Better Metro bus service for Admiral/Alki? Councilmember Herbold’s request to SDOT

It’s been a hot discussion topic in WSB transit/transportation coverage for a long time – north West Seattle’s relative lack of Metro service compared to other areas. In her newest weekly update, Councilmember Lisa Herbold announced she is asking SDOT – via the letter embedded above – to find out what it would cost to fix that. (Though Metro is a county service, city dollars pay for some of the service.) If you haven’t seen it via e-mail or web, here’s her update:

As District 1 Councilmember, I regularly hear from residents of the Admiral and Alki neighborhoods about the lack of daytime and evening bus service to and from Downtown. Non-rush hour service on Bus Route 56, which connects Alki and Admiral to Downtown, was eliminated in 2012.

As a result, Admiral is the only Urban Village in Seattle without off-peak transit service to Downtown. It is also the only Urban Village not served by the Frequent Transit Network included in the Seattle Transit Master Plan. Urban Villages were adopted by Seattle in the 1994 Comprehensive Plan to direct growth to areas with enhanced services, so the lack of service is noteworthy, and unique. The lack of off-peak service to Downtown for an urban village also does not seem consistent with our approach to managing growth.

I have written a letter to SDOT Director Goran Sparrman, requesting that SDOT assess the costs associated with improving off-peak transit service on Route 56, and inform me of the City’s funding capacity to meet this need with Seattle Transportation Benefit District funds passed by Seattle voters in Proposition 1 in late 2014, which directly funds bus service in Seattle. You can see the letter here. While King County Metro operates bus service, since 2015, with the passage by Seattle voters of Proposition 1, Seattle funds additional bus service.

Background information is included below about how the Admiral Urban Village fits into the city’s transportation and growth plans.

After the State Legislature passed the Growth Management Act in 1990, to stop regional sprawl and direct growth into designated areas. The City of Seattle adopted the Urban Village Strategy in its passage of the 1994 Comprehensive Plan. By 1999, the City had completed passage of neighborhood plans throughout Seattle, to implement the state Growth Management Act, and to direct growth into areas with enhanced services to match the growth.

Seattle has six Urban Centers, six Hub Urban Villages and eighteen Residential Urban Villages. Of those 30 areas targeted for growth in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, only Admiral lacks off-peak transit service to Downtown.

Figures from the Seattle Transit Master Plan illustrate the unique status of the Admiral Urban Village. Figure 3-1 shows the City Capacity Transit Vision for High Capacity Transit Corridors. Figure 1-2 shows how these current and planned corridors align with the Urban Centers, Hub Urban Villages, and Residential Urban Villages adopted in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan.

All of Seattle’s six Urban Centers and six Hub Urban Villages are included in a corridor—nearly all of which go to Downtown. In addition, 16 of Seattle’s 18 Residential Urban Villages are included in a corridor. The only ones that aren’t included in one of the transit corridors for RapidRide, Light Rail, Priority Bus Corridors, and the Streetcar are 1) Admiral and 2) South Park.

Figure 4-1 shows the status of the Frequent Transit Network as of March 2016; it notes a few areas on the map for “Priority Upgrade to Frequent,” including the Admiral Urban Village.

The Frequent Transit network included in the Transit Master Plan is designed to provide service every 15 minutes or better, 18-24 hours a day, seven days a week. This document shows bus routes that meet the frequent transit service level for land use purposes (SMC 23.84A.038), i.e. 15 minutes or less for at least 12 hours per day, 6 days a week, and transit headways of 30 minutes or less for at least 18 hours every day.

The current Frequent Transit Network using land use standards serves 29 of the 30 areas targeted for growth, but not Admiral.

Transportation Figure 5, from the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan, shows the Planned Frequent Transit Network, which includes SW Admiral Way through the Urban Village.

It appears that among Seattle’s 30 Urban Centers and Urban Villages, the Admiral Urban Village is one of only two not included the High Capacity Transit Network, and uniquely 1) is not served by the current Frequent Transit Network, and 2) has no off-peak bus service to Downtown. In addition, it saw a decrease in bus service to Downtown, with the 2012 elimination of off-peak service to Downtown on bus route 56. No buses leave for Downtown after 9 a.m., and return buses from Downtown operate only during evening rush hour.

