Update on possible cuts to Queen Anne bus service

Posted on May 31st, 2011 by Editor


More information has been uncovered on the Metro service hour reduction scenario reported on two weeks ago. Under the scenario (.pdf), Route 2N would be eliminated, while the 2 Express would be kept and extended down to Seattle Pacific University and then Nickerson Street. Some of the hours cut from Route 2N would be put on Route 13. In addition, Route 4N would be eliminated, and those hours would be put on Route 3N, which would also extend down to Nickerson. Route 45, which connects Seattle Center with the University District through Queen Anne, would also be eliminated.

The “600,000 Service Hour Reduction Scenario,” as reported two weeks ago, is Metro’s initial look at what a reduction in service hours would look like if cuts had to be made.

“The whole idea of restructure is in this case to reduce the size of the system, be more efficient and not spend as many hours, but still try to provide service that meets the needs of the community,” said King County Metro’s Service Planning Supervisor David Hull. “This is not something that I as a transit planner am looking forward to. We like to see the system grow; we look to put more service on the street to provide quality service to more people … This is a process that is being forced because of our financial situation.”

If the King County Council decides that cuts should be made, there will be a process allowing the public to give feedback on actual service hour reduction proposals, said Hull.

The part of the scenario regarding Queen Anne routes, excluding the change to Route 45, is called “Priority 2,” which is aimed at restructuring service to improve efficiency. This is opposed to the first priority of reducing low productivity services (Route 45), and the lesser priorities of reducing higher‐productivity services and reducing low‐productivity services in all areas identified as underserved. The total cuts from Priority 2 amounts to a 255,000 reduction in hours, of which approximately 6,000 hours will be cut from routes particular to Queen Anne.

“We’re not trying to eliminate access to service [in the Priority 2 cuts], but perhaps requiring folks to change how they use the system… people might need to transfer or might need to walk a bit farther,” said Hull. “The concept is fewer routes going downtown, but they’re at a higher service level, and one thing the national studies show is that people are willing to walk farther to have more frequent service.”

Some Metro riders welcome these changes, like Bruce Nourish, a software engineer who lives downtown and works in Queen Anne.

“This proposal provides much better mobility from Lower Queen Anne, Taylor St, and Downtown to SPU and the north side of Queen Anne,” said Nourish in a comment to the previous story, adding, “Such systems, in general, provide similar mobility at far less cost, or much greater mobility at the same cost. I personally think this change is long overdue.”

Others, like Queen Anne resident and Metro rider Nell Beedle, believe some could have serious trouble with these changes.

“There are, in fact, very steep slopes and in some cases stairways that create physical barriers to access for less able-bodied riders,” said Beedle. “It’s not just about trip times for some folks; it’s also about physically being able to access the route.”

This is something Metro planners and administrators take into consideration, said Hull.

“We’re trying to limit the impacts, but we surely understand that we can’t cut 600,000 hours, almost 20 percent of our system, and not have impacts to current riders,” said Hull. “We understand that not everyone is capable of making a farther walk, that there may be individuals because of a disability or age that can’t make that walk.”

Federal laws require the King County Department of Transportation to factor in disadvantaged populations in their planning, and in the event that a disabled person is unable access public transportation, Metro provides assistance through their MetroAccess Paratransit program, said Hull.

One major factor that can keep these changes from becoming a reality is Senate Bill 5457, or the temporary $20 congestion reduction charge to help fund public transit. The bill was signed by Governor Gregoire on May 16, but it still needs to be passed by the King County Council, who will decide the matter later this summer. According to Queen Anne Community Council member Kirk Robbins at last Wednesday’s transportation committee meeting, two King County Council members have said it’s going to be a unanimous vote to put the $20 dollar charge for bus operations on the ballot in November, passing the matter to King County voters.

“[The bill] is a stopgap measure that would allow King County Metro to avoid reducing 17.5 percent of the system,” said Hull. “Even after taking numerous actions to reduce cost… we’re kind of at a point now that without additional revenue to sustain the system we got to make cuts.”

The measure would collect for about two years before expiring, during which time the state legislature would look for a bigger, more permanent fix to the transit funding problem.

“Without the fee, then these cuts need to happen sooner than later,” said Hull.


  • Max

    I’m all for extending the 2X, but eliminating the 2? I don’t think taking local daytime bus service off 6th West is such a good.

  • Max

    I’m all for extending the 2X, but eliminating the 2? I don’t think taking local daytime bus service off 6th West is such a good.

  • Max

    …idea

  • Max

    …idea

  • Matt the Engineer

    Good reporting. The first article wasn’t very precise, but this filled in a lot of holes. I appreciate the effort.

    As for the cuts, my hope is that these lean times will help us gain efficiency, and that Metro will find funds soon to build back up our bus service. Or that this will be the kick Seattle needs to realize we shouldn’t be satisfied with a county-style transit system in the city. We need rapid mass transit that moves people between neighborhoods and takes less than half an hour to travel the 2 miles downtown.

