Metro, Sound Transit seek public input on future of SR 520 transit service

link-connections-sr-520-2For bus riders commuting between Eastside communities and downtown Seattle, potential new connections between Metro and Sound Transit bus service and Link light rail offer an appealing option for beating traffic congestion on Interstate 5.

This month, Metro and Sound Transit invited Eastside residents to weigh in on potential changes in transit service along the State Route 520 corridor.

Those changes could include stopping cross-lake buses at the University of Washington light rail station so riders can transfer onto trains headed to downtown, or providing Eastside communities with new transit connections to destinations such as South Lake Union.

Connecting SR 520 routes to light rail could connect riders with congestion-free service to Downtown Seattle.  Metro first considered this option when the University of Washington light rail station opened during the University Link Connections outreach process, but decided to hold a separate process with Eastside communities.

Routes potentially affected include the 252, 255, 257, 268, 277, 311, 540, 541, 542, 545, 555 and 556.

Feedback received during the public outreach process will be used to shape service concepts that will be presented for public review in May and June. Final proposals will be shared with the public later this fall for feedback, then pre520-Link-Connectionssented to the King County Council and Sound Transit Board for consideration.

At Metro’s Link Connections SR-520 website, you can:

Metro and Sound Transit are recruiting a sounding board of 15-20 community members to advise the agencies through the planning process. The sounding board will meet regularly through November 2017. People of diverse backgrounds who reflect the affected communities are encouraged to apply, via the website.

Nearly 230,000 peo0317Sr520Outreach114ple commute in and out of downtown Seattle from throughout the region, with many thousands more coming to shop and attend cultural events. Over the next 20 years, Seattle’s center city is projected to add 55,000 more jobs and 25,000 more households. That growth will occur as downtown traffic is affected by significant changes, including demotion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct; expansion of the Washington State Convention Center; and the long-planned conversion of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to a rail-only facility, which will send seven bus routes to the surface.

Changes outside downtown Seattle over the next five years include SR-520 construction and work along I-90 in preparation for the opening of East Link in 2023.

Additionally, an effort led by the Seattle Department of Transportation in partnership with King County Metro, Sound Transit and the Downtown Seattle Association called One Center City proposes potential strategies including bus route changes alongside street and traffic improvements and other measures in Downtown Seattle.

New investments in Metro Transit safety, service, and reliability

By Rob Gannon, Interim Metro Transit General Manager

Rob Gannon, Metro Transit Interim General ManagerExecutive Constantine recently gave us a challenge:  how will we meet the demands of one million more people living here in King County in the next 25 years, working 850,000 more jobs?

Metro Transit responded by working with riders, stakeholders, and staff from all corners of our organization to put forth a thoughtful, long-range vision for the next 25 years, which the Executive has embraced.

Because the regional economy is strong, we have funds now to improve service and begin to invest in the vision of METRO CONNECTS, which over the long-term calls for:

  • Doubling ridership,
  • Increasing bus service by 70 percent,
  • Increasing the number of buses on the street by 30 percent, and
  • Making a significant capital investment in the new coaches and technology necessary to deliver this service, and the physical space to house and maintain our equipment.

SM Image IIIt is no easy process to evolve from a system that for many years has been financially constrained to one that is prepared to expand dramatically. Before enacting our long-range vision, Metro must first have the people in place to drive the routes, maintain the buses, trains, and facilities, and manage all that goes into operating our system.

And most of all, every employee needs to feel safe and secure on the job, knowing they will make it home to their families at the end of their work day.

