Here's the Problem

By Erica C. Barnett July 23, 2009

Now that Link Light Rail is up and running, Metro is "amending" bus routes in Southeast Seattle, where light rail runs, starting on September 19. The idea, according to Metro, is to "improve the overall transportation network and will help connect bus riders to light rail stations."

Leaving aside the fact that Metro is facing a $100 million shortfall that will result in cuts of up to 20 percent in service—much of that in Seattle—next year, the immediate problem with Metro's proposal is that it consists mostly of minor changes (cutting and combining, mostly) to routes that parallel light rail—and not, as Sound Transit itself has promised, the redeployment of  between 50,000 and 70,000 service hours to "feed into the light rail system spine."

As those who live there know all too well, what's really needed in Southeast Seattle isn't changes to routes that run alongside the light rail line, but service to neighborhoods east and west of the line, where Sound Transit is assuming many riders will come from.

Studies have consistently shown that ridership drops off dramatically when people have to walk more than a quarter-mile to a station. However, Metro has proposed no new routes to serve any of those neighborhoods. The result, I fear, will be that light rail serves the people who live right along the line fairly well—but won't pick up new riders outside a quarter-mile of the stations, where thousands of potential riders live.
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