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Puget Sound Transportation 2004

September 16, 2004

Creating a seamless regional transit system

  • Local transit agencies strive for a Seattle where New Yorkers can feel at home
    Seattle Monorail Project

     Second Avenue and Yesler Way
    Image courtesy of the Seattle Monorail Project
    The Seattle Monorail Project is working with Sound Transit and King County Metro to coordinate transit schedules. Metro buses, for example, may be routed to deliver passengers to monorail stations such as this one proposed for Second Avenue and Yesler Way.

    Imagine it's 2010, and you're headed to the SoDo area to catch an evening Mariners game with a few old friends — one working at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, one at Westlake Center and one near Seattle Center.

    Thanks to the region's increasingly integrated transit network, you all manage to leave work on your regular schedules and still hook up for the evening right on time, and your commutes home after the game (to Tacoma, West Seattle and Queen Anne) will be just as easy, whether there's heavy game traffic or not.

    While such a scenario may appear implausible today, the convenience it represents is driving the blueprints that leaders at Sound Transit, King County Metro and the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) are developing for the region's transit system.

    One of the great benefits of routine travel in cities across Europe and Asia — and in an increasing number of cities across the United States — is the opportunity to move smoothly from one transit mode to another without the hassles of driving and parking a car. On the flip side, one of the first things that citizens of many large cities often notice upon visiting Seattle for the first time is the lack of transit options for a city of its size.

    An integrated system

    A series of key transit projects and planning efforts now under way should go a long way to turn that perception around. Alongside development of the Seattle Monorail Green Line and Sound Transit's

    Central Link light rail, Seattle's transit providers are working together to create an integrated transit network in which buses, light rail and the monorail will work hand-in-hand — so that visitors from Copenhagen, Tokyo or New York (as well as SeaTac or Northgate) will feel right at home.

    The Green Line is scheduled to open in mid-2009 and Sound Transit's Central Link in 2010. When the two systems become fully operational, in addition to providing a combined 28 miles of fixed urban mass-transit, they'll join Seattle's city and regional buses as part of an integrated transit network that's tailored to provide convenient transportation to where residents and visitors live, work and play.

    In a city as large and congested as Seattle, no single transit mode can be expected to be the "silver bullet" that ends all transportation woes. For instance, while Seattle has a nationally renowned bus system that continues to evolve, adding buses will not change the fact that, unfortunately, buses get caught in traffic, too.

    Likewise, while the emergence of light rail and the monorail will give Seattle a significant urban mass-transit system, the two new transit modes will need a steady flow of passenger traffic to flourish — the kind of traffic that Seattle's sophisticated bus system can help provide.

    Feeder buses

    An integrated transit system involves different transit modes working together to maximize service and support a city's varied transportation needs.

    To support Seattle's geographic and social needs, SMP, Metro and Sound Transit will coordinate transit routes, stops and schedules to complement, rather than duplicate, one another — for instance, in some parts of the city, changing bus routes and schedules that run along the Green Line to instead provide feeder buses to Monorail and light-rail stations from communities east and west of the line.

    Planned future monorail and light-rail lines will expand access between the different transit modes.

    Smart cards

    To further integrate the transit modes, Metro, SMP and Sound Transit agencies are becoming part of the regional "smart card" program, which will integrate regional providers into a single fare system. The program will simplify and coordinate fare collection by allowing passengers to pay for and use a single card to transfer between buses, light rail, the monorail and other types of transportation without having to fumble in their pockets for coins, credit cards and transfers from different systems.

    Though SMP, Metro, and Sound Transit are separate agencies, our goal is to provide a single, convenient transit experience. That includes making transfers between the different forms of transit as easy as possible. Transit facilities will be located and designed to maximize passenger convenience and provide flexibility for future transit facilities and operations, with locations such as King Street Station providing a "one-stop shop" where passengers can connect with buses, light rail, the monorail, the ferries, the waterfront streetcar, heavy rail and more.

    Easy transfers

    As light rail and monorail service move closer, bus schedules and routes will also be refined to minimize transfer times. Bus stops will be close to every light rail and monorail station, and clear signage and wayfinding will provide directions for easy transfers as passengers move from one transit mode to another.

    Thousands of residents and business owners provided input that helped shape the Green Line's route, station locations, design and alignment options. Working with our partners, citizens should soon have a variety of opportunities to play a similar role in the planning of routes, schedules, stops and other important elements of Seattle's emerging integrated transit system.

    Denna Cline is director of second phase planning for the Seattle Monorail Project. Austin Jenkins is the agency's director of operations.

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