West Seattle rider questionnaire: What you told us, what’s next

West Seattle riders have given us a lot to think about in response to our recent questionnaire. We wanted to hear all of it – the good, the bad, the ugly – after receiving reports of overcrowded buses on the RapidRide C Line and routes 21, 21X, and 120, as well as service not arriving on time. Concerns were focused on the challenges we faced launching RapidRide C Line and changes to the transit system made Sept. 29.

Thanks to the 499 people who filled out our survey last month, as well as some 200 people who chatted with us in person in West Seattle in November. We appreciate and value your input, and have summarized your feedback.

Riders told us they want us to focus on three key things:

  1. Relieve overcrowding.
  2. Make buses show up on time.
  3. Get more and sustainable funding to expand or increase service.

The good news is that we want what you want: excellent and reliable transit service. But some things are within Metro’s control and some aren’t, and we have to balance the need to be cost-effective with the need to serve the most riders, including those who most need public transit.

Factors that contribute to overcrowding and gaps in service

Managing the timing of buses along some of Seattle’s busiest streets is a daily challenge. Gridlock, traffic collisions and people bustling across streets can delay buses, and riders squeeze onto already-full buses if real-time arrival signs and third-party apps don’t give them reliable information about when the next bus will come.

Did you know?

Metro’s fleet continues to evolve as we invest in new buses. As with other urban transit fleets across the country, we’re moving toward slightly fewer seats and more standing room, especially on RapidRide buses.

In a busy transit system, buses are expected to have at least some riders standing, especially during the busiest commute times. Metro’s largest buses offer a range of seating configurations: RapidRide buses have 49 seats, while our other low-floor articulated buses have 58 or (on older buses) 64.

When full, each bus carries about 100 people (some sitting and some standing). By working to minimize bus delays, we can reduce the number of packed buses. Metro also needs new funding to provide new service that meets increasing transit demand.

Ridership between West Seattle and downtown Seattle grew dramatically after the September service change, while the number of weekday peak-period trips we offer (77-78) stayed the same.

What are we doing about it?

We know that every minute counts in your bus trip. To address unexpected overcrowding and delays, we used reserve funds to add bus trips. Our control center also began actively monitoring traffic delays and RapidRide service to manage the timing of buses, especially during peak commute hours. These efforts work to smooth out the wrinkles of every daily commute, but service on any given day can still be affected by traffic and other variables—so, sometimes service is great, and sometimes it isn’t.

Did you know?

You can view a table showing how peak bus loads have increased between West Seattle and downtown Seattle.

But it is getting better. Our drivers are operating these routes more efficiently, and our coordinators more accurately deploy standby buses to fill gaps caused by traffic delays. We expect performance to steadily improve. With help from the city of Seattle, we’ve completed 27 transit signal priority projects that give buses more green lights between Ballard and downtown Seattle—boosting reliability as those buses head toward West Seattle. We also recently made progress improving the systems that predict bus arrivals and relay that information to real-time arrival signs and third-party smartphone apps. And come February, we expect to publish a printed schedule to help RapidRide riders know when buses are leaving most of the day.

Why we can’t expand service or go back to what you had before

In the face of tight budgets, we had to rearrange bus service to serve more riders. That meant reducing service in some places while adding it in others to create new and better connections. We also consolidated bus stops to improve speed and reliability – with the tradeoff that some of our riders have to walk farther to reach the bus. And we’re shifting our system from “one-seat rides” to carrying more riders to more places in a cost-efficient way, which requires more transfers.

Did you know?

OneBusAway is programmed and operated by the University of Washington with funding provided by Metro and Sound Transit. Metro works with developers continuously to troubleshoot software and data problems, but ultimately the functioning of this application is in the hands of staff and students at the UW. In the future, there may be other apps that also provide this type of information to riders.

We have the same number of bus trips between West Seattle, the viaduct, and downtown Seattle during peak commute hours, but we did reduce midday service by 95 trips due to low ridership. Those buses moved to other areas to serve more riders. For example, we extended Route 128 to the Admiral district and added more peak service; we created Route 50 to provide a long-awaited east-west connection between West Seattle and southeast Seattle; and we rerouted routes 60 and 120 to serve Westwood Village.

