Route 120 – Delete It or Keep It?

Route 120.

It’s been around since Ben Franklin Transit began, and has seen many, many changes. However, I think it may be time to say goodbye to the 120.

Below is a map of the route in it’s entirety. Can you see the problem?

Route 120 Map
Photo Credit: Ben Franklin Transit

*This is not actually the most current version of the map, but it is the only copy on BFT’s website. The West Richland routing has changed.

End to end, Route 120 is 24.4 miles long in the eastbound direction (westbound is 24.2 miles). Except for the 170, this is BFT’s longest route. Schedule wise, the route has a run-time allocation of 1 hour and 30 minutes to get from end to end. The route is (mostly) very reliable though. During the PM rush hour, OTP can be an issue on the 120EB between Knight Street TC and Three Rivers TC, as well as both directions between Knight Street TC and West Richland TC.

Now, here’s my issue with the 120: It spends too much time running as a local route, not an intercity route.

Route 120 between Three Rivers TC and Huntington TC (system map detail)
Photo Credit: Ben Franklin Transit

As an example, take a look at where Route 120 goes between Three Rivers TC and Huntington TC.

On Canal Street, the bus has a whooping 4 bus stops in either direction (except for one at Canal/Fruitland on 120EB, all are west of Edison Street). On Edison Street, there’s only 1 bus stop eastbound, and 2 westbound. With the exception of Columbia Drive (classified as a principal arterial), the route spends it’s entire time between Three Rivers TC and Huntington TC on Collector Streets (Volland, Fruitland) and Local Streets. This should make any transit planner cringe. Route 120 is supposed to be a “focus route,” but it’s routing makes it anything but that. The only time it’s truly an intercity route is when it crosses the Blue Bridge between Kennewick and Pasco, and when it travels between Knight Street TC and Three Rivers TC.

Another interesting thing about Route 120 is how split up it’s ridership is. (Total disclaimer, this whole paragraph is purely speculative, though based on observation, as I do not have ridership numbers to support these claims …yet.) When travelling eastbound from Knight Street TC, the 120 has very high ridership to Three Rivers TC, but then sees a drastic drop in passengers when heading to Huntington TC. When the 120 heads westbound from Huntington TC, ridership is low (though mostly consistent), but after leaving Three Rivers TC to head to Knight Street TC, the ridership explodes. A large part of this is because of Route 160. If you spend some time watching people boarding/disembarking buses at Three Rivers TC, you’ll see an interesting phenomenon. When the 160WB arrives, you’ll see a very large majority of those riders disembark and head straight to the 120WB. The same thing happens when the 120EB arrives and many of those riders head to the 160EB. You think maybe there’s some sort of a demand for a connection going on here?

As the saying goes, “it isn’t a problem unless you have a solution.”

Well, I have a solution. Say goodbye to Route 120.

In it’s place, we’re going to do a little bit of a restructure.

  • West Richland TC to Knight Street TC – introduce new Route 22, operating as a Richland local route. It will retain the routing that the 120 currently uses between the two transit centers, though service levels will be dropped down to “peak-emphasis.” Between 6-9AM will be a 30 minute headway, 9AM-2PM will be a 60 minute headway, and 2-6PM will be a 30 minute headway.
  • Knight Street TC to Three Rivers TC – Extend Route 160 from it’s current west terminus at Three Rivers TC to Knight Street TC. Eventually, Route 160 will become the main “trunkline” in the BFT system, with 15 minute headways during peak hours and extended service hours.
  • Three Rivers TC to Huntington TC – introduce new Route 40, operating as a Kennewick local route. For the majority of this segment, the current route will be retained. However, the routing east of Klamath/Yelm will be redone. (Use map detail from above for reference) From that intersection, the eastbound route will use Highway 395 to go down towards Columbia Drive, where it will then head east to Fruitland, south to Canal Drive, east to Auburn, south to 6th Ave, west to Dayton, and end at Dayton Street Transfer Point. (Westbound will head north on Dayton, west on Kennewick Ave, and then north on Fruitland to continue the bi-directional segment of the route.) This process will remove the unique deviations that are currently used to serve Clearwater/Yelm on the westbound routing and Canal/Fruitland/Columbia on the eastbound routing. Service levels for Route 40 will be dropped down to “peak-emphasis.” Between 6-9AM will be a 30 minute headway, 9AM-2PM will be a 60 minute headway, and 2-6PM will be a 30 minute headway.
  • Huntington TC to 22nd Avenue TC – introduce new Route 140. (*Number is most likely subject to change) This route will retain all of the current route that Route 120 uses to travel between these 2 destinations, but it will also see an extension of the route to Columbia Basin College and Tri-Cities Airport along 20th Ave. 2 buses will be used to serve the route, with the buses pulsing to/from 22nd Avenue TC every half-hour. (15 minutes to Huntington/CBC & PSC, 15 minutes from Huntington/CBC & PSC) This route will be interlined, most likely with a Pasco local route, but that detail is still left to be determined at this point.

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