Cut stops along Route 44 include ones located along Market St at 26th Ave NW, 17th Ave NW, and 14th Ave NW. The pair at 5th Ave NW/6th Ave NW have been reinstated due to community concern.
Who's right in the Route 44 debate?
As the BNT reported last week, King County Metro has decided to move ahead with reducing the number of stops Route 44 takes along NW Market St in order to make bus service faster and more reliable.
Officials from King County Metro have stated that quarter-mile spacing between stops is the industry standard. Currently, many stops in Ballard are much closer together, so they are trying to increase the spacing in order to make transit more efficient.
Though King County Metro states that they received comment primarily on the pair of stops located at 5th and 6th Ave NW (which have been restored), Ballard community members have in the past expressed concern with other stops.
As early as May of 2010, the Ballard District Council sent a joint letter enumerating several problems. The most controversial of stop removals are those at 14th Ave NW and 17th Ave NW.
The stops at NW Market St and 14th Ave NW serves people shopping at the Ballard Market and Safeway, according to the District Council letter. Without this stop, people will now have to cross both NW Market St and the busy 15th Ave NW crosswalk in order to get to a bus, with a full load of groceries. Or they will have to walk down to 11th Ave NW. In addition, a new 238-unit apartment building, Avalon Bay, is being constructed on the 1400 block of NW Market St, which may significantly increase demand.
The stop at NW Market St and 17th Ave NW is a primary access point for the Swedish Hospital facility and surrounding medical services.
In November of 2010, Dan Dixion, Vice President of External Affairs from Swedish, sent a letter stating concern for removal of this bus stop.
“Removing any bus stop by the Swedish/Ballard campus would not assist us in any way and (we) would like to recommend to you not to remove them,” Dixon wrote.
However, since the new RapidRide D Line will be stopping at NW Market St and 15th Ave NW, a couple of blocks away, staff have been generally positive about an improved commuting experience, according to a letter sent by Jennifer Graves, nurse executive at Swedish. She said Swedish’s Commuter Services Department had come to survey staff about the issue, but received little complaint.
Senior citizens living in the Schwabacher House on 17th Ave NW and 59th St NW are also concerned. One resident, Mary Pinson, wrote a letter to King County Councilmember Larry Phillips asking Metro to leave the stop as is.
“When you mention 7 percent of riders would have to walk further it sounds miniscule,” she wrote, “but if you consider the age and ability of the individuals it takes on a whole new meaning.
Kevin Desmond, general manager of the Metro Transit Division, responded to her letter saying that the 17th Ave NW stop was chosen to be cut because it was very near to two other stops seen as more critical, at 20th Ave NW and 15th Ave NW.
In another letter to King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, Ballard resident Stephen Lundgren stated that he used the stop on NW Market St and 26th Ave NW.
“Please support my community’s interests in not allowing Bridging the Gap or Metro funds to be used to widen the gap between bus stops unnecessarily and inefficiently,” he wrote.
Further District Council concerns addressed the large amount of development currently happening in Ballard, much of it right by the cut stops, which would increase demand for ridership considerably.
Bruce Nourish over at the Seattle Transit Blog dismissed objections to the changes, reasoning that the current number of stops is unreasonably slow and inefficient.
“The stops slated for closure here are extremely close together, one or two blocks in all cases, and there is absolutely no complicating factor (steep grade, lack of pedestrian crossings, etc.) in play which could require special mobility consideration, nor are any of these stops optimal transfer points to any other service,” Nourish wrote. “In the absence of any such factor, the 1/4 mile standard is, for a slower, local service such as the 44, the best compromise between length of walk to a stop and the need for the bus to keep moving and stay on schedule.”
As of Saturday, Sept. 29, and despite concerns, the stops have officially been cut.