Metro wants Night Owl feedback on plan to boost late-night service

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King County Metro will field public comment through October on a proposal to expand its late night bus service:

The public is encouraged to review the proposal and offer comments via an online survey until Oct. 30. Public comments will help shape a final proposal, which could go before the County Council later this year. If approved, it will take effect in September 2017.

The agency says late night passengers represent “a small portion of Metro’s total ridership,” but that demand appears to be growing, with boarding increasing “by 20 percent in the last five years.”

Details of the proposal can be found at kingcounty.gov and the full announcement from Metro is below. Across the Hill, Route 11 would see boosted service along with possible tweaks to improve transfers on other routes.

Seattle’s increasing 24-hour activity has also spurred the city to make a plan to extend paid parking hours on Capitol Hill and in other high-demand areas of the city. Sound Transit, meanwhile, continues to operate its light rail system with a four-hour downtime overnight. Capitol Hill Station and the rest of the line operates 5 AM to 1 AM on weekdays and Saturdays.Currently, the last southbound Link train leaves Capitol Hill Station at 12:38 AM. The last northbound train leaves Capitol Hill at 12:46 AM. A petition earlier this year called on Sound Transit to increase service by nine hours a week to 2:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays and to 1:30 AM on other days. A Sound Transit spokesperson said the agency needed the downtime for maintenance and would assess late-night proposals at a later time.screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-9-20-44-am

Metro seeks public input on expanding late-night bus service

King County Metro Transit is planning to improve and expand “Night Owl” bus service next year for late-night riders, and seeks public input on a proposal that would offer new transit options for those getting to or from jobs, the airport and nightlife between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Metro has about 40 routes with some level of late-night service throughout King County.  Of these, 20 provide trips after 2 a.m., including three Night Owl routes that loop through some Seattle neighborhoods only between 2:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.  The City of Seattle contributes funding to late-night transit operation and is a partner in this effort. Metro’s draft proposal would replace the three Night Owl routes with late-night service on regular, all-day routes that serve the same areas. The draft proposal also includes new after-hours bus service to Sea-Tac Airport for travelers and workers, for whom there currently are limited options after 1 a.m. It also includes hourly all-night service on the RapidRide C, D, and E Lines, which currently operate all night but with less than hourly frequencies.

“As Seattle grows, so does demand for safe and reliable transit at all hours,” said Metro’s Interim General Manager Rob Gannon. “This proposal will help Metro better meet the needs of our changing and growing ridership by making the first significant changes to Night Owl bus service in more than 40 years.”

The public is encouraged to review the proposal and offer comments via an online survey until Oct. 30. Public comments will help shape a final proposal, which could go before the County Council later this year. If approved, it will take effect in September 2017.

While overnight ridership represents a small portion of Metro’s total ridership, it has increased by 20 percent in the last five years. Metro conducted a first round of public outreach last spring and developed the latest proposal after hearing from more than 2,600 transit users. Among their highest priorities were better late-night transit options for:

  • Workers in jobs with non-traditional work shifts such as health care and many segments of the service industry.
  • Travelers and workers heading from downtown to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.
  • Customers enjoying Seattle’s nightlife, including music and arts venues.
  • Those who are experiencing homelessness.

“Seattle’s 24-hour economy thrives because of the workers who get up at all hours for shifts in hospitals, hotels and restaurants,” said Rebecca Saldaña, Executive Director of Puget Sound Sage. “It’s important they have the transportation options they need, like accessible late-night bus service, so they can get to their jobs safely and affordably.”

“Late-night bus service plays a key role in making sure youth of all backgrounds have access to our music and arts programs and educational opportunities, which are often at night,” said Tim Lennon, Executive Director of The Vera Project. “Better access to late-night transit will help ensure that the future of our region’s creative scenes and workforce is an equitable one.”

“Metro has long been a good partner in helping address the needs of our most vulnerable populations,” said Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. “We look forward to continuing that partnership as Metro develops this proposal for new late-night transit service that works for everyone.”

The proposal would make several changes, including:

  • Replace current Night Owl routes 82, 83, and 84 with two late-night round trips – around 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. — to each of the following routes: 3, 5, 11, 70, 62 and 120.
  • Extend Route 124 all the way to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.
  • Improve late-night transfer connections between buses in downtown Seattle.

Current Night Owl routes do not match daytime routes, which some riders find confusing. To improve awareness of late-night bus service, Metro will work to improve customer information related to late-night service options.

Riders can take the survey via Metro’s website at metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/late-night/. The survey is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

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4 thoughts on “Metro wants Night Owl feedback on plan to boost late-night service

  1. Elimination of the #84 leaves a large swath of an area served by the #2 bus during regular hours, pretty much totally unserved. It’s great for more service on the 11 and 3, but it sucks for the #2 area.

    The biggest problem with the Night Owl service is their MAPS ARE TERRIBLE. I’ve tried so many times to make sense of their maps, and it’s maddening. With all the drinking and driving that happens around Capitol Hill, the best expansion of service might be to use the same routes we’re accustomed to during the daytime, and extend service after last-call.

    • > Elimination of the #84 leaves a large swath of an area served by the #2 bus during regular hours, pretty much totally unserved.

      I think “a large swath” is a bit of an overstatement. There are only 3 stop pairs served by the 2 and 84 that would lose service under Metro’s proposal, all on Union between MLK and 34th. MLK/Union is only 0.3 miles away from alternate service, and the others are even closer. (Compare that with Lake City, for which the closest owl stop is 2.4 miles away.)

      More to the point, the 84 barely counts as service. It has two runs, and they make loops in opposite directions. The earlier 84 takes 27 minutes to get between 4th/Pike and 34th/Union; the 3 takes 26 minutes during _peak_ to travel that distance, and only 15 minutes during midday. Between the 3 and 11, pretty much every trip to the Central District or Madrona should be shorter than it is on the 84 today. (If you think you have a counterexample, please let me know!)

      > the best expansion of service might be to use the same routes we’re accustomed to during the daytime, and extend service after last-call.

      I agree, and so does Metro, which is why their proposal does exactly that. :)

    • Totally misses the point. You’re looking at where they end up, and not where they collect people from. The #3 may end up right near the #2, but it doesn’t get anywhere near the party section of Capitol Hill where people would come from. Union & Pike, between Broadway and 15th, where all the bars are, would only be served by the #11 which heads towards Madison Pk and away from the CD. Yes, extending service later on the same routes is the best idea, but they’re not proposing doing that for the #2 at all.