Another bus route suggestion from Seattle Transit Blog: Split the 48

Bruce Nourish at Seattle Transit Blog has been making the case for some changes to Metro bus routes that he claims would improve efficiency and rider experience (including changes to routes 4 and 3, which were noted in earlier posts here and here). Earlier this week, he proposed cutting the 48 in two, creating a south segment from UW to Mount Baker Station and a north segment from Loyal Heights to Bellevue Transit Center via UW. 

The main advantages, he says, would be increased reliability and the potential to put the southern segment (which goes along 23rd Ave in the Central District) on electric trolley wires with relatively little extra cost.

From Seattle Transit Blog:

Talk of splitting the 48 in the U-District probably began when the route was created, and has yet to stop. In general, there tends to be much more transit ridership from residential areas to urban centers, or between urban centers, rather than between residential areas. While reasonably good bidirectional demand exists throughout the route, much of the 48′s ridership is going to or from the U-District, and in that circumstance, splitting the route there has the potential to improve reliability for all riders, while forcing only a minority to make a transfer.  

There’s a another good reason to split the 48: the south section already runs under trolleybus wire (used by the 4 and 43) for much of its length. Were this bus split, only about 1.5 miles of trolleybus wire would be required, between John and Cherry, and Dearborn and Plum. At the current cost of $3 million per mile for trolleybus wire, electrifying this route would probably cost less than $5 million with minimal construction risk or environmental process entailed. Along with the roughly $12 million project to move the 3/4 wire from James to Yesler, this project would be perfect for the $20 million earmarked for trolleybus expansion in the city’s $60 VLF proposal.

Riders going from the north leg of the route to the south (or vice versa) would need to transfer where the segments meet in the U District. But Nourish claims the majority of riders on the route already transfer either at Montlake or the U District, and the split would potentially open up a transit connection from North Seattle to Bellevue that does not exist today.

What do you think of this idea? Would you use the “forty-late” more if it were more reliable? Is the promise of one less diesel bus route in the neighborhood worth the lack of a one-seat ride to North Seattle?

Here’s the route today (from the Metro timetable):

0 thoughts on “Another bus route suggestion from Seattle Transit Blog: Split the 48

  1. I’m sorry, but even though I know that Electric Trolleys are cheaper, I think that they are not helpful in helping Metro be a consistent, efficient mode of transportation. Anyone who rides the 7 consistently knows that buses break down a lot because of the electric trolley wires.

    I ride the 7 between eight to twelve times a week and at least two of those rides the trolley wires come loose, back up traffic, and make the commute a lot slower. I believe this proposal will hurt efficient, consistent transportation (which is already lacking) in the Central District.

  2. The new trolley buses that will replace the current ones will apparently be much less prone to getting stuck, as they won’t pop off the wires as easily AND they’ll have independent power supplies so they can run off the wires if they need to.

  3. I would definitely support splitting the route. Seems almost everyone gets off in the U District, so it wouldn’t adversely affect many folks (although I do occassionally take the bus from the CD to my sister’s house in Greenwood). Switch the south route to trolley would be a huge plus.

  4. Read about this proposal on Seattle Transit Blog a few days ago. I seem to see a fair number of students in the morning going north bound that get on in Central District and Capitol Hill along 23rd that appear to be going to Roosevelt or Blanchet High Schools (based on the logos on their bags). Guess that is limited to a few runs in the mornign and afternoon before and after school and they could/would transfer from the “48S” to the “48N” in U-District for through rides. Have only rode the 48 from CD to 85th & Aurora a few times myself for specific errard of picking up the car from the shop.

  5. I live along the 14 route and ride it daily. I think Alex overestimates both the number of times the contact comes off the wire and the amount of time it takes to correct. However, I see additional benefits of the electric bus in air quality and noise – on weekends, diesel buses are used on the 14 and I definitely notice the additional noise and pollution.

  6. The 7 is also one of the routes that run the converted Bredas, buses purchased back when we first opened the bus tunnel downtown. These are ancient buses and I’m not surprised you see failures (as one does on the 43, the other route I see them used).

    When the most recent fleet of trolleys were purchased, I noticed significant improvement in terms of coming off the wires compared to their predecessors. I would imagine that same gear will be used on the new buses.

    And as Wave says, new trolleys will also have limited off-wire capability to help clear an intersection if they lose the wire, among other things.

  7. I believe there SDOT and Metro are already looking at the possibility of filling in the trolley wire gaps in the 48s route. If that happened the two would be split at least for a time.

  8. One thing that was pointed out over at STB was that the south half of the 48 has much higher ridership than the north half. If the route were split, it would open up the possibility of more frequent service through the CD, as well as make it cheaper for Metro.

    Assuming Metro ever starts expanding service again, instead of just cutting it.

  9. I hope this doesn’t happen any time soon. I have a freshman at Garfield who has to get up to Green Lake as quickly as possible after school every day. I think his ride would be a lot longer time-wise if he has to transfer. I guess we’ll see.