Sound Transit is advancing some service change proposals for next year. By and large, the proposals are similar to concepts that the agency shared in May. Changes being proposed are relatively modest given that agency partners are still struggling to maintain current service levels under a tough staffing environment.
In South King County and Pierce County, things are poised to stay mostly the same despite the fact that Sound Transit has wanted to make service improvements in those subareas for several years now. In May, the agency was studying the possibility of making resource-neutral changes that would optimize bus routes. That could have meant ultimately increasing frequencies, but the agency cited public feedback and staffing resources for maintaining the status quo in this service plan.
In Snohomish County, Sound Transit plans to make a large suite of changes in relation to the Lynnwood Link Extension opening. That will bring new light rail stations to the county and allow for an overhaul of the ST Express bus network.
Sound Transit is touting a summer or fall opening of the Lynnwood Link Extension with eight-minute peak-hour frequencies, though there are serious constraints that the agency is facing in being able to deliver intended services levels when the extension opens. Four stations will be opening on the extension with two in Snohomish County to serve Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood and another two in King County to serve Shoreline at NE 185th Street and NE 148th Street.
Under the plan, several ST Express buses operating on I-5 from Snohomish County would be consolidated, trimmed back, and improved overall:
- Route 510 (Everett-Downtown Seattle) would be eliminated with service hours redistributed to Route 512 (Everett-Northgate).
- Route 511 (Ash Way-Northgate), which is currently suspended due to a staffing shortage, would not be restored.
- Route 512 would be shortened so that its terminus on the south end is Lynnwood City Center station. It would also see late night stops in Downtown Everett eliminated so that Everett Station is the northern terminus for all trips. With saved service hours reinvested into the route, riders would see a 50% boost in midday service and about a doubling of peak-hour service.
- Route 513 (Seaway Transit Center-Northgate) would also be shortened so that its terminus on the south end is Lynnwood City Center station and service would operate in both directions.
As a result of the changes, service levels on Routes 512 and 513 could be improved as follows:
Another service improvement that Sound Transit is proposing for Snohomish County is more Sounder N Line trips. The agency would restore two weekday roundtrips bringing the line back to full service with four daily roundtrips. Riders with eligible ORCA card passes can also use the Rail Plus program on Amtrak Cascades trips serving the corridor.
In King County, the only substantive change would be introduction of the East Link starter line. Sound Transit’s governing board still needs to formally decide whether or not to approve opening of the starter line in spring 2024. If the board does approve the starter line, trains could operate as frequently as every ten minutes between the South Bellevue and Redmond Technology stations. Service would operate during a shorter window (about 14 hours per day) than the 1 Line initially due to constraints. Related bus route restructures would be postponed until the 2 Line begins cross-lake service sometime in 2025.
Sound Transit has decided that Route 522 (Woodinville-Roosevelt) won’t be revised in 2024 to serve the Shoreline South/148th station even though it will open with the Lynnwood Link Extension. The agency worries that capacity constraints on Link will persist until the 2 Line can be activated to operate in tandem with the 1 Line sometime in 2025. King County Metro had also proposed curtailing local bus service on Lake City Way, making Route 522 a more critical backstop. However, Metro’s original proposal appears less likely now.
Through August 6, Sound Transit is providing online open houses and taking feedback on the proposals. Later this fall, the agency will formally adopt a final service plan that will go into effect next year.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.