I wanted to respond on behalf of SDOT to Bruce’s post last week about the structure of today’s Metro Night Owl service.
Our main goal in saving the Night Owls is to avoid any interruption and preserve service for late- and early-shift workers and other people who depend on those routes now. Although ridership seems somewhat low at 150-170 boardings per day, divided among six trips (two each on routes 82, 83, and 84), the numbers are not too bad and represent far more than 150-170 individuals – although most riders are probably regular riders, many ride only occasionally — and this is the only late night service to most parts of the routes.
SDOT and Metro did not have enough time between the April 22 failure of Prop. 1 and the normal June deadline for defining the September service change to seek public input then negotiate and implement a restructure. So initially, SDOT funds are proposed to be used to save existing trips on existing routes, which will include both the loop routes (82, 83, 84) and, if a Seattle Transportation Benefit District measure passes, late night service on high-ridership regular routes like the 7 and 36.
After we have secured continuing service on the existing night owl routes, we and our partners at King County Metro are committed to work on a proposal to modernize the late night bus network in Seattle. In the longer term, our goal — funding permitting — is a late night network that is better than the one we have today, which would add trips in the 2:00 – 4:00 a.m. time frame to most of the busiest routes.
In general, SDOT supports and is working towards many of the goals outlined in your post. In particular, we agree that large-diameter one-way loops are not a rider-friendly service pattern; that the lack of post-1:30 AM service to dense, outlying neighborhoods such as Northgate, Lake City, and Delridge presents an opportunity for improvement; and that Night Owl service should be provided by routes which are as similar to daytime core routes as possible. This is similar to what Metro and SDOT accomplished working together on the C and D Lines, each of which now has a pair of night owl trips which fully replaces a less rider-friendly Night Owl loop route.
Thanks for listening, and for continuing to suggest improvements to the Metro system in Seattle!
Bill Bryant is Manager of Transit Programs at the Seattle Department of Transportation.