Eastgate P & R
Eastgate Park-and-Ride, photo by Ned Ahrens

To ease crowding and improve travel times, Metro Transit proposes schedule and route changes on seven peak commute routes along the Interstate 90 corridor, and has launched an effort to seek public feedback on the plans.

Routes proposed for changes are 210, 211, 212, 214, 215, 216, and 218, which are among the busiest and most productive commuter routes in Metro’s transit network. Buses carry about 5,000-7,000 daily Eastside commuters along the I-90 corridor to downtown Seattle and serve three major Eastside park-and-rides at Eastgate, downtown Issaquah and Issaquah Highlands. Service can be swift – an 18-mile trip from Issaquah Highlands to University Street Station on Route 218 can take about 30 minutes.

But good transit service and growing Eastside transit demand has led to crowded buses.

Metro took some initial steps to address crowding on I-90 corridor buses. After the fall 2012 service change, analysis showed increasing ridership throughout the transit system. Ridership on routes 216 and 218 already was strong, and high demand for boarding these buses in the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel caused overcrowding — and buses sometimes were too full to pick up passengers. To relieve this pressure in the afternoon, Metro immediately stopped serving the Eastgate Freeway Station with Route 218 in October 2012, and will stop serving it with Route 216 in late February 2013. Meanwhile, Route 212 continues to serve Eastgate from Second Avenue with other similar routes.

Despite the initial changes, Metro continues to hear from customers that buses are heavily loaded. To further reduce crowding and improve service, Metro proposes reallocating some trips to operate at times and on routes to better match demand. Also, to speed up travel times, some bus routes could change paths to better serve riders where demand is higher by skipping stops where other duplicate service is available. Because Metro’s budget is limited, the proposed changes only redistribute existing service or make no-cost operational changes.

Riders can learn about the proposed changes on Metro’s Have A Say website as well as share their thoughts through an online survey (through Feb. 10). Metro Transit planners will be talking to riders on buses and answer questions at an upcoming public meeting from 12-1:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 31, at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle. Riders also can email haveasay@kingcounty.gov or call 206-263-9768.

After public feedback is collected, changes would be proposed to the King County Council in March, followed by review and consideration in April. If adopted by the County Council, changes would be implemented in September.