Going forward…

It’s important to us to make transit service as reliable as we can. We started operating RapidRide buses between Ballard, downtown Seattle, and West Seattle in September in the face of great change to our transit network. Some capital improvements were incomplete, riders had high expectations, and — as noted above — ridership increased unexpectedly. We’ve made strides in completing transit signal priority projects, better bus-arrival predictions, and continue to focus on improving operations.

Did you know?

Metro’s Strategic Plan and Service Guidelines set target service levels and guide us when we restructure transit service. The plan includes criteria for route performance, including the number of riders carried per hour.

Instead of rearranging service, we’d rather be increasing and improving it to meet growing demand. Those discussions continue. As for the challenges we’ve faced recently and concerns you’ve shared, we’ve learned valuable lessons that will help guide us to better implement transit changes in the future.

We can agree on this: Metro wants to operate a world-class transit system that serves the needs of a growing and diverse community. How best to do that is always a balancing act between budgets and competing interests across King County. We have 240 bus routes, 400,000 daily riders, and a vision for providing robust transit service while also serving those who need transit most.

Your input continues to be important, and we want to remain in conversation with you as we work to improve the service we provide.

Stay connected with us

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22 thoughts on “West Seattle rider questionnaire: What you told us, what’s next

  1. “Ridership between West Seattle and downtown Seattle grew dramatically after the September service change…” That’s only a half truth. It increased in the Seneca/Columbia/2nd corridor because Metro forced nearly all of West Seattle into that corridor after “rearranging” the other routes.

  2. Could an EXPRESS C & D bus be added. For me that would mean only stopping at major destinations (for a few examples Morgan Junction & Alaska Junction and downtown WestLake, Belltown, lower Queenanne). Maybe 1/2 or 1/3 the current number of stops. I commute between Morgan Junction and lower Queenanne. On the rapid ride that is 60 minutes, a long time for going 10 or so miles.

  3. 1. It was so nice to see that my “gut feelings” were confirmed when I saw the Bus Loads Chart! I did a very informal count on the bus figuring that there were 12 seats eliminated by adding the “middle” door. Not sure how this improves exiting, since there are so many more riders crowded on the bus, it almost seems to take more time to exit.
    2. Thanks for admitting that Metro intentionally created a new system that would increase the number of riders standing in the aisle. I sure hope that the “new” less seat buses are a great deal less costly to operate than the older buses, because that is the only rationalization I find acceptable.
    3. I hope that the “Real Time Arrival Sign” that will be located at the corner of 3rd and Pike is at the top of the list! I do not feel safe waiting for the bus at this corner. The whole area between 1st and 3rd and Pike and Pine is one that I have avoided, especially after dark. I would love to have a sign that told me when the next C line bus was going to arrive, so that I could do something (shopping at Target, Macy’s) other than stand around waiting for the next person to beg for money or watch two women pulling hair extensions out of each other’s head. All of this before 7pm at night.
    4. Glad to read that there will be “printed” schedule for the “C” line. At least I can have a clue as to what time to be near the stop. This will be very helpful if I am working out or working overtime and will help to cut down on the amount of time I have to stand on my favorite corner – 3rd and Pike.

  4. The new rapid ride busses shake my entire house and rattle my windows when they speed down Fauntleroy by Trenton. Are they making up time? Please go the speed limit. At 5am, at 5pm, all the time!

  5. Could you explain why you want more riders standing? If the buses all hold the same number of people, why is it beneficial to block doorways and aisles – thereby slowing entry and exit – by having more people standing? Also – why is this a good idea on a ride that lasts 45-60 minutes, when people will certainly fatigue?

  6. Many, many words and zero content. We riders and taxpayers are not interested in a note from a nice PR person. We demand to talk to people in charge of the mess they created. Are you even aware that our kids have no bus connections to ride to school. You are talking about “World class” transit. Have you ever been to Europe. In Warsaw, Poland there are TV screens in the buses. They are displaying informational programs and ads that pay for those buses. Metro has to look for revenue and not just for tax payer’s money. How about selling ad space in the buses and on the bus stops. Have you seen the moronic, but very PC, description in every bus about how we should behave?

