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Changes coming to Metro and Sound Transit with new bus routes, more trips

Bus service on and off the Island will be improved this weekend as new Metro bus routes are added to the region and Sound Transit adds more trips on existing routes.

Sound Transit’s 540 Express route between Seattle and Bellevue will get an extra stop on the Island at the North Mercer Park and Ride with an extra trip added to the schedule. The route will also be revised with stops added in the U-District of Seattle.

Sound Transit’s route 554, which also stops on the Island between its destinations of Seattle and Issaquah, will also be improved to 15-minute midday service between Eastgate and downtown Seattle. It will also get minor time adjustments and a stop change on Sunset Way in Issaquah.

The service changes begin Saturday, but many of the changes for the weekday commuter routes don’t begin until Monday, Sept. 22.

Metro and Sound Transit ridership has recently increased, with Metro seeing about 400,000 boardings each weekday and Sound Transit ridership up by 25 percent in July 2007.

The bus changes are the largest single addition of new service since 2001. Many of the changes are designed to help riders make transit connections and to ease commuter overcrowding.

Metro will be beefing up service on five Eastside routes, the 209, 230, 253, 269 and 929. The two new Metro bus routes will serve North Bend, Snoqualmie and Kent. There will be 11 service improvements in Seattle and four in the south part of the county.

In response to requests from the cycling community, Metro will also launch a demonstration project that allows bicycles to be loaded and unloaded on buses at any stop in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel — not just the first and last tunnel stations. If the demonstration project proves successful, Metro will consider making the changes permanent. Other bus-bike changes are planned for next year.

“We’ve listened to riders, cities and businesses, and are pleased to have these improvements hit the road as ridership continues to climb and more service is needed,” said King County Executive Ron Sims. “So many more people are taking the bus here in King County that Metro is among the fastest growing large transit agencies in the nation.”

Bus riders can find all the September changes detailed in the Special Rider Alert brochure, which is online at www.kingcounty.gov/metro. Sound Transit timetables can be found online at www.soundtransit.org.

Most of the additional service for the September service change is funded through the voter-approved Transit Now initiative. More than 48,000 new annual hours of Transit Now service will begin to operate on Sept. 20 – with about 33,000 new hours related to partnerships formed with local cities and employers.

By the end of this year, Metro will have added a total of 110,000 hours in Transit Now-funded service to increase service and relieve overcrowding.

“Today is a great day for Kent and the East Hill,” said King County Council Chair Julia Patterson, who represents the area served by one of the new routes. “The transit needs of suburban neighborhoods are finally being met.”

Metro is also launching a demonstration project to ease restrictions in the tunnel on where bikes can be loaded and unloaded from bus bike racks. The change is expected to make it more convenient for people who ride both bikes and buses. Cyclists are urged to take care when moving off the platform to load their bikes on the front of the bus, and are reminded to use the stairs or elevators – not escalators – between street level and the platforms in stations. If the demonstration project proves successful, Metro will consider making the changes permanent.

Next spring, Metro is planning to expand the hours that bike loading is allowed on streets within the Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle. Currently, bike loading is very limited in the Ride Free Area.

Metro’s new schedule begins Sept. 20, but many of the changes for the weekday commuter routes don’t begin until Monday, Sept. 22. Highlights of the service change include:

New routes

Metro Route 157 is a new weekday peak-commute route providing service to neighborhoods east of Kent. The service connects the Lake Meridian Park-and-Ride and downtown Seattle with stops at Kent East Hill, Glencarin, South 212th Street, and Interstate 5.

The new Route 215 will provide service to North Bend and Snoqualmie residents during peak-commute times. On weekdays, there will be five morning and five afternoon trips connecting North Bend, Snoqualmie and Snoqualmie Ridge to downtown Seattle, with stops at the Issaquah Transit Center and Eastgate Park-and-Ride for connections to other locations. The Route 215 will replace the eastern portion of Route 214, which will now focus solely on service between Issaquah and Seattle.

More service

In Seattle, there will be increased frequency on routes 3, 4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 26, 28, 41, and 44. There will also be new midday trips on Route 46 connecting Fremont, Ballard, and Shilshole. On the Eastside, Metro is beefing up service on routes 209, 230, 253, 269, and 929. In South King County, there will be more service on routes 143, 153, 164 and 915.

Other changes

In addition to the changes already detailed, Metro is making routing and schedule changes to another 22 routes. Some of these include different boarding locations or discontinuing specific trips. It is important to check the new orange timetables or online schedules.

Metro updates its routes and scheduling three times a year to improve service and keep up with the changing needs of transit customers. New orange timetables will soon be available on buses and in Metro information racks. The information is also in the online Trip Planner at www.kingcounty.gov/tripplanner. Enter a travel date for Sept. 20 or later to find trips that reflect Metro’s changed service.

Sometimes people need more than bus service. That’s where Rideshare Services can help by providing resources for carpooling, vanpooling or vansharing. For information about all the services Metro provides, visit Metro Online at www.kingcounty.gov/metro, or call Metro Rider Information at (206) 553-3000.

Sound Transit timetables can be found online at www.soundtransit.org.

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