What bus service upgrades will Prop. 1 fund? SDOT considers options.

The Seattle Department of Transportation is looking at more buses, more frequent service and extensions to some existing lines.
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The Seattle Department of Transportation is looking at more buses, more frequent service and extensions to some existing lines.

With King County canceling its plans to cut bus service, Seattle officials have begun to identify dozens of bus routes that could be enhanced if city voters pass a transit funding ballot measure this November.

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The ballot initiative was designed to help Seattle buy back the city bus service that was on the chopping block due to budget shortfalls at King County Metro Transit. With the county's financial outlook suddenly rosier, the Metropolitan King County Council decided earlier this week to shelve plans for major service cuts next year. So now, the Seattle Department of Transportation is looking at new ways to use the revenue the ballot measure would create. Possibilities include adding buses on overcrowded lines, extending existing routes into fast-growing areas and increasing service frequency in busy corridors.

All told, the department is considering improvements on 57 routes, including seven bus lines affected by an initial round of cuts that took place at the end of September.

List of bus routes that could be upgraded if Prop. 1 passes  

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Adding buses, adjusting schedules and extending lines are among the ways SDOT would seek to achieve these goals if Prop. 1 passes. Routes on this list have not been finalized. Source: SDOT

SDOT's director, Scott Kubly, emphasized that while the list of routes provides a solid set of options it is also preliminary and contingent on what happens with the County Council's budgeting process, which is currently underway.

"The great thing is that a lot of this stuff is really prioritized based on data," Kubly said during a phone interview on Thursday. He noted that many of the improvements focused on increasing service reliability and reducing travel times.

SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan provided Crosscut with a brief document describing some of the possible improvements, which include adding buses to all Seattle routes that Metro Transit says are chronically overcrowded, and expanding the number of buses that run every 10-15 minutes (during the day and into the evening) on lines with high ridership.

Another improvement target would be extending the RapidRide C Line north into South Lake Union, where demand for bus service is quickly growing. The line currently runs from West Seattle to downtown. RapidRide D Line is another candidate for service upgrades. The D now runs from Crown Hill, north of Ballard, to Columbia Street in downtown. SDOT suggests extending the route southward into Pioneer Square.

The University District got some special attention too. Among the possibilities SDOT presented: Operating the 70, 71X, 72X and 73X on evenings and Sundays to increase both capacity and the amount of express bus service in the neighborhood.

On the list of buses that could be more reliable and frequent, SDOT included the 7, a vital route for many residents in southeast Seattle. Metro Transit had recommended evening and off-peak service reductions on the line beginning next February. 

Proposition 1 would raise an estimated $45 million annually through a 0.1 percent city sales tax increase and a $60 hike in car-tab fees. Up to $3 million of that money would go into a Regional Partnership Fund, which would help pay for routes that run in and out of the city limits at peak commuting hours. About $2 million would be used for programs designed to help offset the burden of the new taxes and fees on low-income residents.

If the ballot initiative passes, a new Transit Division within SDOT, which Mayor Ed Murray proposed in his 2015-2016 budget, would play a key part in coordinating Seattle's bus service with Metro Transit. "The Transit Division director's role will really be to make sure that service is being provided in a way that is most valuable to Seattle residents," Kubly said.

He noted as well that reliable transit, including buses, would be important as the city continues to grow. "The days of being able to make streets wider are coming to an end," said Kubly. "There's no way I'm going to be able to convince people we can build another freeway through downtown."

  

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