To get there, the Executive is proposing a biennial budget to the Council that takes the first step toward investing in all of us, and in the infrastructure of our health, safety and security. Today, he proposed a budget for Metro Transit that:

  • Adds 30,000 hours to provide more time for comfort station breaks. We know our schedule cuts in 2010 and 2011 along with increased traffic have put our operators behind, and in response, we are making the single largest investment to date to add time for operator breaks and recovery periods.
  • Provides additional Metro Transit police resources to establish  more visible presence and responses to security issues on the buses. This was the number one recommendation to address operator assaults coming out of our Security Summits jointly sponsored with ATU Local 587.
  • Ensures 100% of our coaches have onboard camera systems by the end of 2018. This too was a top priority coming out of our Security Summits, and a priority for the Executive, and will serve to enhance bus security and preserve valuable evidence when incidents occur.
  • Adds other resources to implement the Safety Systems Review that many of our staff participated in, either through questionnaires or focus groups. The full report will be released throughout Metro Transit early next week.
  • For the biennium, the Executive is proposing an additional 300,000 hours of new annual service to reduce crowding, increase reliability and help meet target service levels on key corridors.  By focusing additional service on the most over-crowded routes first, we will improve the daily working conditions for bus operators throughout the system and also provide more service to our customers.

The Executive’s budget also calls for investments in our infrastructure to ready us for the longer-term vision of adding service:

  • Our seven Metro bus bases are stretched to capacity. To expand service, we’re going to have to jump-start the planning to build an eighth bus base, most likely somewhere in South King County.  We also need to expand existing facilities at Atlantic/Central and potentially South Base.
  • We have been struggling to hire and train enough operators to drive our existing schedule. The Executive’s budget calls not only for hiring operators but first-line supervisors, vehicle maintenance crews, and other management and support staff to ensure no compromise to the safety and efficient operation of the overall system.
  • The Executive also calls for a ten-year capital investment plan to build the foundation which will put Metro in position to implement the vision of METRO CONNECTS, and build a transit system that truly meets the needs of our riders by the year 2040.

The Executive’s budget proposal is an investment in the health of our employees and our system, to make sure we are best equipped to serve the public well. Keeping our system safe and make it even safer is a value that must guide our every action, and I am pleased that this proposed budget – which we helped build – takes a step toward making that a reality.  We will keep our system safe, and make Metro a great place to work. That is the path to service excellence.

Sincerely,

Rob Gannon
Interim Metro Transit General Manager

METRO CONNECTS, Metro’s long-range vision transmitted to King County Council

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Today Executive Dow Constantine transmitted METRO CONNECTS, Metro’s plan for bringing you more and better transit service over the next 25 years, to the King County Council for their consideration.

METRO CONNECTS presents a vision of a transportation network that can accommodate the 1 million more people and 850,000 expected in our region by 2040. Key features include much more frequent service—including 20 more RapidRide lines and all-day express service, innovative new travel options, improved passenger facilities and pathways to bus stops and stations, and customer information tools that make travel by transit easy.

This plan was a community effort, shaped by more than 1,500 people who attended our open houses, 9,700 people who responded to our online surveys, a 25-member Community Advisory Group, and a Technical Advisory Committee with representatives from King County cities and other organizations.

Metro appreciates the thousands of people who took the time to learn about the long-range plan, come to an open house or event, fill out a survey, or send us your comments.

The Council is expected to review, discuss and vote on adopting the plan in early 2017.  You can sign up here to receive updates from Metro about METRO CONNECTS. We hope you will stay engaged with Metro as we reach out to you and your communities for input about  making our vision a reality.

Explore the plan at kcmetrovision.org, and read more below about how community input shaped the final plan.

Changes based on what we heard during spring 2016 outreach

Metro received valuable feedback about our draft plan from thousands of people and from organizations, cities and transit agencies. We made many changes to the final plan based on what you told us.

Easier to read
We think you’ll be excited about the future of transit in King County. To make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for in our far-ranging vision, we simplified the plan’s structure.  It presents our big-picture vision in the first few pages. That’s followed by detailed but concise descriptions of what we’re proposing to do—like more RapidRide lines, better bus stops, and new kinds of information at your fingertips. We simplified the maps, added new graphics, and used icons and call-out boxes to highlight key themes like sustainability, equity and social justice, partnerships, and innovation.  The final section explains how we would make the METRO CONNECTS vision a reality.

Service network changes
We changed the 2025 and 2040 service networks to provide additional coverage where gaps were identified, improve routing alignments, connect with light rail, reduce duplication, and adjust service frequencies to best accommodate anticipated demand.

