LETTER | Improved Metro bus service proposed for Kirkland



If you’ve taken a bus in Kirkland recently, you’ve probably seen notices alerting riders to service changes that are proposed for 2016. What’s going on?


In early 2016, Sound Transit will open two new light rail stations at Capitol Hill and at University of Washington. Metro and Sound Transit are studying how the bus network should be adjusted to take best advantage of the new stations. By eliminating overlap between buses and the new rail services, it's possible to improve bus service around Seattle and across 520 within existing Metro budgets. Two alternatives have been developed, and are now out for public comment through March 31.


The more ambitious proposal (“Alternative 1”) would greatly improve bus service for Kirkland riders, and would have some impact on every bus from Kirkland that crosses 520. Nobody is losing service, but many routes will change. The less ambitious proposal (“Alternative 2”) makes fewer changes, with just a few direct implications for Kirkland.


Today, it’s fairly easy to get to downtown Seattle from Kirkland, but generally hard to get to other places in Seattle. Alternative 1 promises easy access for Kirkland riders to more Seattle destinations. It delivers a faster connection to Link light rail, more frequent service to Seattle in peak hours, and transfers to an expanded network of frequent bus services to more Seattle locations. Kirkland also gains direct service to South Lake Union and Children’s Hospital, and frequent all-day service to UW.


By route, here are the changes proposed for Kirkland under Alternative 1.


Metro 255 will be restructured, with a new 255 routing and additional service on a new Metro 256. The extra option on the schedule adds up to more service for most riders.


Within Kirkland, the new 255 will follow its current route except that the northern terminus will be at Totem Lake (Brickyard P&R gets other service options). In Seattle, it connects to Link at UW station, and continues to Children’s Hospital. 


At peak hours, this will be supplemented by a new 256 that runs from Kirkland Transit Center to downtown Seattle. Kirkland keeps direct service to downtown via the 256 except in the middle of the day and late in the evening. Off-peak riders on 255 to downtown will need to transfer to Link, but Link will get downtown faster than today’s buses. Travel times from UW to downtown will be just eight minutes.


ST 540 is revised to add a stop at Houghton Park and Ride. The stop at South Kirkland is deleted, but those riders will gain the more frequent revised 255 to UW.


The combined effect of the 255/256/540 changes is that Kirkland’s primary transit corridor (downtown Kirkland to Seattle) will see 10 buses per hour to Seattle at peak. That’s a meaningful increase in service. 


Metro 311 becomes about twice as frequent in Kirkland, running every 10 minutes in peak hours. In Kirkland, it will continue to serve the park-and-rides on I-405, and adds a stop at Totem Lake Freeway Station. On the west side of the lake, it will service the UW station, and continue into South Lake Union. This is an appealing new option for commuters to South Lake Union, with a much shorter walk to most offices in that area. 


Metro 238, serving UW Bothell to Kirkland, is extended to also serve Woodinville.


Metro 235, serving Bellevue to Totem Lake, is extended to also serve Brickyard.


Metro 277 is deleted in both alternatives. But under Alternative 1, riders will benefit from improved service on other routes (255 from Juanita, 311 or 255 from Totem Lake, 540 from Houghton P&R). 


Metro 252 is deleted and replaced by improved service on Metro 311. 



To find out more, click to http://www.kingcounty.gov/metro/LinkConnections. The link includes more details on every affected route, and a survey which can be completed. There will also be an open house at Bellevue City Hall from 6-8PM on Wednesday March 25th.