Better bus service for 80,000 – and light rail to Husky Stadium, too

Next Spring, expect an eight minute reliable trip on light rail between downtown Seattle and Husky Stadium.

Husky Stadium

The Transportation Policy board will be briefed on plans to  integrate bus and light rail service in preparation for light rail  to Husky Stadium next Spring.

Also expect some major improvements in bus service because of plans in the works to make light rail and buses work better together.

On Thursday, PSRC’s Transportation Policy Board will hear about plans for those upcoming changes and more.

The planned bus-rail integration expects more frequent bus service for 80,000 daily riders, more frequent peak service, improved reliability overall, and new connections to South Lake Union, and between Fremont and Northeast Seattle and downtown.


Coming attractions: These two maps compare the frequency of Metro bus service within Northeast Seattle before and after light rail service arrives at Husky Stadium.  Triple the households will have access to service every 15 minutes.

For example:

In Northeast Seattle there will be triple the number of households with access to Metro service every 15 minutes or better all-day.

On Capitol Hill, the changes will more than double the number of households with access to service every 12 minutes or better all-day.

The Transportation Policy Board will also review comprehensive plans for eight cities and consider a staff recommendation on PSRC funding for two projects: The City of Kent’s South 228th Grade Separation Project and the City of Tacoma’s Puyallup River Bridge.

You can find the entire agenda here.

You can watch the meeting live, or later, here.

Purple trolleys to reduce the haze

King County Metro is debuting five of its new electric trolley buses today.

The cost of the new trolley fleet is an estimated $186 million, of which PSRC contributed $137 million.

The cost of the new trolley fleet is an estimated $186 million, of which PSRC contributed $137 million.

PSRC contributed $137 million of its federal funds toward replacing the old trolley fleet. Expect to see 169 more over the next two years.

The purple trolleys are capable of going off the wire for up to 3 miles and even help restore electricity to the grid system. Metro estimates that they will save 20-30% more energy over the current trolley fleet.

Other innovations include being able to deviate off route during construction, passenger activated back doors, and air conditioning (!).

To top that off, purple trolleys are zero emissions, so excuse us while we kiss the sky.




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Transit integration agenda: seamless transportation network

Continued coordination and integration must be front and center for transit agencies in the region.

King County Executive Dow Constantine kicks off the transit integration summit.

King County Executive Dow Constantine kicks off the transit integration summit.

That was the consensus of regional leaders at Thursday’s Regional Transit Integration Summit at PSRC.

“The issue before us is how can we all work together to provide a seamless, efficient transportation network to serve our growing region,” said Executive Dow Constantine.

“One of the ways we get more and better transit is by being as aggressive as we can about achieving these efficiencies,” he said.

Coordination will be critical as the region deals with major construction and changes in the next decade, including construction of the Elliott Bay Seawall and deconstruction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Extension of light rail north, south, and east will mean buses will need to move out of the downtown transit tunnel to make way for more light rail trains.

Representatives from region’s transit agencies and the Washington State Department of Transportation highlighted current transit coordination efforts and emphasized plans to build momentum for even more integration to deliver an efficient, high performing regional transit system.

Some of the integration efforts already underway:

Route 497 in Auburn provides service from the Lakeland Hills neighborhood to the Auburn Sounder station, with trips timed to meet Sounder train trips. Pierce Transit, King County Metro, and the City of Auburn worked out the funding plan necessary to make this route happen.

Sound Transit is collaborating with Pierce Transit and Community Transit to develop coordinated services and changes in the transit network that anticipate the completion of ST2 projects and help prepare for potential ST3 projects.

At the same time, Sound Transit and King County Metro are coordinating development of ST3 and the King County Metro’s long-range plan.

Summit participants discussed actions to take over the next year to improve integration.  Some of the suggestions included an integrated parking management strategy, expanding the Orca Lift low-income fare to other parts of the region, and developing common performance metrics.

The Transportation Policy Board will discuss results and next steps from the summit at its meeting next month.

PSRC’s 2015 Transit Integration Report  gives more information on efforts to better integrate transit service and planning in the region.  You can watch a video of the Transit Integration Summit here.


Transit integration gains steam

King County Executive Dow Constantine will kick off a meeting of regional transit leaders next week focused on better integrating transit.

Work is underway to get the Seattle transit tunnel ready for light rail service to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium.  Agencies are working together to integrate new service expected in early 2016.