Other key changes
Metro clarified or added more information in many areas, including capital improvements, the customer experience, boarding and fares, partnerships with cities and others, and implementing the plan.

Capital Improvements
Metro heard that people care most about capital improvements that help buses run faster and more reliably and those that make it easier to access transit by foot, car or bicycle. Metro added more of the following types of capital improvements to the plan:

  • Road improvements to help buses move faster and more reliably
  • Additional park-and-ride spaces
  • Better facilities at major bus stops, including pedestrian and bicycle pathways

 The customer experience
Ensuring that customers have a positive experience is central to the METRO CONNECTS vision. We invite you to imagine what it could be like to use the future transit system.

Boarding and fares
We heard that people wanted to see more in the plan about making boarding and fare payment easy for everyone and keeping fares affordable. METRO CONNECTS calls for Metro to work with Sound Transit and other agencies to better coordinate fares and fare payment between different service providers. It also calls for Metro to continue promoting and expanding the ORCA Lift program. Fleet vehicles and facilities will be designed with all users in mind, including people who walk, bike, or use a wheelchair and parents with strollers.

Implementing the vision
Many stakeholders wanted to see more information about how the vision could be implemented. METRO CONNECTS gives more detail about the implementation program—a collaboration with riders, community members, cities and transportation agencies to coordinate near-term service changes, complementary capital investments, and other program and policy work needed to support the METRO CONNECTS vision.

 

Spring service change provides additional ridership boost on Metro’s RapidRide C and D lines

It’s not your imagination – Metro’s RapidRide C and D lines are more popular than ever.

Just a month out from our largest service change ever, it’s clear the adjustments we’ve made to provide better service are paying off for thousands who ride our buses.

Even before the service change took effect, ridership on the two lines was climbing. The C Line connecting West Seattle to downtown Seattle showed an impressive 12 percent annual jump with the D Line serving downtown to Ballard up 9 percent from a year earlier.

But what a difference a month makes. Since extending the C Line to South Lake Union and the D Line to Pioneer Square on March 26, ridership has jumped again –26 percent and 21 percent respectively compared to the same period last year.

While it will take a bit longer to confirm formal ridership trends, so far we like what we see. We think these growth numbers show our riders are, in fact, experiencing better connections, service reliability and better alternatives to driving.

And of course, this data reinforces what we and our riders have known for quite a while – RapidRide remains popular across the board. Ridership has been on an upward swing since we introduced the A Line back in 2010.

rapidride-weekday-boardings-chart

And there’s more to come. We think RapidRide will continue to play a pivotal role in our future mix of transit services. Our long-range plan, Metro Connects, calls for 20 additional rapid transit lines. You can find out more about our long-range thinking by visiting www.kcmetrovision.org.

More frequent, reliable bus service will soon connect more riders to congestion-free light rail

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Purple

You’ve heard that this is a huge month for Metro and Sound Transit and the City of Seattle. Not only is University Link light rail opening (March 19), Metro is restructuring service (March 26) to make better, more frequent connections for riders. Also, Metro is implementing the extension of the RapidRide C Line to South Lake Union as part of voter approved Prop 1.

Purple timetables will soon be on the street, but our online resources are king. You can see route changes that might affect you on our service change website. Customer service folks also are available (206-553-3000) to help with trip planning and any questions you might have. Also, there are maps showing the network of service near the University of Washington and Capitol Hill stations, and Sound Transit’s ULink info page is chock-a-block full of info for the launch of train service to Capitol Hill and UW.

Key to all of this is helping people make sure they are informed and ready for the changes in service, as well as understanding that using an ORCA card allows for free and easy transferring between buses and trains.

Overall, tens of thousands of people across Seattle and King County will soon benefit from better integration of Metro and Sound Transit service that connects more riders to expanded light-rail service. An estimated 80,000 daily bus riders will see buses coming more often at more times of the day on designated corridors in Northeast Seattle and Capitol Hill, with better local service connecting neighborhoods with the new light rail stations. Metro’s bus changes will deliver more reliability and frequency, helping more people commute or make spontaneous trips without needing a car.

