A Quick Multi-Modal Tour of Puget Sound

Here’s a whirlwind trip I took this morning using an $8.00 Day Pass.

6:45am Purchase $8 Day Pass at Columbia City Station, ride Link Light Rail to downtown Seattle
7:40am Board King County Water Taxi at Pier 52 to Vashon Island
8:02am Water Taxi arrives at Vashon Ferry Terminal, catch Metro Route 118 at Vashon Ferry Terminal
8:07am Route 118 departs
8:35am Route 118 arrives at Tahlequah Ferry Terminal, wait for Tahlequah-Point Defiance ferry
8:50am Scheduled departure time of ferry but due to road construction at the terminal we are delayed about 10 minutes
9:14am Arrive at Pt. Defiance Ferry Terminal
9:21am Pierce Transit Route 11 departs Pt. Defiance ferry terminal for downtown Tacoma
9:57am Arrive downtown Tacoma
9:58am Board Tacoma Link to Freighthouse Square
10:08am Arrive Freighthouse Square
10:30am Board Sounder train to Seattle
11:38am Arrive King Street Station, catch First Hill Streetcar to Broadway for lunch
~1:30pm Walk to Jackson Street and catch Metro Route 36 home

Vehicles used on the trip: Light Rail, Water Taxi, Diesel Bus, Washington State Ferry, Diesel Bus, Tacoma Streetcar, Heavy Rail, Seattle Streetcar, Electric Trolley

For a more relaxing itinerary would suggest a stop on Vashon for breakfast, a stroll along the waterfront at Pt. Defiance and some time in downtown to explore the wonders of Tacoma. There are additional northbound Sounder trips at 4:06pm, 4:30pm and 5:15pm and plenty of trips from Tacoma to Seattle on Sound Transit Route 594.

Transit Day: Rogue Valley (Medford, Ashland, Klamath Falls)

The Rogue Valley region of southwest Oregon is a very challenging place to visit without a car. Medford is the largest city (pop. 80,000) and the only place with commercial air service. Klamath Falls (pop. 21,500), located about 75 miles east of Medford, has once-daily passenger rail service in each direction via the Coast Starlight. Ashland (pop.21,600) is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University but Ashland has no airport or rail service. Nevertheless, despite the distances that separate the population centers and the low overall population density, there is a basic public transportation system that stitches together the communities of the Rogue Valley. Just be sure to carefully plan your trip if you hope to use the public transit system.

The local transit system is operated by the Rogue Valley Transportation District. The RVTD provides bus service on 8 routes, all running through the Front Street Transit station in downtown Medford. The service pattern is based on half-hourly pulses and most routes start at 5am and run until about 9pm. Three of the routes have 60 minute headways, 4 routes run every 30 minutes and the route that connects Medford with Ashland and Southern Oregon University runs every 20 minutes on weekdays. On Saturday, all routes operate hourly and there is no Sunday service. Service to the Medford airport runs every 60 minutes.

Unfortunately, land use patterns in Medford are pretty typical of many mid-sized American cities. On the list of US metropolitan cities, Medford ranks #206, which is very similar to Bellingham (#201). Medford’s downtown core is one-way main aterials mostly lined with bars, antique malls, pawn shops and empty storefronts. There is no visible urban revitalization movement in central Medford and the only new businesses that are locating near downtown Medford are the cannabis retailers. Shopping malls with big box national retailers are still under construction on the edges of town as Medford sprawls into the adjacent farmlands. Meanwhile the local transit system is centered on the disused downtown transit center.

The picture in Ashland is more hopeful. Shakespeare attracts over 400,000 visitors a year to the centrally located theaters and the adjacent downtown streets and parks are active and full of pedestrians. Yes, the local economy is based largely on tourism, but Ashland seems to elevate the experience above the level of “tourist trap”. Hotels, restaurants and shopping are all located within walking distance of the OSF theaters. The RVTD route that serves Ashland, SOU and Medford is the only route that offers somewhat frequent service.

From downtown Medford there is a once-a-day bus line to Klamath Falls, Southwest POINT. The route is managed by the Oregon DOT. Arrival and departure times in Klamath Falls are convenient for Coast Starlight passenger connecting to/from California. Riding to/from the north will require overnight stays in Klamath Falls.

Medford and Grants Pass are connected 5 times on weekdays by the Rogue Valley Commuter Line. Greyhound also offers 4 daily trips to Eugene (220am, 505am, 905am, 405pm) with a scheduled trip time of 3:30 to 3:45.

Car-free travel to the Rogue Valley is possible, but it requires some careful planning ahead of time. You can fly into Medford but I would recommend staying in Ashland where there are more car-free options. Using Amtrak round trip from Seattle would require 2 overnight stays in Klamath Falls or long bus rides to/from Eugene.

Transit Day: SMART

I recently made a side trip from San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma counties to catch a ride on a new Nippon Sharyo DMU SMART train connecting the San Rafael Transit Center with Santa Rosa. The SMART trains run on a shared freight and passenger corridor so the passenger vehicles have to meet the most stringent FRA crashworthiness standards. If this operation is a success, it could lead to more short line commuter passenger trains or even some longer routes operated by Amtrak. Locally, the Nippon Sharyo rail cars might make a Seattle to Pasco via Stampede Pass operation more feasible. The SMART trainsets consist of 2 coupled DMUs in a push-pull arrangement. Each car has 79 seats and one car has a restroom while the other car offers a staffed snack bar. The cars were quite comfortable, acceleration was smooth and there didn’t seem to be any problems with the mechanical features of the cars. There are plenty of tables available in each car for working commuters, although at one point the onboard WiFi had to be reset.

Santa Rosa to San Rafael is just the first phase of the SMART project. Construction has recently begun on a 2.2 mile southern extension to the Larkspur Ferry Dock which will allow direct train-to-boat connections to the Ferry Terminal Building on the San Francisco waterfront. Having that connection should boost ridership tremendously. Until the Larkspur extension is completed any trip to SF will require a bus transfer at the San Rafael Transit Center. For anyone interested in making a day trip to see SMART from SF, Golden Gate Transit connects the Transbay Terminal to San Rafael via Van Ness, Lombard and the Golden Gate Bridge (Route 101 is fastest, Routes 30 and 70 are more local and slower). If you are already familiar with GGT’s old, dilapidated and uncomfortable buses and would prefer another option there currently is a local bus connection between the Larkspur Ferry dock and the San Rafael TC (route 228) that is well-timed for a northbound trip to San Rafael but not so good for a southbound trip.

There is one detail about SMART that is important to note for anyone planning to connect to the train from the Sonoma County Airport. The current SMART timetable and map lists “Sonoma County Airport” as the northern terminal for the train but that SMART station is over 1 mile from the Sonoma County Airport terminal. You will need to use a taxi or rideshare to make the connection if you have heavy or bulky luggage because parts of the walking path lack sidewalks and there are no wayfinding signs from the airport to the station. If you arrive with light luggage and feel like stretching your legs after the flight, just exit the terminal, turn right at the main road and walk until you see the SMART O & M facility. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk through a transitioning farmlands to office parks landscape. On my trip I saw a wild turkey strutting across a freshly paved parking lot.