Given the geographic distribution of jobs and work patterns, direct access to Downtown is important. Unless we are able to provide sufficient bus service to the Admiral Urban Village, it is less likely it will be able to accommodate its share of growth.

Metro Service prioritizes crowding, schedule reliability and service frequency. Proposition 1 noted that revenues would be used for these purposes, consistent with the Seattle Transit Master Plan and Metro’s Service Guidelines.

However, I believe we are missing an important element of equity in not considering how we can increase ridership in areas with low ridership and minimal options available to improve ridership. The lack of off-peak service to Downtown for an Urban Village also does not seem consistent with our approach to managing growth.

While King County Metro’s Service Guidelines target a minimum service level of at least every 60 minutes, even an exception for less frequent off-peak service would be an improvement.

If you would like to talk with Councilmember Herbold about this or anything else, her next “in-district office hours” event is Friday (February 23rd), 2-7 pm at South Park Community Center (8319 8th Ave. S.).

11 Replies to "Better Metro bus service for Admiral/Alki? Councilmember Herbold's request to SDOT"

  • Alvis February 17, 2018 (12:39 pm)

    Excellent letter. Thank you on behalf of my household.

  • Kalo February 17, 2018 (3:57 pm)

    I’ve often wondered why, with all the seniors living in the Alki area, there isn’t a shuttle bus that runs in the off season.  It sure would help get access to the C-Line, shopping, doctors. It would be a nice supplement to the free water taxi shuttle that runs April thru October. Charge .50 or something reasonable to help offset costs.

  • MJ February 17, 2018 (4:01 pm)

    The letter certainly is decent, but I believe the equity issue could be further delved into. 

    Admiral residents are paying substantial car tab fees and this resource should be used to enhance bus service in the Admiral district; this is not equitable at all.  

  • rico February 17, 2018 (6:35 pm)

    Having experienced the bus reduction myself in Admiral over the last 20 years (bad trend), glad to see this.

    But how much input does SDOT even have on the King County Bus Service?

  • Seattlite February 17, 2018 (6:47 pm)

     “The lack of off-peak service to Downtown for an urban village also does not seem consistent with our approach to managing growth.” It is consistent with Seattle’s ineffective city planning.  Also, if there are NO exits to downtown Seattle from the underground tunnel, which has been scheduled for a fall opening, the city had better get on WS’s bus problem quickly.  There should be no added cost to anyone for the city’s mistake.

  • Alki res February 17, 2018 (8:19 pm)

    It’s impossible to get to alki elementary from downtown on the bus to pick up your kid right after school.  It would be helpful to at least have busses run early enough in the afternoon for parents to pick up their kids.

  • Morgan February 18, 2018 (8:11 am)

    For the Morgan junction urban village, I’ve been wondering can we get the water taxi shuttle frequently for commuting? Taking bridge to viaduct to get to waterfront area work is about to become a hell on earth when they start tearing down the viaduct, and the water taxi isn’t a viable alternative if they don’t up the taxis reach to this neighborhood (especially in the morning).

    • Seattlite February 18, 2018 (9:29 am)

      What’s holding back the expansion of increased water taxis crossing people back and forth to downtown?  What’s holding back expansion of increased taxi shuttles to and from the water taxi dock?  The water taxi is a great way to transport people to and from downtown for work, shopping, medical appts, etc. But I don’t see any plans for expansion…I’ve read some articles dating back to 2015 that favored expanding the water taxi service but no concrete plans. Remember there are NO exits to downtown Seattle from the underground tunnel.

  • bub February 18, 2018 (8:20 am)

    they should build a gondola from the Water Taxi to North Admiral. That would be the funniest thing in the world

  • Dan February 18, 2018 (1:07 pm)

    Yeah.. well written and justified.   I honestly think W Seattle is being left out of any urban planning,  

  • Diane February 18, 2018 (6:27 pm)

    at a minimum, bring back ALL the bus routes that Metro stole away from Admiral & Alki when they brought on Rapid Ride (which we now have to drive to and park and walk blocks to get on way-too-crowded RR); meanwhile, we in Admiral & Alki have been paying ever-increasing car tabs, but got LESS service; bring back our 24/7 #56 that 1000’s in our Admiral neighborhood could walk to and get to/from downtown any time of day/night

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