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Bus Stop | Metro releases less ambitious plan to restructure routes as light rail comes to Capitol Hill

proposed-midday-frequenciesThe proposals for improving the bus network in Capitol Hill that have been coming from King County Metro over the past few years have varied pretty widely. From an emergency service proposal to staunch the effect of massive bus cuts, to a Seattle-only expanded service proposal that hasn’t even taken effect yet, the ideas for changing bus service on the Hill have been all over the place, and it would not be unreasonable to assume that the average Hill resident has not been able to keep up with them.

This week, Metro released its latest University Link restructuring proposal for Capitol Hill and northeast Seattle, set to take effect in the first quarter of 2016. After taking comments regarding its two alternatives, Metro has released a third proposal, dropping most of the really frequent service and retaining almost every area’s direct connection to downtown. The result is a proposal that falls short of a frequent service grid that was its clear ambition with alternative 1.

Here are the proposed changes, with the most dramatic stuff first.

The big changes

  • The 47’s official return next month has been clarified with service frequency. Service until 7pm every day, but no more than 20 minute frequency during peak hours, and service every 35 minutes through the day. This seems assured thanks to Prop 1, regardless of Metro’s final proposal.
  • The 12 still serves the entirety of 19th Avenue up to Interlaken Park, but instead of taking Madison Street, it will take Olive Way to get there, taking over the denser, apartment-laden parts of the 43’s route.
  • The 43, then, is no longer. This “hybrid” 12 route would presumably funnel most heading northward to Broadway Station but not close enough to 23rd avenue to catch a beefed up 48 (see below).
  • Once again a proposal to cut the 8 into two routes: this time in the Central District, at 23rd and Jackson. Riders heading further south to the Rainier Valley will use the new 38 running along MLK like the old 8. An earlier proposal would have combined the 8 with the 11 to Madison Park. With the 11 still traveling between there and Downtown, the added frequency that would have brought to the new route is not as high as it might have been otherwise, especially at night. The only added trips on the 8 will be one more bus per hour on average through the middle of the day during the week. Nighttime service still remains at 30 minute frequency.
  • The 11 will run entirely on Madison Street from end to end, no longer serving Pike/Pine. First Hill riders who now choose between a trolley #2 on Seneca and a trolley #12 on Madison will still have to choose between a #2 or a diesel #11, or the Broadway streetcar. Choose wisely, especially at night, or you’ll be waiting for a while. Metro appears to be setting the stage for SDOT’s Madison St BRT proposal.

The smaller stuff:

  • The 48 also looks like it will be split in the University District into two routes: the new route 45 will take over the north Seattle portion. The 48 will also become one of the hill’s most frequent routes, with 10 minute frequency through the day, more frequent than the 8 or the 49. SDOT appears poised to turn 23rd into a high capacity transit corridor with its improvements to 23rd Avenue.
  • The 49 and the 10 will remain as they are, with increased service almost entirely thanks to Prop 1.
  • The 25 looks like it is headed out to pasture.
  • Some peak trips on Sound Transit route 545 will become converted to 542 trips between Redmond and University of Washington Station. This should speed up trips for eastside commuters who live close to Capitol Hill station or along the 48 route. There is no indication that the Bellevue Avenue dogleg will be going away for outbound trips from downtown in AM.

Public comment is being accepted until the end of this month. You can take a survey on the proposed changes and add your comments. Wednesday, May 20th, Metro representatives will be on Capitol Hill for an open house on the proposed changes:

Link Connections: Metro Public Meeting @ Capitol Hill
WHEN: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 – 6:00 pm @ 6:00 PM
WHERE: Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, Jaffe Room 1432 15th Avenue Seattle, WA 98122

Learn about and comment on Metro’s proposal to change bus routes in Seattle with the start of Link light rail to Capitol Hill and UW at Husky Stadium. Sound Transit staff will also be available to answer questions about and take comments on their proposal for change.

