A bit more than a week ago, King County Metro made a quiet revision to the northeastern tail of Route 62. Introduced as part of the major Northeast Seattle bus-to-Link restructure, the route has been plagued with unreliability, overcrowding, and sluggish speed since the day of its launch. Metro had hoped to build a successful new east-west route in Northeast Seattle in anticipation of a light rail station in Roosevelt opening sometime in 2021, but the jury is out on that.

In the early weeks, Metro heard from many angry riders who faced severe overcrowding south and west of Roosevelt during peak hours. To save face in a clear PR crisis, the agency added extra trips to relieve some of the pain. But word on the street is that overcrowding is still deeply persistent south of Wallingford. Juxtapose that to ridership east of Roosevelt where there has been an apparent decrease on the corridor. With the mangled routing of the 62 and an axe taken to the 71, riders in the area have found the service almost less than useless.

That’s not exactly surprising. Metro dropped the ball on the eastern tail from the beginning. In an effort to serve NOAA, the University of Washington, and other employers at the northern end of Magnuson Park, Metro set up a routing that runs along Sand Point Way NE and terminates in a loop on the NOAA campus. The problem there is that NOAA is only open on weekdays, and specifically only during weekday daytime hours. On weeknights and weekends, the NOAA campus is closed meaning that buses can’t access the layover stop and loop. Metro’s solution from the start was clunky and confusing:

  • During evenings and weekends, some buses ran on 50th Ave NE between NE 65th St and NE 70th St and then along NE 70th to and from Sand Point Way with a stop in and around NE 74th St and then looped back.
  • Metro also ran a spotty limited shuttle sevice from Sand Point and Wedgwood via NE 65th St as far west as NE 35th Ave so as to intercept the mainline Route 62 buses west of 35th Ave NE when buses could not make the NE 74th St loop in Magnuson Park.

But if all of that was bad, Metro has managed to mangle things even worse.

Metro's revised Route 62 that launched on June 10th. (King County Metro)
Metro’s revised Route 62 that launched on June 10th. (King County Metro)

Metro’s “solution” to the NOAA loop problem was to create an even bigger loop. A ten-block loop to be exact. Eastbound buses now turn south at 35th Ave NE as far as NE 55th St before continuing east towards Sand Point. Buses layover at a new terminal on Sand Point Way NE at NE 55th St—a full 25 blocks south of its former terminal. Westbound buses depart from the Sand Point Way terminal and continue as far north as NE 65th St before heading east on their normal course.

If the problem here isn’t evident, let me spell it out. Riders who live on the original NE 65th St stretch east of 35th Ave NE now face an absurd decision if coming from Downtown Seattle or Wallingford:

  • Walk from 35th Ave NE;
  • Walk somewhere along NE 55th St; or
  • Wait until the bus loops back to its terminal on Sand Point Way.

The tail near NE 65th St and Sand Point happens to be in a major mutli-family area with over two dozen apartment and condominium buildings with in a five-minute walk. Many of the dwellings are specifically targeted to lower-income individuals. In fact, Solid Ground manages an entire apartment complex at the footsteps of Magnuson Park.

Meanwhile, weekend and nighttime riders who live on the new loop now have bus service dangling at them, but which is wholly unreliable and convoluted making it hardly worthwhile to learn the schedule and nonsensical routing.

Even Google Maps has a solution for a rational Route 62 loop. (Google Maps)
Even Google Maps has a solution for a rational Route 62 loop. (Google Maps)

The easier solution for Metro would have been to simply use a bus loop at Magnuson Park. Google Maps seems to even think there’s one on NE 64th St and Radford Dr NE with a bus stop on NE 65th (there used to be up until the last service change). The main drawback of that loop option is adding a layover and stop space near NE 64th St and 60th Ave NE. Failing that, Metro could have chosen to use an overflow parking lot across from the US Fisheries site and install a terminal bus stop (with what we hope would include a Honey Bucket and maybe a bench) on NE 65th and Sand Point Way NE as necessary.

Overflow parking lot near the US Fisheries site, just east of Sand Point Way. (Google Maps)
Overflow parking lot near the US Fisheries site, just east of Sand Point Way. (Google Maps)

The new Route 62 is by no means a shining star in Metro’s route network, but it shouldn’t be treated like toilet paper. It provides a valuable service to a relatively dense and lower-income area of North Seattle while simultaneously anchoring a major federal employment hub. Riders shouldn’t face the kind of Bad Old Metro routings that the agency has been desperately trying to untangle. Transit Planning 101 says that couplets are bad, big loops are worse, and big loops with a mid-route layover are the death of rider confidence. Metro’s decision to “trial” this Route 62 variant is just incomprehensible. They should go back to the drawing board.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Like a lot of the original northeast Seattle planned changes, frequent service along the Green Lake to Sand Point portion of the 62 appears to have been designed as if light rail had already reached Roosevelt. I remember the original plan for the 73 had it making a pointless jog into Roosevelt. The 73 route was eventually straightened out.

    It was always clear the 62 would not have much ridership east of Green Lake, at least not until there was a light rail station at Roosevelt, and maybe not even then. People living along 65th in View Ridge have not only not been riding this bus, they have been complaining about the 150+ trips per day these giant but empty double buses have been making, screaming up the hill in both directions. I wonder if Metro was really responding to those complaints, rather than the supposed difficulty in turning around when NOAA is closed.