As part of restructuring service, three dozen routes will see changes in Northeast Seattle and Capitol Hill. The more frequent grid of bus service will triple the number of households in Northeast Seattle neighborhoods near 15-minute service. The changes will double the number of Capitol Hill households near 12-minute service. This launches a new era of transit options that will help people reduce driving and meet our climate goals. Continue reading

More buses in Seattle: County Council approves contract for city to purchase additional transit

BusImage223,000 hours of service supported through voter-approved measure

The Metropolitan King County Council yesterday gave its unanimous approval to a contract agreement with the City of Seattle that will allow the city to purchase additional transit service hours from Metro Transit. The approved legislation will implement an increase of 223,000 additional hours of transit service starting in June.

Seattle is the first city in the county to take advantage of Metro’s Community Mobility Contract program allowing cities to purchase additional bus service. Last November, Seattle voters approved a ballot measure generating revenue that would go toward the purchase of increased transit service. The proceeds received from an increase in license tabs and Seattle’s sales tax will go towards bus routes with 80 percent or more of their stops in Seattle.

Metro will add Seattle-funded service hours to routes this June and September.  The investment in service will focus on:

  • Overcrowding. Added bus trips on crowded routes listed in the Metro 2014 Service Guidelines Report – the top priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service. All identified Seattle route needs are included.
  • On-time Performance. Added service hours to improve schedule reliability on bus routes identified as having poor on-time performance in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report – the second highest priority in the Metro Service Guidelines for adding service hours. All identified Seattle route needs are included.
  • Transit Corridors that don’t meet their target service level. Added service hours for some transit corridors that need more service as determined in the 2014 Service Guidelines Report.

Some transit service reductions that had been part of the September 2014 transit service change will be reversed in this agreement: Route 19 peak service will be restored, with five morning and six afternoon peak direction trips; the Route 47 will be partially restored; and Route 27 off-peak and night service will return.

The contract also provides for more service on Metro routes that are identified as priorities in the Seattle Transit Master Plan, a City-generated plan. These investments include peak period, midday, evening, and weekend service. Download a list of all routes that will receive an investment organized by when the service will be added.

The County Council and Seattle City Council included statements identifying crowding and service reliability of Metro routes as ongoing priorities for Seattle investments during the course of the agreement. The Seattle City Council joined the County Council yesterday in approving legislation agreeing to the transit contract.

Seattle is paying for each hour of bus service provided, with the hourly rate reflecting Metro Transit operating costs for each type of bus used. Metro agrees to maintain current bus trips on any route that Seattle invests in. The agreement also defines Metro’s commitment to maintaining the overall service level in areas where bus service is restructured.

The agreement goes until December 31, 2017 and can be extended for another three years, until December 31, 2020. Read full details of the agreement by visiting the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system and type in “2015-0039” and “2015-0040”.

Proposed contract between Seattle, King County to expand bus service goes to King County Council and Seattle City Council for consideration, adoption

Seattle BusContract adoption is the next step for implementation of Seattle voter-approved transit measure and more convenient, more reliable, less crowded bus service in Seattle

To ease bus crowding and improve reliability, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine are moving forward with a major contract to expand Metro Transit bus service in the City of Seattle.

Murray and Constantine yesterday sent the Seattle City Council and King County Council a proposed three-year, $120 million contract to increase bus service, renewable for an additional three years.

Funding for the new service comes from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1 ballot measure approved by Seattle voters in November. The measure will raise an estimated $45 million a year for six years by collecting a 0.1 percent sales tax increase and a $60 annual vehicle fee in the City of Seattle. Read the statement issued by Murray and Constantine.

Under the terms of the proposed contract, Seattle residents would see expanded bus service beginning in June and then again in September. As proposed, the City of Seattle would purchase from Metro additional peak, off-peak, weekend, and night service totaling 223,000 annual service hours in 2015. Planned service improvements draw from needs identified in Metro’s Service Guidelines and Seattle’s Transit Master Plan, and include significant investments in top priority routes that are chronically overcrowded such as the RapidRide C and D Lines serving West Seattle, Downtown and Ballard.

