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October 12, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Got crowds? Metro says West Seattle bus ridership rose 26 percent

West Seattle bus riders have been blowing a gasket over crowding and near-daily passups since Oct. 1, when King County Metro Transit reorganized its route network.

The most common topic of conversation on the bus is the bus, and in daily threads at West Seattle Blog (Seattle Times news partner), citizens accuse Metro of ineptitude or worse.

Metro answers that a more profound change is afoot — ridership growth of 26 percent on West Seattle routes since spring 2011, and 18 percent growth since spring 2012.  Even then, the C Line’s predecessor, Route 54, often ran standing room only to downtown. But now Metro is cutting service to outlying routes and changing others, to feed more people to the C Line stops.  With only 49 seats, the RapidRide buses have more standing room and fewer seats than a typical Metro bus, which makes them look even fuller.

Managers are especially worried about Route 120, from White Center and Delridge to downtown, which is up nearly half and crossing the West Seattle Bridge totally packed. Route 120 will be getting new bus lanes and stops within the next year.

Victor Obeso, Metro’s director of service planning, said late Friday that the 120 is a possible candidate for more bus trips. “We’ve had frequent service, but ridership keeps growing and growing,” he said by cellphone, aboard a noisy 44 bus in Wallingford.

Obeso admitted Metro staff were surprised by 26 percent growth, and couldn’t explain why it snuck up on them; he expected Ballard to have more trouble. But he knew West Seattle was gaining at least 8-10 percent ridership a year, fueled by Highway 99 construction in Sodo.  Metro added bus service funded by state highway mitigation money, and people opted for transit instead of driving stop-and-go through construction detours, he said. Last month Highway 99 crews extended the Sodo northbound bus lane two miles, making buses quicker.

Metro has already added two buses to the C Line, and two standby buses, since Oct. 1.  Those moves take up about one-fourth of a reserve Metro has of 10,000 bus hours per year, Obeso said — so the good news is, Metro can patch more service gaps in the coming weeks, or at the next countywide service change in February.

“I think we’re seeing record demand in many places in our network. This is just an early indication,” he said.  For years customers in Ballard and other areas have stood in crowded bus aisles, he said, a new experience for some in West Seattle.

Here’s a Metro chart showing total riders entering or leaving the Alaskan Way Viaduct on West Seattle routes:

AM PEAK

Route

Spring 2011

Spring 2012

Average Fall 2012 % increase 2011-2012  

C **

558

616

770

38%

 

21X

332

308

367

11%

 

55

302

303

280

-7%

 

56X

217

154

257

19%

 

57X

111

126

138

24%

 

120

500

672

725

45%

 

ALL

2020

2179

2537

26%

 

PM PEAK

Route

Spring 2011

Spring 2012

Average Fall 2012 % increase 2011-2012  

C **

612

650

896

46%

 

21X

343

348

415

21%

 

55

295

297

193

-34%

 

56X

187

207

237

27%

 

57X

62

76

107

73%

 

120

539

601

793

47%

 

125

227

168

211

-7%

 

ALL

2265

2347

2853

26%

 

Many riders wonder if Metro slashed overall service. The agency says it runs 74 buses downtown between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., compared with 73 this spring. And in the afternoon from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., it runs 72 buses out to West Seattle, compared with 77 before.  Routes to outlying areas, and mid-day service, were reduced, while Metro added a new crosstown Route 50 to Sodo and Columbia City.  Managers said in a Friday message they are considering more bus trips for the C Line and the overlapping Route 55, which reaches farther north to the Admiral area.

Riders who live near Fauntleroy Way Southwest can catch Routes 116, 118 or 119, the Vashon Ferry feeder routes, instead of the C Line.  Another option is taking the 50 bus and connecting with Link light rail at Sodo Station.

With economic recovery underway, Obeso thinks Metro will soon exceed 400,000 weekday boardings, which it hit briefly in 2008, straining bus capacity.

West Seattle Blog has posted Metro’s full message here.

0 Comments | More in Government, Traffic & Transit | Topics: buses, King County Metro, RapidRide

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