to every fourth peak Link train.
599 (every 30 mins): Tumwater to Olympia TC to Lacey TC to Hawks Prairie P&R to DuPont to Lakewood (Stn and 512) to Tacoma
An entirely new route that makes sense with Thurston county annexation that takes care of north commutes to Tacoma, south commutes to Tumwater and Olympia, and any combination of trips you can think of for south destinations at peak. This route isn’t intended to get people to Seattle or Bellevue, and hence doesn’t go to KDM and runs less frequently.
580 and 596: Unchanged from how they operate today.
Off-Peak Network:
594 (every 20 mins): Tacoma to Federal Way to KDM to Kent to Renton to Bellevue
Takes over the 577, Federal Way portion of the 578, and the Tacoma portion of the 594 off-peak, and transfers to KDM for Seattle and also goes to Bellevue. Connects to every other off-peak Link train.
592 (every 30 mins): Olympia TC to Lacey TC to Hawks Prairie P&R to DuPont station to Lakewood (Stn, TC, and 512) to KDM
The peak-only 592 becomes off-peak-only, gets truncated at KDM, and stops at every ST stop between Olympia and Lakewood. Naturally, as an off-peak service, it is less “express” than the 597/598 and runs less frequently. Connects to every third off-peak Link train.
 Peak and Off-Peak Network:
560 (every 2o mins): Westwood Village to Burien to TIBS to Renton to Bellevue
Same as current 560, except with a transfer to Link at TIPS for the airport, and it runs every 20 minutes. Connects to every other off-peak Link train, and approximately every third peak Link train.
582, 583, 584 (every 60 mins each):
  • 582 tail is Lakewood (Stn and 512) to Tacoma to Puyallup
  • 583 tail is Orting to South Hill to Puyallup
  • 584 tail is Bonney Lake
  • All three routes converge from Sumner to Auburn to Kent to KDM
This is a major reconfiguration of service for SE King and East Pierce that gives Orting and Bonney Lake baseline hourly service, Auburn and Kent service every 20 minutes, and effectively a return of the old 582 with a new Lakewood connection that runs every hour. This route picks up where Pierce Transit fails, and could get funding from PT to replace the 400. For the first time in a long time, there is a connection between Puyallup and downtown Tacoma on weekends, and off-peak service to Bonney Lake. Sumner and north connects to every other Link train. South Hill, Orting, and Bonney Lake connects to every sixth Link train. You can also transfer to route 594 to go to Bellevue.
This potential network in many ways mirrors the Alternative 1 U-Link restructure, except on a more massive scale. In this network, Seattle is no longer the complete center of attention, and both Seattle and Bellevue are more equally treated as major destinations and job centers. There is also a rich system of suburban connections to Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, and even other suburbs, with frequency and speed that naturally tapers off with distance. Also, even though many current one-seat rides now require a transfer, every common commute scenario now has either one or zero transfers:
To Seattle: one transfer from everywhere
To Bellevue: zero transfers from Federal Way, Tacoma, or Kent, one transfer from everywhere else.
To Tacoma: zero transfers from Kent, Federal Way, Lakewood, Gig Harbor, Puyallup, and Sumner, one transfer from everywhere else.
Lots of more obscure commutes are also covered:
to Tumwater: zero transfers from Olympia through Tacoma (one transfer from Lakewood TC), one transfer Gig Harbor through Purdy or Federal Way through Kent.
To require two transfers, it would take a really, really obscure commute before that can happen, like Orting to DuPont (for which you would take the 583, then 584, then 592 or 597/599.
Of course this is done with no service hours analysis or anything like that. It’s just a concept that sees what kind of connections can be made when the focus is not on one-seat rides to Seattle. It also shows the kind of reinvestment that I expect from Sound Transit if they want to replace ST Express to Seattle with a transfer at KDM, especially since the system extends farther out to the south than to the north and Link on the south takes longer because of things like the Rainier Valley deviation and constantly switching alignments. Of course I don’t have any faith at all in Sound Transit’s leadership to design a network even remotely close to this when KDM station opens, as they will probably just truncate and reduce service hours. If only we could elect Sound Transit board members who would make better decisions ;-)
AlexKven

The correct way to restructure routes 177, 179, 181, and 197

I live in Federal Way, and I have been watching the King County Metro cuts page like a hawk. If you’re familiar with the coming transit cuts in the city, you’ll know that there are two restructures coming for routes in Federal Way: Combining routes 187 and 901, and restructuring peak service to Seattle. I will focus on the latter in this post. I am providing a sample restructure for the morning peak. The afternoon peak could be restructured similarly, but I won’t provide a specific example.