Work is underway to get the Seattle transit tunnel ready for light rail service to Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium. Agencies are working together to integrate new service expected in early 2016.

Thursday’s Transit Integration Summit at PSRC will follow a big weekend for regional transit riders:  New service comes online, and preparation continues for more.

Weekend events:

PSRC’s 2015 Transit Integration Report  highlights regional efforts to better integrate transit service and planning.  The summit is intended to review integration that is underway and explore next steps.

In 2014 transit ridership in the region set a record with over 203 million boardings.

Sound Transit boardings were up 7 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to 2014.

Improving the HOV system from Seattle to Everett

Buses traveling along I-5 between Everett and downtown Seattle are often stuck in a broken, overflowing HOV system.


Community Transit and WSDOT are investigating ways to improve reliability of the HOV system along I-5.

Data on HOV performance released last fall showed that delay has increased 20 minutes since 2010, and Community Transit buses on I-5 were late 25 percent of the time in 2014.

Today, the Transportation Policy Board heard about efforts to develop short-term improvements to improve HOV travel times, and provide more predictable, on-time transit trips for riders.

“If we want people to ride transit, we have to make it predictable, frequent and easy to get to,” said Executive Pat McCarthy. “I applaud your efforts to manage the crisis of the day.”

Improvements being investigated include a transit queue jump at the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, developing a freeway bus shoulder operation, and implementing restricted weaving zones to improve safety.

The board also heard from Sound Transit and King County staff on their joint long-range planning efforts. King County Metro is developing a long-range plan, while Sound Transit is developing the ST3 plan that could go to the ballot in 2016, with legislative authorization.

The goal of this joint planning is to develop a blueprint for coordinated services and to ensure the future network is reflected in the Sound Transit System Plan and Metro’s Long-Range Plan and technical analysis.

The two agencies are planning joint public outreach meetings this summer and will ultimately develop one map that shows integrated regional services.

“This is a significant milestone to see Sound Transit and King County Metro here talking about the future of transit in the Puget Sound region,” said Mayor Fred Butler. “This is an outstanding example of transit integration and a fantastic first step to coordinate our long-range planning efforts.”

Later this month, PSRC will release the final 2015 Transit Integration Report, detailing how transit agencies are working together to improve transit service throughout the region.   PSRC will host an upcoming transit summit on June 11, 12:00-2:00 p.m., in the PSRC board room.

Record setting transit riders in 2014

The region experienced record transit ridership in 2014 with over 203 million boardings – up over five million from 2013 – despite an overall decrease in transit service.



Boardings were up 11 percent from 2010 through 2014, despite a 6.7 percent decrease in service hours.


There were more crowded buses in 2014 – 11 percent of all Metro bus trips had more riders than seats. (Photo: King County Metro)

The number of people taking a Sound Transit bus or train grew by 31 percent from 2010 through 2014.

Overall growth in ridership, coupled with a decrease in service, saw buses becoming more crowded and seats more sparse.

Last year 25 percent of Sound Transit’s Express bus trips were standing room only.

In 2014, 11 percent of King County Metro trips had more riders than seats – up from six percent in 2010.

The data was presented to the PSRC’s Transportation Policy Board last week.

The region is falling well shy of planned transit investments: 17 percent fewer service hours were delivered in 2014 than expected in the region’s Transportation 2040 plan, a gap of 985,000 annual service hours.


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Making it easier to ride transit

King County Metro recently announced two new efforts aimed at making transit more accessible and easy to use.

A free app to plan your transit trips.

A free app to plan your transit trips.

The new Puget Sound Trip Planner is a new app available for Apple and Android devices and on the web.

It allows riders to plan trips with 11 public transit agencies, including King County Metro Transit, Sound Transit, Washington State Ferries, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, and more.

Another new King County program, ORCA LIFT, seeks to make transit more accessible to those who really need it.

The ORCA LIFT card offers reduced fares for those who qualify and helps keep transit trips affordable.

The program is for people who earn less than 200% of the federal poverty rate, currently $23,340 for an individual.


ORCA LIFT has all the features of a regular ORCA card and is good for discounted rides on King County Metro and Kitsap Transit buses, Link light rail, Seattle Streetcar, and the King County Water Taxi.

Metro fares are scheduled to increase on March 1, so it’s a good time for people to find out if they qualify for the new reduced-fare pass.

King County Executive Dow Constantine also chairs the Sound Transit Board. Last year he announced actions to better integrate transit service in the region.

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