King County Metro Transit route changes impact Issaquah riders

September 11, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

King County Metro Transit riders should prepare for major changes in the weeks ahead, as the agency launches a pay-on-entry system and updates several routes.

Transit planners advised thousands of riders to expect changes on bus routes starting Sept. 29, as the agency changes bus stops on dozens of routes, shifts buses to different streets and alters schedules.

The changes affect the routes 217 and 218. Both routes run through Issaquah.

Route 217 is a west-to-east commuter service operating in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. The route moves from the tunnel after the changes go into effect.

What to know

King County Metro Transit is poised to unveil major changes to several routes Sept. 29. Riders can read about the coming changes at the service change website, http://metro.kingcounty.gov/up/scvchange.html.

The agency also recommends for riders to consider ORCA in order to smooth the boarding process. ORCA — or One Regional Card for All — is available at www.orcacard.com, by calling 1-888-988-6722 toll free or at retail locations listed on the website.

ORCA is a collaboration among the transit systems in King, Kitsap, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Instead, riders can find eastbound Route 217 buses on Second Avenue and Fourth Avenue, and westbound buses on Fourth Avenue.

The change for Route 218 means two fewer trips during the morning and afternoon peaks to the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride.

Metro Transit plans to convert the peak trips to Route 212 trips to and from the Eastgate Park & Ride.

In June, the agency converted several Route 212 trips to Route 218 trips to address capacity concerns among afternoon riders headed to Issaquah.

Both routes serve the same Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel bay and Eastgate high-occupancy vehicle direct-access ramp stop, so people headed to Eastgate board whichever route arrives first and, as a result, the change affected the number of seats available for riders headed to Issaquah.

For the upcoming change, Metro Transit is adjusting service through downtown Seattle to accommodate the ride-free zone’s demise. County leaders eliminated the ride-free zone to save about $2 million for the mass transit system.

The agency is also moving several routes to service streets to ease the traffic in the underground Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

In order to provide more capacity for Issaquah-bound riders, Metro Transit moved Route 212 to Second Avenue and Fourth Avenue. The shift is meant to encourage Eastgate-bound riders to board buses on routes 212, 215 or 554. The changes should mean lighter loads on Route 218 buses and heavier loads on Route 212 buses.

Planners intend to monitor passenger loads on routes 212 and 218 through the transition in order to balance the available space and demand for service.

In addition to eliminating the ride-free zone in downtown Seattle, Metro Transit is also cutting some low-ridership routes, although no Issaquah-centric route is affected.

Officials ask for riders’ patience

Riders can read a summary of changes online to help prepare. The agency plans to distribute printed rider alert brochures in the coming weeks. Metro Transit expects to update the online trip planner in mid-September so riders can check updated routes. Metro Transit personnel also plan to take to the streets at the end of September and early October to answer riders’ questions.

The agency is also transitioning to a pay-on-entry system on all buses. Riders should prepare for initial delays as lines form to pay fares when boarding.

“We do know there’s going to be a transition and an adaptation period, so we’re asking for people’s patience going into that first week of October,” Metro Transit spokesman Jeff Switzer said Sept. 7. “Plan for some longer lines as people get used to things and get used to the changes, both to their routes, and catching buses on different streets and at different stops, and paying on entry.”

Metro Transit is launching two RapidRide lines Sept. 29 — RapidRide C Line between downtown Seattle and West Seattle, and RapidRide D Line between downtown Seattle and Ballard via Uptown.

“It’s homework time for riders, and we are putting tools online and on the street to help,” Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit general manager, said in a statement. “We need riders to start preparing now so they understand how they’ll be affected by our planned route changes.

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