Under the city contract, the voter-approved funding will:

  • Add new buses to all 16 Seattle routes that are chronically overcrowded
  • Fix the schedules of all 48 routes that are chronically unreliable
  • Add frequency to 34 high-demand routes
  • Regularly provide detailed ridership and performance data

The City of Seattle also included $3 million dollars in a partnership program for jurisdictions who are interested in sharing the cost of service for routes that connect with the city. In addition up to $2 million dollars will be used to increase access to Metro Transit’s ORCA LIFT program, its new reduced fare for low-income riders to be implemented in March. Read the details of the proposed investments in Exhibit 1 of the ordinance that was transmitted to council.

Executive Constantine created the framework for the proposed transit service contract last year when he initiated the Community Mobility Contract Program. The City of Seattle is able to contract directly with Metro Transit for service using this program. The Community Mobility Contract Program is intended as a bridge to keep buses on the street until the state legislature provides a sustainable funding tool for local transportation needs.

The contract needs to be adopted by both King County Council and Seattle City Council before investments are made. The next stop for the ordinance is the Transportation Economy and Environment (TrEE) Committee. It is expected that the TrEE Committee will take up the contract at their next meeting Tuesday, January 20, at 9:30 a.m. in Council Chambers on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse. Meetings of the TrEE Committee are carried live on King County Television on Cable Channel 22, and streamed live through the KCTV Web site.

Adopted 2015-2016 budget maintains current Metro service level

The King County Council’s adoption of the 2015-2016 county budget on Nov. 17 marks a turning point for Metro. After extraordinary efforts to save as much bus service as possible during a six-year financial crisis, the new budget maintains current service levels for the next two years.

Metro’s ongoing efficiency gains, recent projections of lower fuel costs, and other financial improvements enabled the Council to adopt a budget that eliminates the need for previously proposed service cuts.

Earlier in November, Seattle voters approved funding for additional transit service. The City of Seattle will purchase Metro service through County Executive Dow Constantine’s Community Mobility Contracts Program. Seattle will expand service on Metro routes that serve the city by about 10 percent.

The need remains for long-term funding that fully meets King County’s current and future demand for bus service. According to Metro’s service guidelines, 15 percent more bus service is needed today—and ridership is growing. Although Metro’s budget will maintain the current service level for two years, and Seattle funding extends through 2020, neither enable sustainable long-term growth in transit service.

Metro will continue striving to make the most of every available transit dollar, and county leaders have pledged to continue working for a transportation funding solution.

Council delays Metro bus cuts previously proposed for February

Sept14 srvc change photoThe County Council has delayed making a decision on February service cuts – referring the ordinance back to the Council Transportation Economy and Environment Committee (TrEE).

Financial policy issues, as well as the need for any additional bus service cuts, will be determined as part of the Council budget deliberations taking place over the next several weeks.

The Executive’s proposed Metro budget cuts 400,000 hours, which includes the cuts proposed for February 2015 and additional cuts in March 2016. The Council typically adopts a new budget prior to Thanksgiving. Learn more about the Council’s budget process.

A City of Seattle ballot measure is scheduled for November with the possibility that the city would contract for Metro transit service.

Fewer cuts needed than estimated in updated Metro budget

Thanks to reforms, efficiencies and costs savings, fewer bus cuts will be needed for Metro Transit than previously estimated. The new total was announced today (Sept. 17) putting the figure at 400,000 service hours instead of 550,000 hours. The details are part of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposed two-year Metro Transit budget that will be delivered to the County Council on Sept. 22.

Cutting transit by 11 percent instead of 16 percent is still going to affect a lot of riders. Rounds 1 and 2 of cuts will mean a loss of an estimated 5 million rides a year out of the roughly 118 million rides Metro provides. General Manager Kevin Desmond spoke with reporters Sept. 17 to explain the details.

You can watch video highlights (part 1 or part 2) from the announcement, or the entire 33 minutes.

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YouTube link: Part 1

 

 

 

 

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YouTube link: Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s much more information on Metro’s website, including:

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