A Bus Connection to Point Lobos!

If you’re visiting the south side of the Bay Area, I also discovered a transit connection between Monterey and Pt. Lobos State Reserve. The Point Lobos State Marine Reserve is one of my favorite places to relax and enjoy nature when I’m in the Bay Area and there is a weekend-only bus from Monterey to Pt. Lobos. Monterey-Salinas Transit Route 22 would allow about 5 hours of relaxation in the park. During the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day the Route 22 schedule expands to offer 3 daily connections to Pt. Lobos. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy connection between Monterey and San Francisco that would allow for day trips via public transit. There is a bus from San Jose/Diridon Station but that bus leaves too late to connect to the Pt. Lobos bus.

Celebrating 133 Years of Mass Transit in Seattle

On September 23, 1884, Seattle’s first public mass transit system commenced operations. The inaugural Seattle Street Railway line ran from Pioneer Square to Pike Street via Second Avenue. It only took 3 1/2 months to build the first line but planning for mass transit in Seattle had been going on for quite some time. In 1879 a franchise had been granted for a street railway system that included a line along Front Street (First Avenue) which was then Seattle’s main commercial district. The local merchants along Front Street however opposed the plan to lay tracks in front of their stores believing that the street railway would be a detriment to their fine businesses. After the original franchise expired, a young man who had recently arrived in Seattle, Frank Osgood, along with financial backing from Thomas Burke, David Denny and George Kinnear, proposed the Second Avenue line and they were granted a franchise by the Seattle City Council to build Seattle’s first street railway line. The original system consisted of 3 miles of track, 4 cars and 20 horses. Yes, Seattle’s first street railway was powered by one horse “engines”.

Fare on the original system was 5 cents and the system appears to have been popular. By the end of 1885 the line had been extended to provide hourly service to the Queen Anne neighborhood via First Avenue. Service to Lake Union was also provided every 2 hours. But there were some serious operating issues that were threatening the system’s viability. First, one horse wasn’t sufficient to pull the cars on the steep hills of downtown Seattle. In 1885 downtown Seattle hadn’t yet been regraded so it was necessary to add an extra horse to each car to maintain service. Unfortunately, the extra horses and the oats they ate were straining the system’s solvency. The corner of Front and Pike was also the scene of numerous derailments and a few injury accidents when the horses were unable to slow down while coming down the steep, pre-regrade hill from Pine Street. By 1886 it was clear that the horse-drawn rail car system was financially doomed and the investors began a search for a better propulsion system. Eventually the Seattle Street Railway system was converted to electric power and Seattle’s streetcar system expanded rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1884, Seattle’s population was about 6,000 citizens. Today, the Seattle metropolitan area population is about 3.5 million. Transit service is still difficult to fully fund, the planning process is still too often dominated by short-sighted local interests and there still can be issues with service reliability. But it all started 133 years ago on September 23, 1884.

Transit Day: SL,UT

Every vehicle operated by the Utah Transit Authority proudly carries a sticker proclaiming UTA as the “Outstanding Public Transportation System of 2014” as voted by the American Public Transportation Association. After spending 2 days riding UTA in Salt Lake City, I found there’s much to like about UTA. The system is easy to use, the fares structure is simple and there’s plenty of legible information available at the stations. My trip to Salt Lake City (sometimes abbreviated as SL,UT by the local non-conformist types) began with a very turbulent landing at the airport and ended about 40 hours later on the westbound California Zephyr. All my local transportation in SL,UT was provided by UTA and my sturdy pair of Ecco shoes.

UTA operates 4 different types of transit vehicles: heavy rail (Frontrunner), light rail (Trax), rubber tired buses and a streetcar (S-Line). Thankfully, all 4 modes are managed by just one agency, the UTA, so there aren’t any artificial barriers between the various services and simplicity seems to be the guiding philosophy of UTA. There are 3 light rail lines that radiate from the downtown business district and provide service to the airport, the University of Utah, the basketball arena, the soccer stadium, Amtrak and, of course, Temple Square–headquarters of the Mormon church. All light rail lines operate every 15 minutes from about 6am until about midnight. The light rail lines are designed to create a strong north-south service spine while the buses mostly run east-west and connect to the spine. The single streetcar line connects to all 3 light rail lines and its right-of-way appears to be an old abandoned railroad spur which allows for a mostly grade separated trip. Currently the streetcar runs every 20 minutes but there are plans and funding for a double tracking project that will allow 15 minute headways. The Frontrunner trains look a lot like our Sounder trains but with a different paint job and a broader span of service. Frontrunners operate every 30 minutes at peak hours and every hour middays and evenings. Fans of the Utah Jazz or the Utah Symphony who live in Ogden or Provo can take Frontrunner home after a game or concert.

UTA is easy to use for a visitor. An all day pass costs $6.25–equivalent to 2.5 times the standard fare of $2.50. There aren’t any zones to worry about and the pass allows transfers between light rail, the streetcar and the buses. Frontrunner costs more but a Frontrunner ticket does allow transfers to the other modes. The Trax Green Line connects the airport to downtown, the Red Line serves the University of Utah and the Blue Line stops just outside the Amtrak “station”. (SL,UT has 2 old and beautiful railroad stations that have been repurposed to retail/museum uses. Amtrak is served by a small but efficient wooden shack.) The bus routes run on 15 minute or 30 minute headways during the day and are mostly designed to be connectors to the light rail spine. Very few buses are routed into the central business district and the light rail trains do not usually share their right-of-way with buses. Unfortunately many of the bus routes drop to 60 minute headways after the evening commute hours and there is very little bus service after 9pm. The light rail lines maintain their 15 minute headways until the end of the service day.

If you are planning a trip to Salt Lake City you can skip the rental car and buy an all day pass that will get you easily to most of the local business or tourist destinations.

Ghost Stop in Columbia City

If you’ve spent enough time walking in Columbia City, you may have noticed the faint traces of a former Metro bus stop on the east side curb of 37th Ave South between Hudson and Ferdinand Streets, just one block west of Rainier Avenue. In the late 1970s and continuing into the early 1980s, this ghost stop was once the mid-day and evening terminal of the 39 SEWARD PARK (which later became the 31 BEACON HILL/SEWARD PARK). During the peak hours, the 39 offered express service between Seward Park and downtown Seattle; but mid-day and evenings, this stop on 37th Ave. S. was the terminal of the 39 (or 31) route.

Columbia City hasn’t always been the thriving business and residential area that we see today. In the mid 1970s, Columbia City was considered a very dangerous neighborhood and most of the commercial spaces were boarded up and empty. But in 1978, Charles Royer became mayor of Seattle and he was determined to revitalize the Columbia City neighborhood. As part of the plan, route 39’s northern terminal was moved from Mt. Baker (where it connected to the 10 Mt. Baker) to Columbia City. The service to Columbia City apparently didn’t generate much ridership because by 1983 the terminal had been moved back to Rainier and Genesee. However, Metro’s curb paint has long outlasted the transit service.