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26 thoughts on “Bus Stop | Metro releases less ambitious plan to restructure routes as light rail comes to Capitol Hill

  1. Good article. Can we just call it Seattle subway station though (it is one). See, “Link” is a horrible corporate naming failure (thanks, Sound transit!) and, that train is most certainly NO LIGHT rail. It is medium grade. This is a notable distinction as it costs more and runs better. Perception, when it comes to public transport is huge.

    PS- Do you think the new station signage will suck as badly as it does at almost every other ST stop?

  2. For residents on the eastern side of the hill this new proposal is awful, worse than existing service. With the deletion of the 43 and no meaningful new service on the 8 the connection from 23rd to Capitol Hill Station sees service drop by 50%. After 7PM on weekdays and all day on Sunday there will only be 2 buses an hour connecting frequent service on the 48 to Broadway. Today there are 4 – 6 buses an hour during that time.

    The reroute of the 11 removes a direct connection from 23rd to Pike/Pine.

    The truncation of the 48 in the U District removes a direct connection to Roosevelt and Greenlake.

    After the ambitious, frequent, and highly connective proposal in Alternative 1 this new proposal is a huge letdown. Rather than connecting neighborhoods to Link it is making access harder.

    • I agree. I live on 23rd and can step out my door to catch the 43 to downtown very frequency. Now I have to do what? Catch the 12 on 19th and transfer to the Link at Broadway?

  3. Great news about increased service on the 49 and the re-birth of the 47!

    Any ideas on when the actual date of reinstatement will be next month?

  4. I’m near 15th E. and the removal of the 43 will mean I’ll have to take a bus-transfer to reach my daily destination on NE 45th. I can’t walk hills so going to Broadway or 23rd isn’t really an option. This will make my commute longer and less predictable… OR I could just drive. I hate to add a car to the roads as I’ve taken the bus for years but I’m not optimistic.

  5. I don’t understand the thought process behind separating long lines into two routes (what will happen with the 48). It is a tremendous benefit to be able to get on one bus and ride it to your destination, even if it means a less direct route. Anything that involves getting off one mode of transit and transferring to another adds time, risk (is the next leg of the journey on time/scheduled to arrive within 5 minutes?), and inconvenience. Sometimes the separation makes little difference – the 7 often becomes a 49 downtown and vice versa – but what is the benefit gained by breaking these routes up?

    I think the elimination of the 43 is going to cause a lot of people, like Rob above, to choose their cars over transit because there will be completely inadequate east/west service between Broadway and 23rd North of Olive (assuming those at Olive and south can walk to Pine/Madison).

    Overall the emphasis seems to be to get people from where they are to LINK and let that service get them to the next station, instead of getting people where they need to go as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    • The reasoning behind separating the 48 into two lines (45+48) is to improve reliability. The 48 is often late, rendering the schedule pretty useless. The new 45 will have 15 minute frequency, which translates to an average wait time between the two of 7.5 minutes. A third of that will be salvaged by the increased frequency on the 48 (now at 10 minutes, formerly 15). An added benefit is allowing Metro to add much needed hours to the 23rd Ave segment (the new 48) while keeping the old North end segment of the 48 (the new 45) at a more ridership-appropriate service level.

      Transfers aren’t enjoyable, but they don’t have to be terrible either. 15th Ave next to UW is a nice spot to wait, all things considered, with lots of eyeballs and shelters. The benefits to the network are pretty compelling here, and it’s useful remember that one-seat rides inevitably come at the cost of frequency, and in this case reliability.

      • I’m not so sure I agree that 1-seat rides necessarily come at the cost of reliability. Every time I transfer buses, that’s one more uncertainty to the trip. I’ve taken many trips from cap-hill to Fremont on the 43-44. The 43 will sometimes become a 44 and I can stay on the bus. When it doesn’t change and I need to get off and transfer, I can be waiting another 15+ minutes for the next 44. I’ve not taken data on this but in my experience transfers add delays and complexity.

      • I suggest you read the schedule first. This will indicate which buses continue and which ones terminate. It will reduce your waiting time.

