Bus 545 survey -- our input needed to reduce Montlake traffic
I am often asked, “What can I do to help reduce traffic / support transit etc. in Montlake?” At the bottom of this posting (see colored text) there’s a way you can help; you can skip to that if you want to take my word for it. As always, the story is a bit complex. Here are all the details:
Montlakers who take transit to the Eastside are probably familiar with Sound Transit bus # 545, which goes between downtown Seattle and Redmond via Montlake seven days a week, all day long, as often as four times an hour in both directions:
Bus 545 users will be pleased to hear that the line has been earmarked for an improvement in service. But all Montlake residents, whether or not they take this bus, ought to be interested in something that gets lots of vehicles off of SR-520 and decreases cut-through traffic in our neighborhood. Short of a toll, there hasn’t been much hope for that in the near future. But there is a new idea for Sound Transit 545 that has the potential to do just that.
The idea, suggested to Sound Transit by a longtime commuter named Anirudh Sahni, is to reroute some of the 545 buses via Capitol Hill and pick up a big new base of riders. Here’s how it would work. In the morning, lots of people from Redmond commute to downtown Seattle . For them, nothing would change. But for the thousand-plus Capitol Hill residents commuting to Redmond , bus 545 would take local streets from downtown instead of I-5 and SR 520. It would follow route 43, with limited stop service, stopping only at major cross streets. Then it would get on 520 right at Montlake Blvd. , instead of passing underneath. Montlake commuters could board at street level ( Roanoke & East Montlake Place E ) instead of walking down the stairs (which are not accessible.)
In the evening, those Redmond residents who work in downtown Seattle would continue to take the freeway all the way home. But the folks from city neighborhoods who want to get home could take the 545 which would exit the freeway in Montlake and take local streets downtown via Capitol Hill.
Nobody would lose bus service; the buses would still go to and from downtown Seattle . It wouldn’t even be much slower if you were headed all the way downtown because there’s a lot of congestion on the freeways, and it’s not as bad on city streets. Occasionally a 545 bus would get stuck in traffic due to the Montlake Bridge going up, but this wouldn’t happen at peak hours.
The only tricky bit is in the reverse direction. In order to get from the Eastside to 24th Ave. quickly – and only in the afternoons and evenings -- the bus would have exit at Lake Washington Blvd., follow that to the Texaco Station, and then turn left. Physically, there’s no problem. The complication is that Lake Washington Blvd. is not a designated transit arterial by the City of the Seattle . In order for it to become so, there would be a public process. The only objection I foresee would be that some folks who live on this stretch might say, gee, my bus service isn’t going to improve, but now I have some big noisy buses running in front of my house. Why should I approve that? Although it is true that some buses would run by these houses, each bus would contain a lot of folks who otherwise would be driving in front of their house each afternoon.
For Montlake users of the 545, access would become more convenient and comfortable, as it would no longer be necessary to descend down a staircase to the noisy, smelly area down by 520 itself in order to board this bus. As a bonus, at least in the afternoons and evenings, there would be a fast new option for getting to Capitol Hill in addition to the #43 and #48.
Even with this new routing, headways (the time between buses) at commute hours would decrease from 15 minutes to 12 minutes. If the buses do not serve Capitol Hill, headways could decrease to 10 minutes, though even with that frequency, the buses would carry fewer passengers.
In my opinion this bus rerouting is the single most cost-effective thing that can be done to improve the nightmare that is westbound SR-520 every afternoon. If 500 people are drawn to transit who otherwise would drive, that would yield (by my calculation) an 8 minute reduction in driving time from Redmond to Seattle every afternoon. And better yet, 500 fewer cars would ply city streets en route to the freeway.
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The following comes from Sound Transit’s web site. They’re running a questionnaire to find out if there is any enthusiasm for this idea. I’m going to register mine, and I encourage you to do so as well. I am going to write in favor of Alternative 2 for bus 545, and leave the other sections blank as I have no opinion on the other routes.
I also intend to write a little blurb about the time windows for the rerouting in order for this concept to be fully effective. The survey proposal is for rerouting to serve Capitol Hill before 9 a.m. eastbound, and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. westbound. These time windows are far too limited, as many Microsoft commuters (many of whom drive today) work a later shift. These hours should be extended by a few hours in both the morning and evening in order to guarantee a predictable ride, and so that Capitol Hill residents can get home without having to transfer. Imagine a commuter missing the last eastbound express bus in the morning from Broadway and John, and having to resort to taking the local bus #43 and transferring at Montlake. This could easily add half an hour to the commute. Also, Montlakers waiting for an Eastside-bound 545 at Roanoke & West Montlake Place E around 9 a.m. (a very busy time) would wonder whether they have missed the last bus that goes via Capitol Hill. If they think they have, they would walk down to the freeway bus stop, only (perhaps) to see the 545 bus whiz by in the other lane. Frustrated, they would probably drive next time. The Capitol Hill service should go all morning, and all evening in the reverse direction, and I intend to note that on my comments.
Questionnaire on proposed ST Express route revisions and additions
We'd like to hear from you. Tell us what you think about Sound Transit's proposed adjustments to ST Express service in 2005. Click on the below link and complete this postage-paid questionnaire and return it by May 28, 2004. Or, e-mail your comments to fastbus@... by May 28, 2004. Please indicate your choice(s) with an X.