14 Summit in 1946/A Summit Plan

Once Upon a Time

In 1946, Seattle Transit route 14 Summit, which is almost identical to today’s 47 Summit route, operated with 5 coaches during midday periods and 7 coaches during the afternoon peak period. Today, the 47 Summit uses 1 coach during the midday off-peak hours and 2 coaches in the peak hours. In 1946, With 5 coaches operating during off-peak periods, service headways could easily have been as frequent as every 10-12 minutes and PM peak service might have been as frequent as every 7.5 minutes. In 1946, the 14 Summit route path was slightly different than it is today because most downtown streets were still bi-directional: the 14 Summit used Pine Street both directions and then operated southbound on 3rd Avenue to Columbia Street, then northbound on 2nd Avenue and outbound again on Pine Street back to the Summit terminal. The current 47 Summit takes about 28 minutes to run a full loop off-peak and about 35 minutes during peak hours. I don’t have a paper timetable from 1946 but I would estimate that a 1946 roundtrip took, at most, about 35 minutes off-peak and 40 minutes peak to complete the entire route.

For the Summit neighborhood, the drop in transit service is very dramatic and it’s hard to pinpoint what has changed in the neighborhood to cause service levels to drop so significantly. Buses that might have come every 10 minutes in 1946 are now runnig on 35 minutes intervals. Most of the existing housing inventory seems to have been built during the 1920s or the 1960s, so if anything, the Summit neighborhood is denser in 2016 than it was 70 years ago. Perhaps, however, transit riders are more inclined to walk a few blocks for a bus ride than they were in 1946. In 1946 there wasn’t any transit service on Olive Way other than the 14. The 8 didn’t exist until the early 1990s and the 10 (or its predecessor, the 43) didn’t compete for riders on Olive Way in 1946. But still, it’s amazing to see how much transit service Summit/Bellevue has lost in 70 years.

Is there a case for rebuilding transit service on the Summit line or should the neighborhood continue to receive the sparse service that is currently offered? Maybe the region is better served by running the 8 and 10 frequently on Olive Way and just providing limited coverage service into the heart of the Summit neighborhood. Or, are there changes could be made to revitalize the Summit neighborhood enough to justify re-establishing frequent/very frequent transit service?

The Summit Neighborhood

First, I’ll define the Summit neighborhood as the walkshed of the 47 Summit route, the area between I-5 and Broadway, bordered by Olive Way on the south side and Roy/Belmont on the north side. It’s a neighborhood that has many apartment buildings and a few single family houses. Most of the apartments appear to have been built during the 1920s or during the 1950s/60s post war boom and the architecture definitely creates the feeling of a traditional, higher density neighborhood similar to the residential area on lower Queen Anne. Because of the neighborhood’s convenient location near downtown, Lake Union and First Hill, the housing has traditionally been in high demand despite the deterioration in transit service. Unfortunately, one consequence of having so much older housing stock is that there are very few ADA compliant buildings in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood’s commercial inventory is limited and consists mostly of small cafes and a few professional services. Chain retailers have mostly chosen to locate on Broadway and left the Summit neighborhood for smaller, more independent businesses. Parking is also limited in the Summit neighborhood. A few of the newer units feature off-street parking but for most residents and businesses, on-street parking is all that is available. Combining the poor transit service with the limited parking availability, Summit residents must be, by necessity, avid walkers.

A Summit Plan

One of the problems with the existing efforts to build denser neighborhoods that are transit and pedestrian friendly is that–too often–when new residents move into these newly built, denser neighborhoods, too many of these new residents bring their cars with them. The inevitable result of adding more people and their cars into a neighborhood is greater traffic congestion which leads the existing residents to resist further efforts to densify neighborhoods. And, unfortunately for density advocates, creating more traffic congestion also leads to slower and less effective transit service which drives potential transit riders back to their cars. The slower moving buses are also more expensive to operate which makes providing the necessary frequent transit service more costly and less productive.

The Summit neighborhood, however, was born in an era when cars weren’t the default form of transportation and, for the most part, Summit has avoided re-forming itself into a auto-dependent locale. Reviving frequent transit service in the neighborhood wouldn’t be terribly expensive thanks to its close proximity to downtown. Metro currently schedules an off-peak round trip from Summit to downtown and back again at about 28 minutes. That means that 3 buses could easily provide 12 or 15 minute off-peak headways. During peak hours, 4 buses would likely be needed to maintain frequent service standards (peak hour round trips take about 35 minutes). So, reinstating frequent transit service wouldn’t be an extremely expensive undertaking.

With frequent bus service reinstated, the Summit area would be a perfect location for more micro-housing units. There already are some micro units and I’m not aware of any negative neighborhood reaction to what has already been built. If parking is the biggest fear that residents usually have about micro housing, then micros should be welcome in a neighborhood that offers frequent transit service and doesn’t offer much parking inventory to begin with.

Summit seems to be lacking housing for multi-generational families. Studios and one bedroom apartments are the most commonly advertised available living units. Currently, kids are noticeably absent from the Summit neighborhood, but there isn’t any obvious reason that kids wouldn’t be welcome in the neighborhood–other than the lack of 2+ bedroom housing. There are plenty of nearby parks, a library and several K-8 public schools–Lowell Elementary and the Seattle World School (the old TT Minor building) are within a reasonable distance. The nearest public high schools are either Garfield or the Center School, both currently a one-seat ride via route 8.

The high cost of new construction and the expensive rents that living in new construction entail could possibly be averted by rehabilitating the sturdy existing buildings when possible and infilling with smaller scale commercial-plus-residential new construction to provide affordable multi-generational and accessible housing. The Summit neighborhood is not a location for out-of-scale 20 story residential skyscrapers, but more density and more commercial property is needed in the neighborhood if the goal is to re-establish frequent transit service.

The Summit neighborhood is different

The bright lights and spectacle of Broadway and Capitol Hill attract thousands of visitors every day. Those attractions fuel a vibrant and evolving society that is creative and an important part of the Seattle fabric. But too often, Summit seems to serve as the on-street parking lot for Broadway’s attractions. Instead, Summit could be focusing on creating (and re-creating) its own separate and unique identity as an inclusive and complete neighborhood that is close to popular attractions but still scaled to foot traffic and away from the automobile. Should a frequent service bus line be included as one of the Summit neighborhoods assets?

A Queen Anne Plan

Metro is making another attempt at restructuring the trolley service on Queen Anne Hill. Metro hasn’t released enough details about the proposals for me to yet decide if the proposal is an improvement over the existing service pattern. Moving service from the historic streetcar tails on routes 3 and 4 on Queen Anne Hill looks like a smart and productive gain. But I want to see how much productivity could be gained system-wide with changes to the entire Queen Anne-based trolley network. There are plenty of inefficiencies in Metro’s current Queen Anne to First Hill/Madrona/Judkins Park/Mt. Baker trolley network. How much better can the network become if the existing resources were deployed more efficiently?