    Imagine a light rail tunnel station on the hill or a 10 minute gondola ride downtown. We could convert much of our bus hours to connect far more QA streets to this station.

  • Matt the Engineer

    Good reporting. The first article wasn’t very precise, but this filled in a lot of holes. I appreciate the effort.

    As for the cuts, my hope is that these lean times will help us gain efficiency, and that Metro will find funds soon to build back up our bus service. Or that this will be the kick Seattle needs to realize we shouldn’t be satisfied with a county-style transit system in the city. We need rapid mass transit that moves people between neighborhoods and takes less than half an hour to travel the 2 miles downtown.

    Imagine a light rail tunnel station on the hill or a 10 minute gondola ride downtown. We could convert much of our bus hours to connect far more QA streets to this station.

  • This is nutjob with a capital N. First off, why is everything headed to SPU? Are there really THAT many students going there? What else am I missing on the north slope? I’m surprised they’re not looping the 1 over there as well! Since they screwed up the timing of the 1 and 2, I’ve been taking the 13 much more than usual lately, and I’ve NEVER seen the bus even half full by McGraw Street.

    Second, if they MUST change the service, why not add a circulator route around the top of the hill, like with the snow routing, instead of running everything down the north slope and leaving so many other folks hanging? You could even expand it to catch the tail ends of the 3 & 4 routes left out of this asinine plan.

    Third, this positively REEKS of the kind of budgetary brinksmanship that has pet projects funded to the hilt but leaves vital services like police and Medic One to tax and levy measures. I’ll effin’ WALK up the hill before I give in to this noise!

    And finally: Matt. what the hell are you talking about? A light rail tunnel station on the hill?! A freakin’ GONDOLA? Dude, this ain’t exactly the Alps, ya know! Public transit “planning” around here is a toxic mix of arrogance, hubris and moronicism, but these ideas of yours are truly out there. IF King County is scratchin’ & grabbin’ to keep Metro running, where on this green Earth are we gonna find the cash for this pie-in-the-sky nonsense?

  • This is nutjob with a capital N. First off, why is everything headed to SPU? Are there really THAT many students going there? What else am I missing on the north slope? I’m surprised they’re not looping the 1 over there as well! Since they screwed up the timing of the 1 and 2, I’ve been taking the 13 much more than usual lately, and I’ve NEVER seen the bus even half full by McGraw Street.

    Second, if they MUST change the service, why not add a circulator route around the top of the hill, like with the snow routing, instead of running everything down the north slope and leaving so many other folks hanging? You could even expand it to catch the tail ends of the 3 & 4 routes left out of this asinine plan.

    Third, this positively REEKS of the kind of budgetary brinksmanship that has pet projects funded to the hilt but leaves vital services like police and Medic One to tax and levy measures. I’ll effin’ WALK up the hill before I give in to this noise!

    And finally: Matt. what the hell are you talking about? A light rail tunnel station on the hill?! A freakin’ GONDOLA? Dude, this ain’t exactly the Alps, ya know! Public transit “planning” around here is a toxic mix of arrogance, hubris and moronicism, but these ideas of yours are truly out there. IF King County is scratchin’ & grabbin’ to keep Metro running, where on this green Earth are we gonna find the cash for this pie-in-the-sky nonsense?

  • t ruth

    Yups don’t take buses

  • t ruth

    Yups don’t take buses

  • Matt the Engineer

    [Dark] Gondolas are being built in cities all over South America because they are the cheapest way to build grade separated mass transit – which is important inside of cities, where we have built-up buildings and roads. Buses can be much more expensive than grade separated transit in cities because of ongoing expenses – that gondolla can replace 30 buses* with just 4 operators, at a cost savings of millions per year.

    * Theoretically. In reality, this might be much more since a bus is taking much more time than 10 minutes to make the trip. A bus that takes 30 minutes has 1/3 the capacity of a bus that takes 10 minutes, and requires 3x the number of drivers and buses.

  • Matt the Engineer

    [Dark] Gondolas are being built in cities all over South America because they are the cheapest way to build grade separated mass transit – which is important inside of cities, where we have built-up buildings and roads. Buses can be much more expensive than grade separated transit in cities because of ongoing expenses – that gondolla can replace 30 buses* with just 4 operators, at a cost savings of millions per year.

    * Theoretically. In reality, this might be much more since a bus is taking much more time than 10 minutes to make the trip. A bus that takes 30 minutes has 1/3 the capacity of a bus that takes 10 minutes, and requires 3x the number of drivers and buses.

  • Jonathan

    What about the 45? Thanks.

  • Jonathan

    What about the 45? Thanks.

  • SuperSteve

    Have they thought about getting rid of the “Ride Free Zone?”

    People getting on and off the bus via two doors at the same time is very inefficient and wastes considerable time.

    If everyone had to pay all the time, then they would always board the bus at the front and exit at the rear – improving passenger flow, decreasing wait time at the stops, and saving service hours.

  • SuperSteve

    Have they thought about getting rid of the “Ride Free Zone?”

    People getting on and off the bus via two doors at the same time is very inefficient and wastes considerable time.