  7. Yes the whole idea that ridership is up is very misleading; so many routes have been cut and so many routes have been combined. The PR makes it seem like everyone loves Rapid Ride and is the best idea out of Metro in decades. For someone who has riden the bus for decades, Rapid Ride is a joke! I still have yet to meet one person who likes Rapid Ride, but that is from my experience.
    I agree, why take away seats? The buses might not be so overcrowded if there were more seats. Besides that, who wants to stand all the way to and from work? The new buses are also uncomfortable and already breaking down.
    I go into the city very, very early and there is still a long line of people standing, making it impossible to get off in a timely fashion. Once in the city, if you continue on the same bus, you wait about 10-15 minutes for the bus to reload and go 3 blocks. It is insane; I can walk faster! The reason I go in very, very early is because I have to ride an earlier bus just to get to work at the same time I did pre Rapid Ride, even then I am never on time. Thankfully I have a boss who is flexible but how ridiculous not to have schedules. I know traffic is terrible in Seattle on the best of days but when I used to ride an express every day, it was on time 95% of the time for both my morning and evening commutes. Now it takes me 10-15 minutes longer to get into the city because of a longer route. It is absurd.
    The reader boards don’t work correctly and the buses come 2 at a time, making you wait a lot longer than 10 minutes for the next bus. Also the way the street lights are set in the downtown corridor, my bus has to stop at every light. Is that rapid? Let’s face it, Rapid Ride is not rapid – it is a lot slower. People want to drive when they can’t get to work in a timely fashion on a bus. We don’t need more cars on the road. If Metro wants to oeprate a world class transit system – they need to go back to the drawing board.

  8. As a Metro driver I am here to tell you all the one of the biggest problems with the reliability of the C and D lines is that these two Lines are linked together all day. So any problems that occur in Ballard snowballs to enormous problems by the time it get to W. Seattle and vice vesra. You all need to demand that Metro unlink these two lines. I can assure that many of the timing issues would disappear.

  9. Thank you for pointing out that there is a linking problem with the c and d, Bob (bus driver)! You would know! Please look into the possibility of unlinking the c and d as one of the timing solutions!

  10. I am a life-long mass transit rider who lives in the Admiral District, and does not work conventional 9-5 hours. I must commute midday. This means that I must transfer at Alaska Junction in order to get to work or back. I have no objections to transferring in principle. That is a fact of life in mass transit. What I object to is the wait times between transfers. If you are asking riders to transfer, there should be no more than 13 minutes between transfers. Often I have waited 20 minutes in the the rain. Add to that extra time waiting at a Rapid Ride stop and my commute has increased an average of 10 to 25 minutes. Please consider working on more reliable transfers to outlying areas. One scheduled every 30 minutes is not enough.

  11. It seems obvious that the transit planners don’t ride the bus.
    -no schedules mean you have no way to plan transfers
    -standing means you can’t bring anything with you because there is no room, you end up loosing things, you are in everyone’s way, and you are tired so it’s not worth it
    -fewer bus options means when one area has traffic issues you’re stuck
    -less local service means you have to drive or get a ride TO the bus (and there are no park & rides)
    -more core development around the Junction and other transit hubs in the city means more capacity will be needed and there is clearly no plan to handle that other than stuff us in tighter

    I am, unfortunately, probably going to start driving to work again. That doesn’t seem to reflect the desires of a city that time and time again passes transit levies. I am not seeing much value here.

  12. Thank you Metro, for rearranging the routes in West Seattle to serve more riders.

    I was initially skeptical of the diversion on Route 120 to serve Westwood Village, because it added a few minutes to the already long trip from Burien to downtown. However, immediately after the change I noticed a lot more riders. And the data linked above demonstrates that my observation was correct: ridership on the 120 is up 50%, with almost no other changes besides the deviation. For whatever reason, I have ridden the 120 from my home on Delridge to White Center more often since the change than ever before, even though it takes longer; probably because I can also travel to WV in the same trip.

    It works – Serve major destinations frequently, provide convenient connections, and people will ride transit more, even if some whiners whine.