To begin this project, I gathered some paper timetables and consulted the online schedules at OneBusAway to try and figure out the service patterns for the existing Queen Anne, First Hill and Mt. Baker routes (1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 14). As best I could figure, this is the current midday operating plan for the routes I looked at:

  • Routes 1/14 are operated with 8 buses on 20 minute headways
  • Routes 3/4 are operated with 16 buses at 7.5 minute headways on the common routing, 30 minute headways on the tails
  • Routes 2/13 are operated with 9 buses at 15 headways (Madrona to Seattle Center) and 30 minute headways (north of the Counterbalance)
  • Total = 33 buses
  • The challenge is to create an operating plan that would be cost neutral (33 total buses during the midday) but provide the most coverage possible. Because the peak hour services of the existing Queen Anne based trolley routes are currently some of Metro’s most productive routes, I won’t offer any changes to the peak hour routes. These changes will only affect midday services.

    The Queen Anne Plan
    (Step 1) Create 2 strong spine routes that anchor the entire system. These routes would replicate the route paths of the current 3S and the 4S from First Hill/Madrona/Judkins Park to Belltown. These routes would offer very frequent service (every 7.5 minutes) for the many landmark neighborhoods and institutions along the path (Central District, Garfield High School, Swedish and Harborview Hospitals, Seattle University, Downtown, Seattle Center, Queen Anne Hill and Seattle Pacific University). This spine would look very much like a combined 3S/4S/3N/13 route, (although I will later propose a modification of the 4S that I think would be a major productivity gain). The 3S and 4S would both begin at their existing Madrona/34th Avenue and Judkins Park terminals, but both routes would run every 15 minutes from the terminals and provide 7.5 minute headways on their common corridor from First Hill through downtown Seattle and Belltown. This spine route would then split in Belltown with one route serving the west side of Seattle Center (continuing to SPU on the 13 route path), the other route would continue to SPU via the 3N path to Queen Anne/Boston Street where it would then continue to the SPU terminal. Using the route timings in Metro’s current timetables, this spine route would require a minimum of 18 buses to operate during the midday, but it might be wise to add 1 or 2 extra coaches to guarantee on-time operations.

    (Step 2) Modify the 2/13 timetable to replace the 13 SPU service with the 1 Kinnear route. This would maintain 15 minute headways between Madrona Park and lower Queen Anne and the paths to Kinnear Park and West Queen Anne would each receive 30 minute service.

    (Step 3) Route 14 would then be a Mt. Baker to downtown-only route and would require 5 coaches to offer 20 minute headways unless modified (see below).

    Total buses needed for this plan:

  • The 3/4S/13 Spine Route: 18-20 buses
  • 1 Kinnear/2 WQA-Madrona Park Route : 9 buses
  • 14 (Mt. Baker): 5 buses for 20 minute headways
  • Total: 32-34 buses
  • In order to create a cost-neutral plan, at most I need to eliminate 1 bus from my plan. An easy way to reduce the number of buses needed would be to reduce service to the Judkins Park and Madrona/34th terminals on the spine route from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes. This change would maintain the existing service levels on those corridors, but I think Metro riders would greatly benefit from a revised 4S route path south of Jackson Street.

    A Modified Route 4 to Judkins Park/Mt. Baker Transit Center
    The existing 4S wanders through the Judkins Park neighborhood and inefficiently duplicates service offered by existing Routes 8 and 48. To improve service on the 4S I propose the following changes for the route paths of the 4S and Route 8.

    Route 4S: starting at 23rd Avenue & Jackson Street, the outbound route path would (1) turn left onto Jackson Street (2) then turn right onto MLK and stay on MLK until it terminates at the Mt. Baker TC. With the 4S operating on MLK south of Jackson Street, the 8 could then be revised to terminate near Garfield High School at the existing 3 First Hill terminal. This change wouldn’t reduce the number of buses needed on the 4S, but it would free up 2 buses from route 8. Because this plan would involve new trolley wire it could be decades before Metro would be able to act, but the benefits of connecting MBTC with First Hill via a fairly straight path are enormous.

    Some might object that the running the 4S directly to MBTC would eliminate front door service to the Lighthouse for the Blind. A possible solution to that problem would be a van that connects Lighthouse to MBTC and then continues to the legacy Hanford Street terminal of Route 14 (replacing the trolley bus). Eliminating the crazy split-tail routing of the 14 would save one bus from the 14 schedule which would pay for the van.

    Is This a Better Plan?
    This plan would offer more frequent service on most of the existing Queen Anne based trolley routes. SPU and the Boston Street commercial area would receive much better service. The Madrona/34th and Judkins Park areas would also get 15 minute headways. The only service reduction (other than the legacy tails on 3N/4N) would be on the 1 Kinnear route path north of Uptown (20 minute headways would become 30 minute headways).

    Transit Day: Juneau AK

    I was in Juneau for a few days in mid-April and during some spare time I checked out the local transit system, Capital Transit. The City and Borough of Juneau is larger than the state of Delaware but it’s home to only about 32,000 people. In Juneau, car ownership and road building is constrained by the fact that there are no roads that connect Juneau to the rest of the world. A 4-lane highway connects central Juneau with the airport and the Big Box stores located near the airport, but that highway doesn’t connect to the outside world. The only way to reach Juneau is by sea or by air. The Subaru Outback station wagon seems to be the most popular vehicle in Juneau and for those who don’t own a car, the local transit system connects just about all the important locations with dependable bus service.

    Capital Transit operates 4 basic routes in Juneau:

  • the Mendenhall Valley local routes that start in central Juneau near the cruise ship docks and operate clockwise or counter clockwise loops through the Mendenhall Valley and the Big Box shopping area before returning to central Juneau. These routes run 7 days a week with departures every 30 minutes (daytime) or 60 minutes (evenings) from downtown between 705am – 1035pm (shorter span on Sunday). For an inexpensive sightseeing trip to see the rapidly melting Mendenhall Glacier, use these routes.
  • An unnumbered route that serves Douglas, across the channel from Juneau with 30 minute headways until 6pm/60 minute headways until 1105pm.
  • The Express route to the Airport that runs hourly on weekdays between 7am and 6pm.
  • With those routes, Capital Transit is able to provide service to the most important local destinations with an excellent span of service. The 30/60 minute headways mean a long wait penalty for someone who just misses a bus, but considering the size of the local population base, 30/60 is pretty impressive.

    The cruise ship passengers are what support most of the businesses in Juneau. The city’s sidewalks are built wide enough to hold the hordes of Uncle Abners and Aunt Karens that come from all over the world to spend a few hours in town during the summer cruise ship season. Juneau is definitely a tourist trap, but there are some shops that sell very nice locally produced arts and crafts. I was in town just before the cruise ship season began and the stores were fully stocked; I found some really nice works to bring back. The geography of Juneau is very steep but it’s easy to walk anywhere in central Juneau if one is ready for some serious hill climbing. The City has built many metal staircases for pedestrians on the steepest hills that make walking safer on icy days.

