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Friday, November 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Commuters settle bus-reroute dispute

By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Capitol Hill and Redmond transit advocates have settled a dispute over a Sound Transit express bus route that threatened to deepen divisions between Seattle and the Eastside over transportation policy.

Sound Transit Route 545 runs between downtown Seattle and Redmond on Interstate 5 and Highway 520. A vocal group of Capitol Hill residents who commute to Redmond had been lobbying Sound Transit to reroute reverse-commute peak-period buses over Capitol Hill, a move Eastside interests opposed.

Yesterday the Capitol Hill forces backed off. In return, John Resha, who heads an organization that represents major Redmond employers on transportation issues, joined them in urging Sound Transit to explore other ways to improve express bus service to Capitol Hill.

Sound Transit board members sounded relieved yesterday when they learned of the deal, which averted a potentially nasty cross-lake showdown. Such heavyweights as Redmond-based Microsoft and state House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, already had weighed in on opposing sides of the conflict.

"It looked like this was something someone was going to walk away unhappy from," said board member Dave Enslow, a Sumner city councilman.

Supporters of the reroute, who included the pro-rail group People for Modern Transit, pointed to the large concentration of Capitol Hill residents who work in Redmond. Bringing the bus closer to their homes would increase ridership, they argued.

But Eastside cities and Redmond businesses said the reroute would significantly increase travel times from downtown and harm Redmond workers from other neighborhoods who now catch the 545 downtown. Sound Transit's service planners agreed.

Anirudh Sahni, a former Microsoft employee who lives on Capitol Hill and led the campaign for the reroute, said yesterday he backed off because he had been convinced that the impact on non-Capitol Hill riders was greater, and the projected ridership gains smaller, than he had expected.

But Capitol Hill, which isn't served directly by Sound Transit, still deserves better connections, he said. Resha, executive director of the Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association, agreed.

Along with Richard Borkowski of People for Modern Transit, they urged Sound Transit to explore adding a stop to the 545 on the east side of I-5 near downtown to better serve Capitol Hill. They also suggested the agency consider extending its Route 550 up Olive Way to the vicinity of the Group Health complex on Capitol Hill.

The 550 now runs between Bellevue and downtown Seattle, terminating at the downtown bus tunnel's Convention Place Station just west of I-5.
 
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Sound Transit program manager Mike Bergman said the agency would consider both ideas. If it works out, adding a stop to the 545 east of I-5 could be done fairly quickly, he said.

But extending the 550 to Group Health will require more extensive study, Bergman said. It would add about 10 minutes to the route's one-way travel time, he said, and that could mean less frequent service unless Sound Transit finds the money to add more buses.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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