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Metro readies the B Line as SR-520 tolling looms

The King County Council met last Tuesday evening with Eastside transit riders to hear their comments about the proposed changes in Metro bus service to begin in October. It was their fifth public meeting on the proposal.

Along with Metro, the Council has been preparing for increases in transit use expected when tolling on SR-520 begins later this year. The changes also come as the county wishes to save money by consolidating routes and coordinating operations with Sound Transit.

The centerpiece of the current round of changes is the addition of the Rapid Ride B Line between the Bellevue Transit Center on 108th Avenue N.E. and the Redmond Transit Center. Many drivers and transit riders have already seen the new larger Rapid Ride blue and red buses on some routes. The B Line is intended to provide faster service between the downtown transit center in Bellevue and Redmond.

The meeting, held at the CCMV, included five members of the King County Council. Of the 50 persons present, about 30 were riders who came to listen or comment. The remaining 20 or so were King County Council and Metro staff.

All riders who spoke appeared to be well-versed in not only the proposed changes, but the nuances of transit on the Eastside.

The areas that will see the greatest amount of change are the N.E. 8th Street corridor east of I-405; routes along 148th and 156th Avenues S.E. from Eastgate to Overlake; the Eastgate and Bellevue College neighborhoods, and a trio of routes south and east of those, adjacent to Lake Sammamish.

Several routes are to be eliminated due to the existing overlap of routes between Metro and Sound Transit. Others are to be eliminated or altered because they are not well used. Some of the routes that will be significantly reduced in length or eliminated include: 247, 253, 256, 261, 265, 266, 272 and 926. Riders who use them are to be accommodated with other routes.

The meeting at the CCMV with five members of the King County Council present was to gather more comments from citizens on the proposed changes. About 15 commented on the changes.

Most commenters at the meeting decried the loss of their neighborhood routes, saying that new routes would mean walking further, fewer places to board or being bypassed by buses that might already be full. Many spoke of the needs of themselves or relatives who are special needs riders.

But Metro officials said the changes are needed to improve revenue and accommodate the additional riders who are expected when SR-520 tolling begins.

David Hull, the supervisor of service planning for Metro, told the group on Tuesday evening, “We are trying to size routes and services for the neighborhoods they serve.”

“We are taking resources that are not that well used,” he explained. “There are too many dead-head hours and buses that are empty. We are moving them to areas where they can generate revenue.”

Hull conceded that riders will be affected. “Most will see improvements, but some will have to make changes,” he said. “There will be different ways to travel, but the areas are still covered.”

The Council must vote on the changes before they are implemented.

Despite their concerns about losing neighborhood service, many of the commenters had good things to say about Metro and the planning process. Rider James Johnson, who participated in the Sounding Board process that brought riders together in the planning for the route changes, said that Metro had encouraged comments and input from the beginning. Metro sent out nearly 100,000 questionnaires and held four other community meetings about the upcoming changes. For more, go to www.metro.kingcounty.gov.

Community Events, April 2014

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