This is just an example of how the service could be restructured in the morning in a way such that it almost strictly follows the February 2015 service reduction recommendations:

– Give route 177 21 trips, and add a stop at Federal Way Transit Center (also two I-5 freeway stations)

– Discontinue route 179

– Add extra trips to route 181 (number of trips not specified in the recommendation) between Twin Lakes Park and Ride and Federal Way Transit Center only*, to give it (specifically) service every 15-30 minutes in Federal Way

*In this example, the extra 181 trips go to the Federal Way 320th St P&R before the transit center. This is the only deviation from the recommendation.

– Reroute route 197, and keep the same number of morning trips

Additionally, this example has the benefit of:

keeping most one-seat rides from Twin Lakes Park and Ride to Downtown Seattle (for route 179 riders)

– Guarantees a successful transfer from route 181 for every 197 trip (for old route 197 riders)

The way this works is that all extra inserted 181 trips turn into route 177 trips after they get to the 320th St P&R. That way, people on these buses can get off at Federal Way Transit Center or Seattle, just like the current route 179.

Here is an example schedule:

181 Mornings
Twin Lks P&R 320th St P&R (to route) Fed Way TC Supermall Auburn Stn. 4th & M GRCC
5:08 5:23 177 5:28
5:23 181 5:40 5:52 5:58 6:05 6:13
5:38 5:53 177 5:58
5:53 181 6:10 6:22 6:28 6:35 6:43
6:08 6:23 177 6:28
6:23 181 6:41 6:54 7:00 7:07 7:16
6:38 6:53 177 6:58
6:53 181 7:11 7:24 7:30 7:38 7:47
7:08 7:23 177 7:28
7:23 181 7:42 7:55 8:01 8:09 8:18
7:38 7:55 177 8:00
7:53 181 8:12 8:25 8:31 8:39 8:48
8:23 181 8:42 8:55 9:01 9:09 9:18
8:53 181 9:12 9:25 9:31 9:39 9:48
177 Mornings
(from route) 320th St P&R Fed Way TC To Seattle
181 5:23 5:28
deadhead 5:38 5:43 *
181 5:53 5:58
deadhead 6:08 6:13 *
181 6:23 6:28
deadhead 6:38 6:43 *
181 6:53 6:58
deadhead 7:08 7:13 *
181 7:23 7:28
deadhead 7:38 7:43 *
181 7:53 7:58
deadhead 10 more
197 Mornings
320th St P&R Fed Way TC To U-District
5:40 _ 5:45 *
6:25 * 6:30
6:40 _ 6:45 *
6:55 * 7:00
7:10 _ 7:15 *
7:25 * 7:30
7:40 _ 7:45 *

* Asterisk means that this trip will wait for route 181 to arrive at this location before leaving. This is how successful transfers from route 181 are guaranteed. This exactly how Pierce Transit route 62 works in the afternoon, and how Sounder connectors work (except with waiting for a bus instead of a train)

 

This is in contrast to a restructure that one would imagine by reading the recommendation, and follows the letter of the recommendations exactly: (I’ll refer to this as the “immediately obvious” restructure)

– Route 177 is a freestanding route

– Route 179 and all one-seat rides to Seattle from Twin Lakes are eliminated

– Route 197 doesn’t wait for any route 181 trips to arrive before leaving, and one-seat rides from Twin Lakes are eliminated

– The extra 181 trips are from 2 buses that keep shuttling between Twin Lakes P&R and FWTC

So what’s better about my plan?

– 6 one-seat rides from Twin Lakes to Seattle are saved

– at least 12 transfers from route 181 are guaranteed to Seattle and the U-District

– current route 179 and 197 riders from west of the transit center only need to adjust their schedule slightly

it costs less to operate than the alternative restructure

Yep, you read that last one right. Here’s why: in the immediately obvious restructure, there needs to be 2 extra drivers hired to run the extra 181 trips. The service hour cost is the extra trips themselves, plus two deadheads per bus to/from south base (this adds up to 8 extra runs to/from Tukwila each weekday). In my example restructure, the drivers that do the extra 181 trips are the same drivers that do some 177 trips, so no extra drivers need to be hired. The deadhead for the extra 181 trips are the same deadhead for some 177 trips, plus a drive from I-5 to Twin Lakes P&R (these could be reverse peak 181 trips if so desired).

If you want me to clarify anything, sound off in the comments. What do you think?