Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Route 424 Dilemma: Fewer Trips or Longer Ride?

On Wednesday, June 15, Community Transit will host its next Community Open House meeting in Monroe, at the High School Performing Arts Center from 6-8 p.m.

Some of the people likely to attend are those bus riders who take Route 424, a commuter route from east Snohomish County to downtown Seattle. Already, this is a long trip, as the bus begins picking up passengers in Snohomish then travels east to Monroe, south to SR522 and I405 then across the always-congested SR520 bridge.

Last week at the Monroe Park & Ride I spoke with a number of Route 424 riders about the alternatives looming for 2012. They pose quite a dilemma. Under Alternatives I and II, the number of trips for that route gets cut from three trips each direction to two trips. As riders pointed out, the buses are already full, especially in the afternoon as people tend to pack into one or two of the three trips home.

Under Alternative III, the number of trips is increased to four in each direction. But the nature of the route is changed to a commuter feeder route. Rather than traveling directly to Seattle, this route would veer from SR522 onto northbound I405, stop at Canyon Park and continue on to the Lynnwood Transit Center. There, riders can transfer to any of a number of buses that go to downtown Seattle. A longer trip, and a transfer.

As I kept repeating last week, and all our staff will continue to tell each rider who is not happy with the choices in the alternatives, we have to cut 20 percent of our costs. There is no way to make people happy with that level of cuts.

The savings in Alts. I and II are obvious; one fewer trip each direction that won't run. The savings in Alt. III come from not having those four buses travel all the way back from Seattle to Snohomish empty.

Essentially, the choices for commuters are between the familiar (Alts. I and II) with the downside being fewer trips. Because the times for those trips have not been figured out yet (that will happen when we're down to one scenario), riders should state their preferred time when giving their input.

The other choice is flexibility (Alt. III) with an upside being more options. In the case of Route 424, there would be more options to catch the bus each way, and more options for connections to and from Seattle. The downside is, of course, more time spent traveling.

Given that there have to be cuts, what are your thoughts about the choices before you for your ride?


  1. I've already commented on the feedback form and I'm not sure your intent is to spur discussions here but judging with the rather drastic changes proposed with what sounds like the preferred re-route to Lynnwood, I'd hope that CT could potentially work on some sort of partnership or scheduling with Metro to help the 424 folks headed to Seattle and the U-District who want to bail out in Woodinville.

    I am generally on the bus for two hours a day at a minimum anyway. I can't stack on another one to two hours to that going through Lynnwood. It eats into time with family plus its a mental health thing. I know these cutbacks hit everybody but the vast majority of those get routed down I5 and many of them already go through Lynnwood (i.e. 421, 422, 425.)

  2. Frankly speaking, I think alt. III is not a bad choice if the feeder router stops at UW Bothell. Doing so, the riders can take Sound Transit #522 to UW Bothell and transfer to the feeder route instead of taking more time to Lynnwood Transit Center. Additionally, ST #522 has ten southbound and northbound trips between 6:00am to 8:00am and 4:00pm to 6:00pm.

  3. Andy, Scott, you are thinking outside the bun! There could be opportunities for new connections that could provide faster trips to King County's eastside or downtown Seattle from Route 424.

    Again, depending on which alternative is selected, our planners will then work up schedules that meet the various needs of riders. What you are saying is that Route 424 riders would like to have better timed connections to Metro and Sound Transit. With some work we could do our best to set up easy connections to the 311, 522, and 532/535 (at Canyon Park) so that Route 424 riders could have an array of useful options open to them in Woodinville, Canyon Park and Lynnwood.

    @Scott, none of the alternatives are "preferred." Community Transit is presenting these as equal options for public input. Ultimately, the board of directors will make a decision based on all the information they receive, which includes the public comment. We're still a long way from having a final service plan for 2012.

  4. Yes, easy connections from #424 to east side will help many riders. One thing I like about having a UW Botell stop is if I miss the connecting bus, I can walk two minutes to UW Botell library for restroom or reading break. It is much better than waiting at Lynnwood Transit Center.

  5. Having a UW Bothell/ Cascadia Community College stop also has potential of creating new riders, as when I was a student at CCC, there were a significant amount of students commuting from Monroe and Snohomish.
    And the Seattle bound bus is frequent enough that it wouldn't take much effort to make a timed connection.

  6. My general comment on upcoming bus changes. As a commuter, it's vital to have quick/easy access to downtown to work, so I would hope that changes will try to keep as many commute routes as possible (I prefer Alt 3 for now) and reduce the LOCAL routes.

    And/or raise the fares on LOCAL routes since the fares are so much cheaper than COMMUTER routes.

    Just my two cents.

  7. "And/or raise the fares on LOCAL routes since the fares are so much cheaper than COMMUTER routes."

    What a ridiculous comment, I pay 1.75 to go about 3 miles, 424 goes from Snohomish to Seattle (more than 40 miles for sure) for only $2 more. They should raise the rate on the long commuter routes, at least us local riders spend all our money in the county and work in the county. I prefer alt. 3 too, because it drops most of the long wasteful commuter runs to seattle while keeping local frequency high at peak times. CT was not founded as a commuter service for you.

  8. Just a little background on the fares discussion:

    In 2008, Community Transit raised fares for both local and commuter service (except senior/disabled riders). This was the first increase in commuter fares in 8 years. Local fares had been previously raised in 2005.

    In 2010, only local fares were raised. This was in part due to the fact that other agencies' local fares were generally higher than ours while our commuter fares were among the highest in the region.

    There is no fare increase proposed with the 2012 changes. That was a decision of our CEO because she felt it was bad enough for riders that we were cutting service again.

    However, it is expected that fares will be increased a bit more regularly in the future (not wait 8 years) to help keep up with cost increases. As always, there is a public comment period associated with any fare increase proposal and the final decision is up to the board of directors.

  9. Whoever made the comment about the commuter route being a waste is ridiculous. Think about it, the people that work in Seattle are making an environmentally sound decision by riding the bus instead of having all of those cars on the road. If your only commuting three miles you can walk or ride your bike if your that worried about the fare. I think they should increase the number of buses that go to and from Seattle and raise the price to compensate.

  10. How come the 424 cannot become another route so that it does not waste a trip back to Snohomish county?