  2. This side of the 62 certainly isn’t perfect, but it does add some important options that didn’t exist before. I’ve been able to get home reliably from after-work trips to Fremont, with a transfer at 65th and 35th – a completely useless stop before the restructure. I haven’t tried a similar transfer from the #75 route, so I don’t know if that’s equally improved, but Sand Point and 65th/35th seem to have become minor transfer points where riders previously had to go all the way into the UW campus for any reliability. When the Roosevelt Link station goes in, this segment will be more important, but it’s worth providing transit options before then. Please don’t neglect this end of the route just because it doesn’t currently have high ridership. There’s a lot of positive interest in the area about the transit improvements.

  3. Wait, what? The tail end of this route is a coverage route, and nothing more. There just aren’t that many people in Hawthorne Hills. This can be seen in the census maps, or the aerial maps. If they have to wait for the loop in a very low traffic area, I think they can handle it (the same way folks in Magnolia handle it).

    The one exception is along Sand Point Way. For those folks it really doesn’t matter which way the bus gets there, or which way it goes back. Besides, they have the choice of taking another bus — the 75. Given the number of people in the region, they actually have it better than most (two fairly frequent buses, despite living in a relatively low density area cut off from most of the city).

  4. Ryan, thanks for sharing your concerns. I’ve sent on to planners so they also are aware. After two weeks on this path, we will continue to use it until further notice, while working with SDOT and Parks on long term viability of other routing options through Magnuson Park. Key elements we weighed in making this routing revision on nights and weekends: Is there a layover? Is there a restroom for operators? Does the pavement support the bus? Do all the intersections allow a bus to turn? Does the community accept the buses presence? We have more work ahead of us to establish a better routing. We agree that this isn’t perfect. Complaints that this terminal decreases the value of the route east of NE 35th on nights and weekends are legitimate. We are looking for better options.

    • This is embarrassing. Huge terminal loops harken back to the bad old days of Seattle Metro (before King County). They give the impression of providing a wide service area, but require some riders to sit through the drivers’ layover to complete their journey (or give up on the bus and hoof it the rest of the way). This has to be the worst possible “solution” to their terminal problem.

    • Hey, go watch your #62 turn from Sand Point Way NE (heading South bound) onto NE 65th St. They cannot even make this turn let alone travel in their own lane heading Westbound towards the Burke Gilman trail due to the ingenious $1 Million plus concrete divided bike lane on the South side of 65th from the BG Trail to Sand Point Way NE. That bike lane needed to be that wide? Really? The use will never approach a lane of that width. Seriously, let’s work together to make it better for everyone. There was very little thought about anyone but future bicyclists when that 700′ million dollar concrete barrier and bike lane changed NE 65th st forever.
      -sigh…

  5. Taxpayers voted $1 billion to improve transit only to have Metro “prune” many branches and redefine “frequent transit” as anything within 1/2 mile of a stop, making transit less convenient and making transit more of a burden for seniors by adding 1/2 hour of walking to any round trip.

    Metro also eliminated the 16, which formerly offered service between downtown, North Seattle College (NSC) and the Northgate Transit Center. Yes, service was dumped onto the 26, but that route is often difficult to board due to overcrowding, frequently runs 1/2-hour late (which is perplexing) and the routing dumps students to NSC on the street south of campus, over 1/2-mile away.

    Seniors, students, and families are prime customers for Metro. We should be encouraging use of transit by making it more convenient and timely rather than moving stops farther from customers and making them walk an extra 10 minutes each way to their stop, often uphill and in the rain. It is significant that the Metro Trip Planner does not consider the walking portion of a trip in its transit times and may explain why Metro feels that service is “improved” when Metro consolidates stops farther from riders. Google Maps does include walking time, as should the Metro planners!

    • The big mistake that Metro made was cutting service between Green Lake and Northgate to 30 minute headways (route 26X) and providing 15 minute headways between Green Lake and Sand Point (route 62).

      There simply isn’t enough demand along NE 65th Street/Sand Point to justify 15 minute headways. Every time I board the 62 heading downtown, there’s hardly anyone riding. Far better to provide more frequent service connecting two urban villages (Northgate-Green Lake).

      What Metro should have done is swap the tail ends of each route. Send 26X east to Sand Point and the 62 north to Northgate. This would provide 15 minute headways to Northgate and 30 minute headways to Sand Point.

      You are absolutely right about the poor service to North Seattle College via the 26X. The old #16 stopped right in front of the college along College Way, then proceeded north to cross under I-5 at 105th before turning back south to get to the transit center. I understand why Metro chose to save lots of service hours by crossing I-5 at 92nd instead of 105th, but the reroute is very poorly thought out. The replacement 26X makes one stop on 92nd near the bridge, forcing bus commuters to cross a fairly busy road without a crosswalk and then pick their way through the parking lot behind the main school building. Why not route the 26X through the campus like they do the 345? Or at the very least, provide a stop on 92nd at College Way where there a four-way stop with a crosswalk and a decent sidewalk leading to the college. The current situation is dangerous and inconvenient.

  6. It is not only this 62 that is plagued by overcrowding and unreliability! ST and KCM and their “grandiose” idea of forcing everyone to now travel to the UWStadium station is still stupid. There are no more buses that will take you downtown from the NE, they modified the end/start of the 49 – without any input or reason and the 70 route continues to be overcrowded and badly served. Not sure who is doing the planning but it looks like we have not learned our lessons.
    1) if you are going to FORCE passengers to go to Ulink to use that service – passengers should be dropped off as close to the entrance as possible not 2 blocks and a bride away – one elevator on Montlake is not helpful.
    2) How about before you re-route many routes you actually phase them out and decide as service and people move what is working best or not?
    3) If KCM is only keeping a few routes how about adding articulated buses and more of them or short buses and more of them to have reliable service?

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