    If you do arrive in Juneau by air virtually every hotel offers free transfers to and from the airport, but the Express bus would also be an option if you arrive while it is running (M-F 7am-6pm). There also appears to be a van transfer service between the airport and the Big Box area that might connect you with the local bus routes, but the hotel transfer buses are the best option.

    Route 48 in 1980

    Today, 3/26/2016, begins a new era in Seattle transit service as the route 48 that we’ve known for the last 6 years is split into 2 routes: the 45 travelling from Loyal Heights to the light rail station at Husky Stadium and the 48 which will run between the University District and Mt. Baker Station. In 1980, route 48 followed the familiar core path from Loyal Heights to Franklin High School, where the current Mt. Baker Station exists. But southbound from S. Hanford St. and Empire Way S. (today known as Martin Luther King Jr. Way South) the 48 followed a different route on its way to its terminal at South Seattle Community College. Southbound from Franklin High School the 48 stayed on Rainier Avenue until Alaska Street where it turned west and climbed up to Beacon Hill, passing the VA–but not detouring into the parking lot–on a routing similar to current route 50. From Beacon Hill, it apparently used Spokane Street and the low level route to cross the Duwamish and then headed to its terminal at SSCC (kind of a combined 50 and 125).

    Midday headways were at about 33 minutes and peak service could be as frequent as every 6 minutes. Evening service was every 30 minutes on the UW to Franklin HS core with buses scheduled every 60 minutes on the extensions north and south. There also were a variety of intermediate turnbacks and short-runs scheduled in the timetable. Weekday trips began at the endpoints and at Beacon & Columbian (near the VA Hospital), Rainier & Hanford (Franklin HS), Montlake Station, 45th and 15th in the University District and at Greenwood and 85th.

    In the future we may see the 48 evolve again if money can be found to electrify the gaps along 23rd Avenue E. Some STB posters have suggested combining an electrified 48 with the 7 and creating new 1-seat rides between Rainier Valley and the Central District. Since its creation in the mid-1960s as a shuttle between Mt. Baker, the Central District and the University of Washington, the 48 has changed from short shuttle route into one of the longest in-city routes and back to a shorter route providing high frequency service. Has any other route been as drastically modified during the last 36 years as the 48?

    A Reason to Ride: Skyway Library

    The new Skyway library opened last month. Architecturally speaking, it’s a pretty typical, but well done iteration of the modern branch library genre. It’s a nice building; it feels big, there’s plenty of natural light and color. It also occupies a very prominent location in Skyway (you can’t miss it). But having this wonderful new public building points out what a dump the rest of Skyway has become over the decades. It will be quite a challenge to find any other new construction or even another building that has been substantially rehabbed in Skyway since the Reagan era (maybe even the Eisenhower era). Yes, there is a Grocery Outlet that opened within the last 5 years and the casino is always busy; but most Skyway storefronts seem to be empty and surrounded by cracking asphalt parking lots or occupied by weed shops and other struggling small businesses. How could a neighborhood that is a 10 minutes bus ride from downtown Renton and 10 minutes from light rail have become such a depressing and dilapidated mess?

    I suspect that Skyway’s problems stem from the fact that it isn’t a city. It’s an unincorporated region bordered by Seattle, Renton and Tukwila and its public services are provided by King County. So when the citizens of Skyway want a problem fixed, they have to go to the county council and fight the other unincorporated areas for attention and public money. Thankfully, the county library system has the money to rebuild some of its libraries and the old Skyway library was replaced with this nice new facility.

    So, if you want to take a trip to Skyway and check out this new library, it is served by route 106 that you can catch in the DSTT or you can make a connection from Link at Rainier Beach Station. If you’ve never before made the Link to Metro transfer at Rainier Beach Station, let us know in the comments how that worked out for you. You can also get to Skyway via the Renton Transit Center (again, route 106). Skyway is a neighborhood that has the potential to be a great place to live, shop or go to the library, but unfortunately its problems currently far outnumber its charms.

    Transit Day: Albuquerque

    I’m a Northwest Native and I’ve lived in Washington state my whole life. I often visit warmer, drier climates for business or leisure purposes and I’ve seen how many hot locales deal with an abundance of strong sunlight in their commercial business districts. Tucson is a very hot place, but it still maintains a reasonably walkable and surprisingly pedestrian-friendly CBD. Unfortunately, Albuquerque has taken the most pedestrian repellent aspects of the Southwest/Santa Fe architectural style and built a downtown area that is bland and uninviting for pedestrians. The landscape of downtown ABQ is dominated by blank adobe walls, a bleached out color palette and heat reflective window coverings.

    The famous Route 66, “The Main Street of America”, cuts through central Albuquerque. Before the interstate system was built, businesses along Route 66 were very prosperous, but the interstate system has left most of the old Route 66 businesses in decline. There are some signs of urban restoration in downtown Albuquerque: some new apartments near the Alvarado Transportation Center, a circa-1965 office building being rehabilitated, a few other residential projects underway. But the downtown area is mostly governmental office buildings and a few restaurants serving lunch to office workers. After 5pm, downtown Albuquerque is virtually abandoned by all but the street people and the unfortunate.

    Despite the problems with the central business district, Albuquerque’s transit system, ABQ Ride, is surprisingly good. ABQ Ride features both gridded routes and pulse routes centered on the Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown ABQ. Amtrak, Greyhound and the New Mexico Rail Runner are also located at the Alvarado TC, so intermodal connections are easy; but the neighborhood adjacent to the TC is rather gritty and I was panhandled constantly at the TC and as I walked to/from the TC. The major transit destination outside of downtown ABQ is the University of New Mexico which is served by 3 Rapid Ride lines (Blue, Red and Green). Rapid Ride buses connect UNM with downtown ABQ every 8 minutes. Because of the history of Route 66, most of the prominent destinations in ABQ are laid out in a straight line and the Rapid Ride lines will quickly transport you to your destination. ABQ Ride is also very affordable for the local citizens: single rides cost $1, an all-day pass costs $2, the senior fare is 35c.

    Bus service to the airport is also good unless you have an early or late flight. Route 50 runs on 30 minute headways from 7am-8pm and takes about 20-25 minutes for the trip between the airport and the Alvarado TC. Route 50 also serves the University area. There is an express route (250) that connects the airport with New Mexico Rail Runner trains to Santa Fe. I bought an all day pass and rode the Red and Green lines along Route 66 and finally rode Route 50 to catch my flight out of town. The Rapid Ride lines offer frequent service until about 9pm on weekdays. If you arrive late or on a weekend, you may need to rent a car. But unlike Kansas City, the Albuquerque International Sunport is located close to town and it’s one of the top passenger-friendly airports I’ve ever experienced.

