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Get In The Know: Approved Changes

September 2012: restructuring our transit system

Changes are coming to the transit system in Seattle and communities to the north and south of the city. They’ll increase connections, reduce duplication, and make the system more efficient.

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What the changes mean

Metro will make changes to bus service in certain areas or along specific corridors in September 2012. These changes are intended to create a more efficient system through the application of our newly adopted service guidelines and the goals laid out in Metro’s Strategic Plan for Public Transportation, 2011-2021.

The September 2012 service change package includes changes to:

  • Routing (Which roads a bus travels on)
  • Frequency (The minutes between bus trips)
  • Coverage (The extent of bus service)
  • Span (The number of hours per day bus service is operating)
  • Connections (The places where people can connect to other transit options)
  • Links (Which bus routes are linked together)

What changes will be made?

On May 7, the King County Council approved an ordinance adopting a set of service changes that will be implemented on Sept. 29. The ordinance includes the start of two new RapidRide lines, plus 48 changes to routes throughout the transit system.

In addition to the changes approved by the Council, Metro will make a set of administrative changes, which do not require Council action. (Learn more under “What are administrative changes?” below.)

To view a list of all changes being made, see “What will change” in the yellow box at right.


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What are administrative changes?

Metro makes minor administrative changes to transit service three times a year (in September, February, and June). These are considered minor changes as described in King County Code 28.94.020, so they are not sent to the King County Council in the form of a Service Change Ordinance. Administrative changes must meet the following criteria:

  • Change bus stop locations by less than one-half mile
  • Result in a change of less than 25 percent of the cost to provide the route

Why make administrative changes?

They allow Metro to make minor adjustments to schedules to improve their efficiency. In 2010 and 2011, we made a number of administrative scheduling changes that resulted in a two-percent savings in Metro’s annual operating budget.

These changes also allow Metro to move a route by a small distance to improve its speed and reliability. For example, Alaskan Way Viaduct construction in the SODO area was causing severe delays of buses along First Avenue S, so Metro moved the service to Fourth Avenue S to avoid the delays.

Fall 2012 administrative changes

Metro will make a number of administrative changes as part of the fall 2012 service change. These changes are of several types:

  • Changes in trip times.
  • Moving routes by one block in downtown Seattle. For example, northbound routes 24 and 33 are moving from Fourth Avenue to Third Avenue.
  • Moving routes from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to surface streets.
  • Cutting or adding trips due to low or heavy ridership.
  • Increasing or reducing a route’s hours of operation.
  • Operational changes, such as which routes are “through-routed” or linked.
  • Eliminating a short segment of a route that has very low ridership.

Why change now?

When Metro launches the RapidRide C and D lines in September, these bus rapid transit lines will provide a backbone of new, frequent transit service between Ballard and West Seattle via downtown Seattle. To take advantage of this investment in new service, Metro plans to restructure other routes to complement the new RapidRide corridors in ways that increase connections and minimize duplication.

Metro is also making changes to several routes that travel through downtown Seattle to improve flow through one of the most traffic-congested areas we serve. These changes are timely, since Metro is also scheduled to eliminate the Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle this fall. This will mean that Metro, Sound Transit, and Community Transit riders will always pay when they board the bus. It’ll make the system easier to understand and use, but fare collection may add to bus delays and traffic congestion during the afternoon peak hours, when downtown Seattle streets and the transit tunnel are at or near capacity.

Every day, more than 10,000 passengers ride Metro buses on Third Avenue during the afternoon rush hour. To prepare for this change and decrease delays for transit riders, Metro is proposing to reduce or eliminate a number of turns onto and off of Third Avenue and shift some routes from Third to Second or Fourth Avenue.

Summary of the decision-making process

Metro kicked off its public outreach for the September 2012 service changes in November 2011 with a series of community open houses, information tables, and presentations to neighborhood groups. Thanks to all who participated—more than 5,000 people took the time to share their feedback on our original suggested changes. We used that feedback to refine our suggestions into a revised proposal.

We went back to the community in February 2012 to gather input on that proposal in a second phase of outreach. This feedback was used to help prepare a recommendation for the Metropolitan King County Council’s consideration. The Council adopted the recommended changes on May 7, and the changes will be implemented Sept. 29.

Why does Metro make changes to its network?

Metro’s Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2011-2021 and associated service guidelines, adopted in July 2011, establish a vision for a public transportation system that makes good use of public funds, facilitates travel for more people, provides service throughout King County, and prioritizes service to people with limited travel options.

The Strategic Plan and associated service guidelines also provide direction for the service changes that Metro makes three times a year. With each service change, Metro seeks to:

  • Improve the way the transit system functions as a whole. Metro makes changes to improve the quality of our bus service and to increase service in communities that are under-served. To accomplish this, Metro may reduce or eliminate poorly performing routes so that we can relieve overcrowding or improve on-time performance on heavily used routes, or satisfy unmet transit needs. Metro also strives to increase ridership by consolidating service and making it easier to understand and use.
  • Make it easier for those with limited travel options to get around. Metro emphasizes social equity by allocating resources to communities where many people are likely to depend on transit to get around.
  • Expand the number of places people can go on transit. Metro makes changes that allow people to make more kinds of trips. We seek to expand the number of possible connections by consolidating service and giving people more options to get to places directly or by changing to another bus. We also try to make these connections easier by increasing the frequency of our bus service and reducing the amount of time people wait at stops and transfer points.
  • Preserve service throughout King County. Metro ensures geographic value by allocating resources to public transportation services throughout King County.
  • Respond to changes that are made to cities and transportation systems. As times change and King County and its cities develop, so do our roadways, travel patterns and needs. Metro has to adapt to this changing environment to serve a greater number of people in more efficient and effective ways.

What will change?

System maps

North: All-day | Peak
South: All-day | Peak

Area maps

Updated: September 18, 2012