Pinehurst Bus Suggestions for 2016 Re-Alignment

A Pinehurst neighbor, Ross B, also wrote an article on Seattle Transit Blog about suggestions for the Pinehurst bus route changes coming soon. Metro is proposing re-alignments when Link opens at the UW Stadium in 2016. While many of us are very supportive of creating frequent grid-based bus systems that makes use of the investments in Link Light Rail, the proposed plans seem to have forgotten Pinehurst entirely. They reduce access to both the University of Washington and Link Light Rail, forcing extra transfers for very short trips. Much of Pinehurst is nearly as dense as Northgate and deserves frequent all-day service. [EDIT: Fixed the Seattle Transit Blog link to go to the right article.]

Metro recently announced a couple of proposals for improving the bus routes in various parts of the city, once light rail serves Husky Stadium. The issue has been covered in a series of articles, including this one, covering the north end. Amongst the more controversial changes was one that would effect the Pinehurst area of Seattle.

Pinehurst is a somewhat obscure area between Lake City and Northgate. It doesn’t have a huge number of people, but has a fair number of apartments and is only a little less densely populated than Northgate (which you can see by zooming in on this census map). One of the nicer things about the area is that there are fairly regular buses from there to the U-District. Specifically, the 73 and 373 both connect Pinehurst with the UW.

This would change under alternative one. Service would be consolidated to a new route, the 67, which serves Roosevelt, then loops around to the Northgate Transit Center. While I see the need to serve Northgate from the south, I think there are several flaws with this suggestion:

  1. Except for the 373 (which runs infrequently and only during peak hours) bus riders in the area will no longer have direct service to the U-District.
  2. The transfer required to get from the 347/348 will be awkward.
  3. Metro will spend service hours sending a bus in a somewhat convoluted and congested route to Northgate.
  4. Riders trying to get to Northgate from the south will endure this somewhat convoluted route.

Most of these points deserve a little explanation. First of all, to get to the UW, a rider coming from Pinehurst or anywhere in the service area of the 347/348 would change buses at Roosevelt and Northgate Way. This is awkward mainly because the buses will be turning. For example, if you are headed north, you would stay on the 67 until it makes the left turn towards Northgate. Then you have to cross Roosevelt, to get to the bus stop (on Roosevelt heading north, north of Northgate Way). If the other bus (coming from Northgate) arrives before the light changes, you will miss it. First the bus will turn left, then you will be able to cross the street and get to the bus. Unless the bus driver is patient, and willing to delay everyone on the bus, you will have a fifteen minute wait for the next bus. At best you have to wait almost two complete light cycles to make this transfer.* At worst you miss the bus. This is a degradation not only for Pinehurst riders (who never had to make the transfer) but those who used to make a transfer from the 347 or 348 to the 73. Previously, those routes shared service on 15th Avenue NE, which meant that a rider simply had to get off the bus and get on a different bus at any of the bus stops. That will no longer be available.

Second, based on my calculations, the 67 route that loops around on Roosevelt is roughly 5.5 miles, versus a route that goes more directly, which is 4.4 miles. My guess is that the cost in time is even bigger, as the route will spend a significant amount of time making turns in heavy traffic. This means that service hours are being spent taking a less direct route, which not only effects those who will be delayed in connecting to Northgate, but the system in general.

There have been numerous suggestions and ideas for improving the situation. I suggest three here, to perhaps make it a bit easier for people to reference them if they want to contact Metro about these changes. I am calling the new bus route that replaces much of the old 73 the 63, to avoid confusion. Hopefully this will be clear by looking at the maps.

Suggestion One:

This map shows the route. As you can see, both buses would share service from the UW to the Roosevelt neighborhood. This is by far the most popular section, so sharing service would provide greater frequency for this important corridor. As with all of the suggestions I make, riders headed to Northgate will have a faster, more direct ride. This direct ride will save a significant amount of service hours, which means that, if my calculations are correct**, you could have the following:

New 67 (red on the map) — Every 12 minutes
New 63 (blue on the map) — Every 30 minutes

This is a very slight reduction in service for the 67 (10 minutes to 12 minutes) but a more direct route.

Suggestion two:

This is the same map, but with different scheduling. Essentially, the buses will simply trade-off, the way that the 347/348 trade-off. So, you have:

New 67 (red on the map) — Every 20 minutes
New 63 (blue on the map) — Every 20 minutes

This serves the core of the route (from the UW to the Roosevelt neighborhood) every ten minutes. Since both routes are likely to be shorter, this saves service hours over the routes designed by Metro in their Alternative One, which can then be used to bolster frequency anywhere in the system or makes these routes more reliable.

Suggestion Three:

This route is more like what currently exists. The biggest advantage to this routing is that the new 63 is faster. It also has additional coverage, because it goes on 15th, not Roosevelt. Since the split occurs earlier than the other suggestions, it don’t think it makes sense to try and give each run equal time. The timing on this is identical to suggestion one:

New 67 (red on the map) — Every 12 minutes
New 63 (blue on the map) — Every 30 minutes

My Pick

I prefer suggestion two. I think there will be enough ridership to justify splitting the run, especially as Link is added to the UW. That is greater frequency (for both sections) than exists now, while still maintaining excellent frequency on the most popular section (UW to Roosevelt). It also provides for a very nice connection between Pinehurst and Maple Leaf.

In general I like the changes proposed with alternative one. I think it represents a better overall network. With any one of these changes I think it would be even better.



* Figuring out the traffic light cycle is a bit complicated. But if this intersection is like most intersections, the light cycle is basically: turn, forward, turn, forward. So basically:

Left turn from Roosevelt
Straight on Roosevelt
Left turn from Northgate Way
Straight on Northgate Way (repeat).

With that in mind, at best you have this, heading northbound:

Left turn from Roosevelt (with the 67 bus — then get off the bus)
Straight on Roosevelt
Left turn from Northgate Way
Straight on Northgate Way (walk across the street)
Left turn from Roosevelt
Straight on Roosevelt
Left turn from Northgate Way (347/348 bus makes this turn and picks up rider)

It’s not as bad southbound. You simply have to wait for the light to turn.

** The math for determining service hours is very rough. Going to the Northgate transit center via Roosevelt and Northgate Way is 5.5 miles, versus 4.4 miles if you go via 5th. So that makes the math relatively easy. Instead of 6 per hour (of the proposed 67s) you run 7.5 per hour. But you don’t. You take 2.5 runs and give it to the new 63. I round down (to be conservative) and that means two runs an hour on the new 63, and five runs an hour on the 67. That translates to a bus every 12 minutes for the new 67 (via 5th) and a bus every half hour for the new 63.

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