    Transit Day: Kansas City

    Kansas City’s airport (MCI) must be the worst designed airport in the United States. It consists of 3 cramped, donut-shaped terminals that aren’t well connected. MCI is also a long way from downtown Kansas City and reaching the city without a rental car can be expensive: $60 for a taxi, $18 for a van shuttle. There is a local transit option, but the bus stop was located on a different donut than where my flight arrived and headways were at 60 minutes when I arrived, so I opted for the van shuttle. The trip to downtown took about 30 minutes (at 75mph) and most of the scenery en-route was farmland, cell towers and an occasional waffle house or convenience store. So, considering the existing population density and distance between downtown KC and the airport, it’s hard to see how any high speed airport-to-downtown transit link would be economically feasible. I will offer MCI as a text-book example of how and where to NOT to build an airport.

    Kansas City, however, seems to be embracing New Urbanism. From a transit perspective, that means a new streetcar line will open soon that connects the gorgeously restored Union Station building with the central business district and 2 MAX lines offering frequent, branded service with nicely designed bus shelters that display schedules and next bus arrival times. The rest of the urban system tries to offer a grid-based layout but frequency is a real challenge for anyone not using MAX routes or the streetcar. Most of the other routes are scheduled at 30 to 60 minute headways. On my “Transit Day” I found it easier to walk to my destination than wait in 15 degree weather for the next bus.

    Kansas City was a major transportation and manufacturing hub during the 1920s. In the latter part of the 20th Century KC’s importance in the business world slipped as air travel replaced train travel and many of KC’s businesses became obsolete. But what was left behind in the area between downtown and Union Station were many gorgeous Art Deco buildings and numerous old warehouses spaces. KC has done a wonderful job of restoring many of those Art Deco artifacts and many of those old warehouses are being converted into lofts and service businesses. Central KC provides a very walkable and interesting street layout. Dead spaces, blank walls and creepy corners are rare in downtown KC and it’s an inviting place for pedestrians to stroll (even in gusty, below freezing weather).

    The fact that New Urbanism seems to be taking hold in KC is surprising considering that gas costs about $1.65/gallon and downtown parking lots are advertising monthly parking for $50/month. There also aren’t any Seattle-style geographic challenges that hem in sprawl development. How can transit compete against (almost) free gas and parking? I don’t know, but the urban revival is real and I would cite Kansas City as one of the top urban destinations in America to visit without a car (once you figure out how to get in from the airport).

    Transit Day: Billings MT

    On an earlier trip to Missoula MT, I used the local transit system to “see the sights”. I was hoping to have the same opportunity to “see the sights” on a recent trip to Billings by using the local transit system “MET” as a tour bus. Unfortunately, the Billings system falls way below the ambitious standards of Missoula’s transit system, despite the fact that Billings has almost twice the population of Missoula. Billing’s system is clearly a minimal system that radiates away from a downtown transit center with timed, but irregular pulses. The most frequent route–the 1D–leaves the transit center at intervals varying from 30 to 50 minutes. Most other routes offer service at intervals between 60-80 minutes and provide up to 11 trips a day with many routes only running at peak hours. The buses are also old and ridership appears to be very low.

    Billings would be a very difficult city to create an effective transit system despite a strongly gridded road system and generally flat geography. The city of Billings is the regional shopping and services center for a huge geographic area and many people who live in smaller towns will drive for several hours to do their shopping in Billings. The result is that the local retail scene is dominated by chain stores and restaurants. Independent businesses are almost non-existent in Billings and most of the main roads that lead to the many shopping malls are lined with other chain stores and their acres of asphalt parking lots. With summer temperatures that jump above 100 and winter temps that can fall below zero, waiting for a bus, walking or bike riding in Billings can be difficult. Urbanization doesn’t seem to be emerging in Billings like it seems to be emerging in Missoula. Downtown Billings is a ghost town after 6 pm with most restaurants closing after the lunch rush. Virtually the only building that keeps the lights on in the evening is Billing’s modernist downtown library (worth visiting). More malls, more roads and more cars seem to be Billing’s destiny. A thriving public transit system doesn’t seem possible. Fortunately I had a rental car during my trip.

    Columbia City/Rainier Avenue Re-channelization Project

    Today is the second day of the new traffic re-channelization project on Rainier Avenue through Columbia City. SDOT is hoping to reduce the number of traffic accidents in the Columbia City neighborhood by reducing the number of general purpose traffic lanes on Rainier Avenue from 2 in each direction to 1 in each direction (with a left turn lane between the lanes). Since the new lane markings have appeared I have made a couple of transit trips, a car trip and I walked along the route this morning.

    With the new traffic pattern, there is a noticeably calmer environment on the sidewalks next to Rainier Avenue. Reducing the number of lanes creates a huge reduction in auto noise. I guess that should be obvious, but I was surprised at how much calmer the sidewalk felt. If a quieter street draws more pedestrians onto the sidewalks, fringe neighborhoods like Hillman City may become more friendly for businesses and foot traffic. I also crossed Rainier at Mead St.–an unsignalized intersection–without much trouble. When Rainier was 4 general purpose lanes I never would even attempt to cross at any unsignalized location. For pedestrians, the re-channelization project should be an improvement.

    The bus trips were somewhat less of an improvement. A trip on the 9 during morning rush was definitely slower than usual and I missed my planned transfer at I-90. But we also had a newbie driver who was confused by which stops were for the 7 and which stops were for the 9, plus there were lots of confused drivers on the road, too. My return trip, last night on the 7 was very slow through Columbia City, but SDOT crews were still working on the changes, so it’s too soon to tell if bus times are negatively affected by the re-channelization. I hope that SDOT and Metro have worked to make sure that transit times won’t be much slower. The southbound stop at Edmonds St. (Bank of America/new PCC) may become a real bottleneck, however.

    As for driving on Rainier Avenue, hopefully it will become less of a drag race and more of an orderly trip from Rainier Beach to Columbia City. The left turn lane may help reduce the amount of swerving auto traffic, but lefts will still be very difficult during peak hours when all oncoming traffic will be channeled into one lane. The best way to make Rainier Avenue safer is to make transit more useful. If these changes have a negative effect on transit operations, more people will want to drive.

    Transit Day in San Diego

    I recently had a dreaded first-flight out/last-flight back business trip scheduled to San Diego. My alarm was set for 4am, my bag was packed and all I had to do was roll out of bed, take a shower and get to the airport by 5am. Because I live south of downtown it would have been possible for me to take either of the first 2 southbound Link trips and get to the airport in time for my flight. But I was concerned about the possibility of a late flight arriving back in Seattle after the last Link trip, so I chose to drive to the airport. At 430am traffic is very light and the drive to the airport took about the same amount of time it would have taken to walk to the Link station. Also, the $28 all-day parking fee is less than what a taxi would cost at 1am.

