A few months ago, with lots of help from STB regulars, I created the Frequent Network Plan to show how we could improve Metro’s Seattle/North King County bus network without adding any service hours. That’s great, wrote guest writer and commenter extraordinaire Mike Orr. But, he asked, how much money would it cost to get the bus network we really want? Or, since it’s mid-December, what would Santa have to bring Seattle’s passengers to make it the best Christmas ever?
At first, I was reluctant to look into the question because I figured the results would be ridiculously unrealistic, especially when we are still trying to fight off a network-killing 17% cut. But I started playing with maps and steadily got more interested. I drew up an “ideal” network closely related to the FNP, but with the goal of making the best possible bus network regardless of resources, rather than using a fixed level of resources more efficiently. Pictured is a small bit of that network.
Then I put together a preliminary estimate of the service hours needed. The answer surprised me: only about a 33% increase in service hours from today’s level. That could actually come to pass, if there were a solution to the 17% cut, a few good years of economic growth, and maybe one more funding vote premised on meaningful improvements. It’s realistic enough that the City of Bellevue considered a 30% increase as the best-case scenario in their 2030 Transit Service Vision Report. A 33% increase is an attainable goal for medium-term political advocacy and makes for a credible network vision, not a fevered hallucination.
As I did with the FNP, I’ve created maps of this “ideal” network:
- Color-coded by route (the labels reflect the +33% scenario).
- Color-coded by frequency for both the +33% and the +15% funding scenarios.
Of course, a 33% increase, while imaginable, would be an uphill struggle. So I created one more scenario, intended to show the lowest funding level at which the “ideal” network is meaningfully superior to the FNP network even though it aims for broader coverage and thus sacrifices a bit of efficiency. I found that to be a 15% increase in hours from the current level. The +15% scenario uses the same network (with two extremely minor changes), just with not-quite-ideal frequency levels on thinner routes.
Much more explanation follows below the jump.