      • Umm… that just means I’m waiting at the beginning of the route rather than in the middle. Dividing up a route and requiring a bus-change will make it take longer to reach a destination. This play will increase commute times and probably increase the number of people who choose to drive.

      • Plan ahead and check the schedule before leaving home. Metro has the full bus schedule online. You’re making it difficult for yourself.

      • Transfers on short trips (and Capitol Hill to UW is a short trip at around 4 miles) absolutely destroy the viability of transit vs driving. The 43 already comes every 3-6 minutes peak of peak, offers a one seat ride and is generally reliable. That is what makes it competitive to driving for people. Once that goes away my car looks very attractive. Throwing more buses at a route does not make it more reliable. If the schedule says every 10 minutes but because of traffic, etc what you really get is two buses in quick succession every 20 minutes (8, 48 I am looking at you…) that is worthless. Metro needs to attack the underlying reliability issues of the 8 and 48 and not just throw buses at it. Splitting them only helps so much.

        Getting rid of the 43 when Brooklyn Ave Link Station opens could make sense. Doing it now just causes pain for people.

      • Going to the U-District the 43 is scheduled no more then every 15 minutes, if you’re seeing busses arrive more frequently then that it’s due to bunching. Heading towards Downtown there are some 43s between the base 15 minute frequency that turn on Broadway instead of completing the normal 43 route—which could create the illusion of increased frequency that doesn’t entirely exist and is an amazingly confusing service pattern.

        However if you were taking the 43 before to get to UW you are by definition no more then 6 extra blocks away from either the 48, the Cap Hill Light Rail Station or the 49, all of which will have more frequent service heading towards UW then was on the 43 today anyways. Transit is not meant to be a replacement for walking, and if you’re not willing to walk those no more then six blocks then you probably should be driving anyways.

      • and what about those who have difficulty “only walking” those six blocks. There seems to be an assumption that everyone is in great shape and has no disabilities so all of us can just hike everywhere happily.

      • The through routed buses are not “an illusion” they are real and go between Capitol Hill and the University District. I don’t care where the bus comes from, I only care where it is going and from Broadway to the U-District these buses make the 43 frequent.

        No, transit does not need to be competitive with walking, but it does need to be competitive with driving.

        Right now, I can drive from my place to the U-District in about 20 minutes in rush hour. The 43 takes an average case of 27 minutes. I am willing to accept the additional time to take the bus because it does save some money and is a convenient one seat ride.

        If this goes through, my options are (walk times via Google Maps):
        * Walk 15 minutes to Broadway for a 49 that takes just as long as the 43 today.
        * Walk 15 minutes to Broadway to get Link and then transfer to another bus at Husky Stadium.
        * Walk 11 minutes to 23rd Ave to get a 48 that takes almost as long as the 43 today.
        * Wait for an unreliable bus to go to Broadway or 23rd Ave and transfer to one of the above services.

        None of those are even remotely competitive with driving.

  6. I definitely wish that they’d keep the 43 and not split the 48. I’d choose the 43 over the 47 for the reason Rob wrote. (Guess I should got to the right feedback site, eh?)

  7. Really? The highest route frequency is every 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of the day?

    Poor … doesn’t even rise to the level of adequate.

    From about 7 AM to 7 PM it should be once every five minutes. From 7 to midnight it should be every ten minutes and then dropping to every 30 after that.

    Christ, what a half assed town.

  8. It seems Metro has been wanting to axe the 43 for sometime, a move I really do not understand. This bus is always full and the light rail is not a replacement for it.

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  12. I love that I can hop on a bus in Greenwood and get to Columbia Judkins Park without a transfer. I know that as a commuter I am more likely to choose a route that invovles one than a “quicker” route that invovles one or more transfers. The stress of hoping to make a connection or hauling. all your stuff from one vehicle to the next is not worth it. There were times I just made trips on days I knew the 49 would turn into the 7 or the 43 to the 44. It is a shame that the 48 is being split.