    Although I chose to forego the public transit option in Seattle, I did plan to use public transit from the San Diego airport to downtown San Diego. Lindbergh Field is less than 2.5 miles from downtown so it’s pretty easy to get from the airport to downtown via public transit: Route 992 runs all day at mostly 15 minute headways, the trip takes about 12 minutes, the fare is $2.25 and the stops are right outside each airport terminal. San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) also sells an all-day pass for $5, but it is only available with a Compass Card (the MTS equivalent of ORCA, except that a Compass Card costs $2). The problem is that there aren’t any TVMs at any of the airport terminals that I could find that would issue a Compass Card. It is possible to buy a paper all-day pass on a bus, but it costs $7 and doesn’t provide an official, reusable plastic Compass Card. I know I will be making several more trips to San Diego and having a Compass Card will be handy, so I paid $2.25 for the trip to downtown and bought a Compass Card at a TVM in America Plaza with an all-day pass for an additional $7. Two day ($9) and three day ($12) passes are also available at the TVMs with a Compass Card.

    My expectation when I left home at 430am was a long day of work ahead in San Diego; but, thanks to my associates, there was actually very little work that I had to deal with once I arrived in town. In fact, by lunchtime, I was done with my work day and I had over 8 hours to kill before my return flight. So I decided to do a little San Diego sightseeing courtesy of MTS and my Compass Card. My first planned expedition was to take a grand circle trip of the area via the Green and Orange Lines of the San Diego Trolleys. Just to clarify, what San Diego calls a trolley is what Seattle calls light rail and there are no electric powered, rubber tired transit coaches in San Diego. Unfortunately, the Green Line offers very little scenery and serves mostly shopping malls, a football stadium and stations located next to freeways. So I abandoned my grand circle plan at San Diego State University station and walked around the nearby business district hoping to find something equivalent to the U District in Seattle. No luck with that either, so I returned to the SDSU TC and looked for a bus to somewhere else. The 215 Rapid seemed to be the best bet. The 215 Rapid looked like a BRT route to downtown San Diego via Balboa Park. In reality, the 215 Rapid is a watered down version of Metro’s RapidRide service: the 215 makes fewer stops and the stations are distinct, bigger and better than a regular MTS bus stop, but no off-board payment is available and the buses aren’t noticeably different from other MTS coaches. The 215 also travels a route that is pretty equivalent to Aurora Avenue between SDSU and Balboa Park. So I abandoned the 215 at Balboa Park.

    Getting off at Balboa Park was an excellent idea. I spent a couple of hours enjoying the sunshine and I ventured into the Model Railroad Museum for a tour. I know model railroading isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but if you have any interest in model trains, you must take trip/pilgrimage to the Balboa Park Museum. I won’t go into a long review of the museum, but it’s a 5 star experience for anyone who might be interested in model railroading.

    After I left Balboa Park I didn’t have a definite plan for the next few hours, but I was hungry so I decided to hunt for another bus and hopefully take it somewhere interesting (other than downtown). The first bus stop I encountered didn’t have any schedule or precise destination information, but it did have a stop number and signage that said “text stop number 12757 to 46687” for schedule information. Within seconds the stop schedule information was texted back to my phone. And that was pretty much how I spent the rest of my day until I caught the 992 back to the airport.

    Overall, riding transit in San Diego is pretty easy and economical. Most routes are on 15 minutes or better headways. Every bus I rode was well maintained and clean. The drivers were friendly and the network is relatively easy to figure out for a visitor. Fares are $2.25 for regular buses and trolleys, $2.50 for express routes and $5.00 for peak hour long distance trippers. On the bus stop signs the fare for each route is clearly displayed and every bus has a dash board sign with the appropriate fare. The Compass Card has eliminated the need for paper transfers. The trolleys are proof-of-payment and there is very heavy enforcement during rush hour. Every platform had 2-4 uniformed FEOs checking just about every passenger which seemed quite heavy-handed and likely not very cost effective.

    If you are planning a trip to San Diego, I highly recommend buying a Compass Card and forgetting about the rental car.

    West Seattle-Downtown-Ballard Transit Service in 1985

    If you have complaints about the current service provided by RapidRide C or RapidRide D, just be glad you didn’t try to commute from West Seattle or Ballard to downtown 30 years ago using Metro routes 15 or 18.

    The maps for the 15 and 18 show that their 1985 routings hadn’t changed much from 1941 when those routes were established as part of the original electric trolley network. Both routes added service north of NW 85th Street when they were dieselized in 1963, but those are the only obvious service additions I can see. The 1941-63 trolley version of route 18 did have 2 branches south of Morgan Street in West Seattle: the 18 Fauntleroy as pictured in the link above and the 18 Gatewood which is today mostly covered by route 22. The 15 West Seattle also had 2 branches in West Seattle: the branch to Alki that is shown in the 1985 map and another branch that was routed through the Admiral District/Genesee Hill area (similar to the current route 57). The bifurcated versions of the 15 and 18 in West Seattle continued to be operated by diesel coaches until 1978 when the Genesee Hill and Gatewood segments of the 15 and 18 were combined into a new route (the 49).

    In 1985, the 15 and 18 followed identical routes from approximately Harbor Island to just north of the Ballard Bridge. Together, they provided local service on 1st Avenue South in SODO and operated through downtown Seattle on 1st Avenue to the Seattle Center and Ballard. Midday headways on both routes was 40 minutes, which provided service every 20 minutes for Interbay, downtown and SODO; but Alki, Fauntleroy, 15th Avenue NW and 24th Avenue NW only saw a bus every 40 minutes. Today, most of those corridors get headways of 15 minutes or less.

    At night, service on route 18 improved to 30 minute headways, but route 15 was served by the always unpopular Night Shuttle service. On the north end, the 15 operated only from Blue Ridge to the Ballard Bridge on a schedule that created a timed meet with the 18. The riders on route 15 would then transfer to the 18 to complete their trips to Interbay, Seattle Center or downtown. Going from downtown to 15th Avenue NW required catching the 18 in downtown Seattle and transferring to the 15 Night Shuttle by the Ballard Bridge. On the south end, a similar transfer point was established near Harbor Island. The 15 shuttle buses were supposed to always wait for the 18 before leaving the transfer point, but I can testify that there were plenty of times when the Night Shuttle bus left without waiting for its transfer load.

    Today, 30 years later, the 15 and 18 network has been replaced by a number of frequent service routes. RapidRide C, RapidRide D, the 40 and partial service from the 21 have all replaced segments of the service provided by routes 15 and 18 in 1985. Plus, we’re seriously entertaining plans to build frequent light rail lines to both Ballard and West Seattle. I wonder how much progress will be made in the next 30 years.

    Georgetown service in 1975: 23 South Seattle

    The 23 South Seattle in 1975 was a very basic route between downtown Seattle and Georgetown. The 1975 schedule and route map show 30 minute headways throughout the day with a couple of extra peak hour trips for riders headed to or from the industrial areas along Airport Way and the residential area in Georgetown. The 23 South Seattle route map from 1975 is very similar to the routing of today’s Metro route 124 between Georgetown and downtown Seattle. The main differences are that the 23 served Georgetown via a Flora Avenue/Carleton Avenue loop and that the 23 entered and exited downtown Seattle via Dearborn/Airport Way (perhaps to connect the Atlantic bus base with downtown) instead of via Holgate/6th Avenue.

