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:
(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)
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.
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 ;-)