  13. How about extending the “C” line to White Center, at 15th sw and sw Roxbury? That would make connections with the 120 route a lot easier. Thank you.

  14. Un-linking the C and D lines makes a lot of sense, even prior to when the metro driver suggested it here. The bigger the loop, the more delays each bus is exposed to and the longer it takes to shake out when the delay finally clears. It creates ‘platoons’ of buses piled up right behind the jam. Buses also create their own ‘drag’ on normal traffic due to their stops and sheer size (which makes passing them more difficult for cars) so they effectively contribute to a jam more than one car. If the RapidRide drivers had a smaller loop, it would lessen the total number of sphincters each is exposed to on any given route. West Seattle would not be impacted by traffic jams on 15th NW and Ballard wouldn’t be affected by jams on California Ave NE. If I am mistaken in my reasoning, I ask a route planner from King County Metro to please correct my logic.

  15. There was a time not long ago when getting to SEATAC from West Seattle didn’t require back-tracking long distances and transferring with luggage. Can’t we get service to SEATAC directly, at all hours, perhaps on a smaller bus running even infrequently, near a safe place to ditch the car? One such stop in West Seattle would solve the problem for so many!

  16. This comment was moved from the Comment Policy page. Comments made on the comment policy page that are not in regard to the comment policy will no longer be approved. Please post comments to a blog post. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at haveasay@kingcounty.gov.

    Michael Ford on April 7, 2013 at 11:55 am said:
    I’m with you. I used to take only 2 buses to work now it takes me 3 buses from West Seattle to Harborview MC where I work. I can take the C line from oneside of West Seattle to the other then I have to catch that fast #21 to down town to connect with my 3rd bus to work. I find the term Rapid ride to be sad as it has added almost 45 more minutes to my trip to work and if I were able to drive my trip would be a whole 10-15 minutes each way and now it is almost 2 hours. Very very sad planning and the cutting off the shopping for us that are disabled that live south of the west Seattle jct by not having any buses that stop at Jefferson Sq and the QFC yet if you live north of the West Seattle jct. there are like 3 different buses that stop at this stop. Just seems to me that someone at metro is not understanding the ADA very well as I’ve been told we can walk the 1 1/2 to 2 blocks with all of our shopping and it is no big deal type thing.

  17. This comment was moved from the Comment Policy page. Comments made on the comment policy page that are not in regard to the comment policy will no longer be approved. Please post comments to a blog post. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at haveasay@kingcounty.gov.

    michael ford on January 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm said:
    To me it seems as if metro has choose to kill the RT22 and because people got upset metro has made the route so useless for those that live where it still goes that it is being set up to be stopped next go round. Yet if metro were to run it to where it would stop at Jefferson Sq. and the QFC stores it would service those that live south of the jct. whom now are being forced to walk the 2 blocks both ways to shop at these stores. We have a large amount of disabled and older people that live south of the jct. down California Ave. that have had this service totally cut off for them.

  18. This comment was moved from the Comment Policy page. Comments made on the comment policy page that are not in regard to the comment policy will no longer be approved. Please post comments to a blog post. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at haveasay@kingcounty.gov.

    mike gray on April 11, 2013 at 3:59 am said:
    I agree the C-Line is a debacle.It only serves the Alaska Junction and all stops south.Alki and Admiral are virtually neglected except with a mini bus that is full of people going to Alki in the summer.Who planned that?

  19. How about making safety belts a feasible option for all? I’ve seen so many horrific news stories about bus crashes and casualties that could have easily been averted if those passengers had the option to wear seat belts! I’m not sure if these buses contain them or not, but there are too many older models that don’t, and this puts so many at risk on a daily basis. There is a product called SafeHarness that aims to solve this problem, It’s a portable seat belt designed to fit easily and snugly over the backs of coach and travel bus seats. The makers of this product currently need all the help they can get pushing this product to market. Please, offer your life-saving support by visiting the link below and sharing it with everyone you know! It’s my belief that together, we can make safety an option for all bus riders! Please, hurry! Not much time left to contribute. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/safeharness-personal-portable-seatbelts-for-coach-buses

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