    If everyone had to pay all the time, then they would always board the bus at the front and exit at the rear – improving passenger flow, decreasing wait time at the stops, and saving service hours.

  • Diane

    I am very interested in this restructure for another reason altogether. I live on 2nd W where the 3 and 4 trolleys turn around near Rodgers Park. There was a news article a while back about how trolley buses might become a thing of the past due the expense of repairs and lack of parts. This concerned me since the trolley bus is quiet and replacement by diesel bus would create a lot of noise on my residential street, and in fact, occassionally now I hear the noise of a diesel bus on my street. Don’t know if this is part of the restructure considerations but it should be. Plus I wonder is anyone is considering the cost of removing the trolley overhead lines?

  • Diane

    I am very interested in this restructure for another reason altogether. I live on 2nd W where the 3 and 4 trolleys turn around near Rodgers Park. There was a news article a while back about how trolley buses might become a thing of the past due the expense of repairs and lack of parts. This concerned me since the trolley bus is quiet and replacement by diesel bus would create a lot of noise on my residential street, and in fact, occassionally now I hear the noise of a diesel bus on my street. Don’t know if this is part of the restructure considerations but it should be. Plus I wonder is anyone is considering the cost of removing the trolley overhead lines?

  • QAHill

    Diane-
    I also live right near DR Park and have noticed on the weekends more diesel buses. From what I see here, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not seeing the 3/4 even coming to our little layover station. Which is either a blessing or a totally bummer. I can go both ways on how I feel about it.

  • QAHill

    Diane-
    I also live right near DR Park and have noticed on the weekends more diesel buses. From what I see here, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not seeing the 3/4 even coming to our little layover station. Which is either a blessing or a totally bummer. I can go both ways on how I feel about it.

  • Matt the Engineer

    I believe Metro currently runs diesel buses on Sundays to make construction projects easier – allowing them to cut power to lines one day a week. In theory, if the electric buses are upgraded to have off-wire capabilities (batteries) then that won’t be a restriction any more – they could cut power for a segment and buses would just switch to batteries for that segment.

    Let’s all hope they don’t switch all buses to diesel for the sake of our air quality, noise quality, and fuel costs. Plus, have you been on a diesel going up the Counterbalance? I always feel like getting off and walking would be faster.

  • Matt the Engineer

    I believe Metro currently runs diesel buses on Sundays to make construction projects easier – allowing them to cut power to lines one day a week. In theory, if the electric buses are upgraded to have off-wire capabilities (batteries) then that won’t be a restriction any more – they could cut power for a segment and buses would just switch to batteries for that segment.

    Let’s all hope they don’t switch all buses to diesel for the sake of our air quality, noise quality, and fuel costs. Plus, have you been on a diesel going up the Counterbalance? I always feel like getting off and walking would be faster.

  • Bruce

    Metro is planning to keep the trolleybuses, see the study report on this page:

    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/up/projects/trolleyevaluation.html

    They’re cheaper over the long run and more environmentally friendly, and they will be able to run at least a mile off-wire.

    The 45 is one of the most cost-ineffective buses in the Seattle area and is very likely to get the chop in any budget cut scenario, although to reiterate, this is not an official Metro proposal at this point.

    The ride free zone currently saves Metro quite a bit of money. During the PM rush hour, when buses are at their busiest and traffic (bus and car) is at its worse, the vast majority of people downtown are boarding, and the RFA allows buses to load in a fraction of the time that they’d otherwise be able to, as they don’t have to pay the fare at that time, and they can board at both doors.

    For the RFA to go away would require a significant increase in ORCA usage (ORCA users board in a fraction of the time of cash payers) and several million spent installing ticket vending machines downtown to allow those people without ORCA cards to pay before they board.

    So abolishing the RFA could be done, but not soon and not cheaply.

  • Bruce

    Metro is planning to keep the trolleybuses, see the study report on this page:

    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/up/projects/trolleyevaluation.html

    They’re cheaper over the long run and more environmentally friendly, and they will be able to run at least a mile off-wire.

    The 45 is one of the most cost-ineffective buses in the Seattle area and is very likely to get the chop in any budget cut scenario, although to reiterate, this is not an official Metro proposal at this point.

    The ride free zone currently saves Metro quite a bit of money. During the PM rush hour, when buses are at their busiest and traffic (bus and car) is at its worse, the vast majority of people downtown are boarding, and the RFA allows buses to load in a fraction of the time that they’d otherwise be able to, as they don’t have to pay the fare at that time, and they can board at both doors.

    For the RFA to go away would require a significant increase in ORCA usage (ORCA users board in a fraction of the time of cash payers) and several million spent installing ticket vending machines downtown to allow those people without ORCA cards to pay before they board.

    So abolishing the RFA could be done, but not soon and not cheaply.

  • walker1

    The gondola Matt refers to is (I believe) similar to this one in Portland – not the Alps… http://www.portlandtram.org/

  • walker1

    The gondola Matt refers to is (I believe) similar to this one in Portland – not the Alps… http://www.portlandtram.org/


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