    Today, Flora Avenue is a very quiet neighborhood street and the buses that serve Georgetown (Metro routes 60 and 124) operate one block over on Ellis Avenue. A few years ago I was in Georgetown and I noticed that there still are still some ghostly remnants of curb paint along Flora Avenue where the 23 South Seattle bus stops were once located.

    Missoula Zero-Fare Transit

    I was in Missoula MT (population: ~70,000) over the weekend and I explored the town using Missoula’s Zero-Fare Mountain Line transit system which offers free rides on all of the system’s 13 transit routes. Geographically, Missoula is very flat and the city is divided by the Clark Fork River. On the north side of the river one finds the downtown area (with the main transit mall), a Lowe’s/Home Depot/Target/Best Buy shopping complex and some residential housing mixed in with light industrial uses. The University of Montana (15,000 enrollment) and its trendy nearby University commercial district, a Northgate-type mall and most of the city’s single family and college student residential areas are located on the south side of the river. Four different bridges are used by Mountain Line to connect the south side with the north side.

    Mountain Line features two BOLT! routes with frequent service (every 15 minutes on weekdays, less frequent service evenings and Saturday). My grand tour of the city started at the downtown transit mall where I boarded BOLT! Route 2 which offered a very circuitous trip through the north side that eventually arrived at the Target/Lowe’s strip mall complex. We then crossed the river and continued through a south side neighborhood heading towards the South Gate Mall where I de-boarded for a break. There was a fantastic collector car show in the mall that featured about 70 beautifully preserved autos from the 1920s to the 1980s. After I had spent about an hour looking at Hudson Hornets, Barracudas, Skyliners and plenty of other classic American (and a few non-American) cars, I went back to the bus stop and caught BOLT! Route 1 which took a much more direct route back to the downtown transit center via the University of Montana campus.

    BOLT! Route 1 seemed to be more popular of the two BOLT! routes. Route 2 seemed to wander through the north side neighborhoods trying to hit every possible residential area on its way to the Target complex. The wandering path of Route 2 created lots of left turns and an inefficient hairpin routing. Route 2 seemed like it was fishing for riders while Route 1 took a much more direct route from the South Gate Mall to the University and back to the transit center. Fifteen minute headways on both BOLT! routes is high quality service, but the circuitous routing of Route 2 on the north side of the river is a definite detriment. The wandering path of Route 2 seems like a classic example of transit adapting to auto-centric land use patterns rather than adapting land use laws to build efficient and sustainable transit routing.

    The only other route that consistently offers better than 60 minute headways is Route 6 which runs every 30 minutes for most of the day. Route 6 connects the Transit Center with the University District (a commercial district about 5 blocks away from the UM campus) and the South Gate Mall. The only route that doesn’t radiate from the Transit Center is Route 8 which runs from the UM campus across the south side to the South Gate Mall. Service on most routes starts about 630am and ends by 1000pm with hourly service after 6pm–even on the BOLT! routes. Saturday service starts about 930am and ends by 630pm with all routes running on 60 minute headways. Sunday is a day of rest for the Mountain Line with no service offered.

    I don’t have any ridership numbers for the Mountain Line system, but the buses I rode on had pretty good ridership. The Mountain Line buses offer free WiFi and a downloadable bus tracker app. The local newspaper is also provided free of charge on-board the buses. Overall, Missoula seems to be making a positive commitment to providing quality transit service for its citizens.

    Rainier Valley Restructure (Othello & Rainier Beach)

    This restructure builds on my proposed changes for Mt. Baker Station/Rainier Avenue services and focuses on transit service for Othello Station and Rainier Beach Station. The routes affected are current routes 8, 9, 50, 60 and 106. The goal of this restructure will be to focus on building up transit service at Othello Station where there is an existing retail base, a residential base and the possibility to expand both. Unfortunately, Rainier Beach Station currently lacks both a surrounding commercial and residential base and because of topography and the overhead power transmission lines, future development in the area surrounding RBS will be highly constrained.

    There is an existing Rainier Beach commercial and educational district that is roughly centered at Rainier & Henderson. Metro currently connects the commercial district with RBS via routes 8, 9, 106 and 107 but the existing transfer process can be frustrating and confusing (from RBS to Rainier Beach catch the 9 or 107 on the north side of Henderson, catch the 8 and 106 on the south side). Plus the 107 may actually be going to Renton instead of Rainier Beach (I think transit geeks call this problem “illegibility”.) This restructure would aim to connect the businesses and schools around Rainier & Henderson to Link and other buses at Othello Station instead of at Rainier Beach Station. There will still be a frequent connection from Rainier & Henderson to RBS provided by routes 50 and 88, but Othello Station will be the main hub for transfers in south Rainier Valley.

    The proposed changes

    Route 8 No changes in routing or frequency between Rainier Beach and Mt. Baker but its number was changed to 88 to avoid confusion with the existing 8.

    Route 9 deleted

    Route 50 The 50 will be extended from its current terminal at Othello Station to Beacon Avenue & Myrtle where it will then follow the current 106’s route back to Rainier Beach Station and terminate at Rainier & Henderson. David Lawson proposed this coverage as an extension of the 107, but I think the span of service and frequency needed is a better match for the 50.

    Route 60 South from Cleveland High School the 60 would follow Swift Avenue (currently served by the 106) to Othello Street and continue to Othello Station. Whether or not this route would make the diversion into Georgetown would be open for discussion as is the VA diversion. Also, the northern terminal would need to be decided. The new 60 would certainly serve Beacon Hill Station and Jackson Street, but its routing north of Jackson Street would need to be decided. There is little need to have the 60 running to Broadway once the streetcar begins operation.

    The existing route 60 service from White Center to Georgetown would become a separate route.

    Route 106 The 106 would still start at the Renton Transit Center and follow its current routing to Rainier & Henderson. From Rainier & Henderson it would now stay on Rainier Avenue until Othello Street and terminate at Othello Station. There also is the possibility that the 106 could be thru-routed with the new 60 to directly connect Rainier Beach with Cleveland HS and 15th Ave S. Establishing a 60 + 106 connection would maintain the needed Renton to Rainier Valley bus connection but it would facilitate easier transfers to routes 36, 50 and Link at Othello Station. Also, it would partially compensate for the loss of route 9 by connecting Rainier Avenue (between Henderson and Othello) with Link at Othello Station.

    These changes would create a major transfer hub at Othello Station while reducing transfers at Rainier Beach Station. Othello Street would get much more service but Henderson would lose some (confusing and illegible) service. A section of Rainier Avenue that loses route 9 would get a connection to Link and the 36 at Othello Station and Rainier Beach would be better connected to all parts of Beacon Hill.