Strong public comment restores two routes; March 2016 slated for largest service changes since 2009 in advance of new light rail
StoryThe arrival of light rail on Capitol Hill and the University of Washington are reflected in today’s adoption by the King County Council of new bus routes that will begin in March 2016. But concerns raised by the public living in parts of north Seattle and in the Montlake neighborhood have ensured that bus service will continue on two of the routes proposed for elimination.
“Realigning bus routes when major new investments are made for enhanced transit service not only implements our policy, but is the smart thing to do,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips, sponsor of the legislation. “With the growing addition of Link light rail service, these integrated changes will increase mobility in the region, supporting our growth management goals and expanding ridership options.”
The Council actually adopted two separate bus service change ordinances. The University Link restructure modified bus routes in north Seattle, Capitol Hill, and southeast Seattle. The majority of the revised routes are focused on delivering bus riders to the new link light rail stations while making transit service more efficient and giving riders a way to move in and out of downtown Seattle that relies less on congested roadways.
“While today’s proposal is not perfect, I believe that on the whole it improves service and access to transit for more riders,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, chair of the Transportation, Economy and Environment (TrEE) Committee. “I am glad that we were able to retain commuter service in NE Seattle including peak service on the route 43, a revised route 71 to the University District, and added peak service to several routes, including a significant expansion of routes 76 and 316.”
“As a Sound Transit board member and an avid user of public transportation I have been anxiously awaiting the opening of the Capitol Hill and University Station for many years,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “It is such an exciting time for our County as our transportation options grow. The changes we agreed upon today will bring increased transit frequency to many areas of Seattle, and will facilitate convenient integration with light rail.”
Sound Transit light rail service will go to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium near the UW campus starting in early 2016. The approved changes to Metro Transit routes serving parts of Capitol Hill, the Central District, the University District, Wedgwood, Laurelhurst and Lake City are focused on avoiding duplication of transit service and increasing efficiency on bus routes.
Public testimony at meetings held by the TrEE committee, including a special night meeting, raised concerns about the potential cancellation of bus routes 43 and 71. In the approved ordinance, Route 43 will continue operating weekdays every 30 minutes during peak ridership hours (6:00-9:00 a.m. and 3:00-6:00 p.m.). Route 71 will continue with all-day service weekdays and Saturdays, and would operate between Wedgwood and the University District to the link station at Husky Stadium. The Council also preserved some Saturday service on the revised Route 73.
“The potential elimination of the 43 would have subjected a large number of seniors and people of color to the possibility of multiple transfers to get to downtown Seattle,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “We heard the concerns of the transit riders that depend on the 43 and have been able to maintain daily service, and a one bus ride to downtown, along a vital transit corridor.”
“These changes are designed to make Metro routes more efficient and effective for the residents of the county.” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “Even if you don’t use Metro, these improvements to Metro’s service are important as they can help lead to less gridlock on our roadways.”
In amending the University Link restructure, the Council acted to ensure that Metro takes extra steps to ensure a smooth transition. Metro is required to coordinate with Sound Transit, the City of Seattle, and the UW to develop a communications and outreach plan for the March 2016 change. Also required is a work plan to improve the sites where increased transfers will occur. The Council plans to evaluate these plans as well as rider and resident survey results and customized performance measures evaluating the change.
Along with the service changes on Capitol Hill and north Seattle, the Council also adopted legislation:
• Using Transit funding approved by Seattle voters to fund splitting and extending the RapidRide C and D lines serving Ballard, Downtown Seattle, and West Seattle. This change will improve reliability on both routes, and connect the C line to South Lake Union and the D line to Pioneer Square.
• Improving the performance of Route 200, serving the Issaquah Highlands, Issaquah Transit Center, and Issaquah retail areas. This is the second phase of improvement on the route, extending the route to serve Swedish Medical Center after adding service to the Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride this spring.
• Adding 2,100 annual service hours to Route 915, increasing weekday service on Route 915, serving Auburn and Enumclaw, to operate every 60 minutes and expanding the span of service to run until 5:00 p.m. rather than 4:30 p.m.
• Adding two AM peak and two additional PM peak trips to Routes 179 and 190, serving Federal Way and Downtown Seattle.
“Increasing bus service in south King County will help provide more efficient and easier commutes for many local residents going to and from Seattle,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “As our commute times get longer and more congested, it is critical to develop viable options for our commuters.”