North Richland Revamp

Perhaps one of the weaker links of the BFT system is the service that is provided to the North Richland area. Currently, Route 23 and Route 26 serve the edge of the area with all day service, only going as far north as Stevens Center and the WSU Tri-Cities campus. During peak hours, Route 26 is extended to serve the Battelle/PNNL campus area, located on the southern edge of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. For off-peak hours, there is taxi feeder service available in the area, though I don’t know how much it gets used (if at all).

Simply put, I think we can find a better way to serve this area.

There’s good reason to visit this issue too. The topic of bringing better service to this part of this city has been coming up a lot lately. Members of the CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee) have asked BFT to consider making changes to better serve North Richland, citing the need to encourage more use of transit by the local workforce. There has also been interest expressed in a worker/driver bus for Hanford, which as I explained in the February board meeting post is upsetting the driver’s union a bit. Regular bus service wouldn’t be able to serve the Hanford Reservation, but the North Richland area does have a lot of Hanford-related workers, particularly Battelle/PNNL, and so the more of those workers we can get out of cars the better.

The Current Routes

Route 23: As you can tell by the presence of the old BFT logo, Route 23 has remained unchanged for a long time. (Based on the verified info I have, it’s looked like this since at least January 1998, and probably even longer.) From Knight Street TC, the bus heads north on Goethals Dr, then east on Swift Blvd. Once on Swift Blvd, the bus serves the Richland Public Library. At Jadwin Ave, the bus turns left and heads north, passing by the Uptown Shopping Center and Chief Joseph Middle School, along with multiple apartment complexes. At the intersection with Highway 240, Jadwin Ave ends and the bus turns right to continue north along Stevens Dr (which is designed as a limited-access urban highway on this segment to help move Hanford traffic). At Stevens Center Place, the bus turns off and serves the office buildings there, which includes some Bechtel National offices. Once passed through the Stevens Center complex, the bus turns left off Garlick Blvd to head east on Spengler Rd, where immediately there is a bus stop to serve the Richland Mobile Home Park. The bus continues down Spengler Rd, until it turns right onto Carriage Ave, which is the last street before Spengler Rd intersects with George Washington Way (which is driven on by Route 26). On Carriage Ave, the bus heads south to Saint St. On Saint St, the bus then heads west, turning off at Newcomer Ave, which is the last  street before Saint St intersects with Stevens Dr (which Route 23 had previously gone north on). On Newcomer Ave, the bus continues heading south. Several blocks after turning on Newcomer Ave, the road curves and becomes an east-west street, renamed Newcomer St. On Newcomer St, the bus takes the very first right at Pike Ave. The bus travels south on Pike Ave for a short time before intersecting with McMurray St. On McMurray St, the bus heads west for a short distance before turning left at the intersection with Jadwin Ave. Finally, the bus travels south on Jadwin Ave along the same path traveled when headed north, turning west at Swift Blvd and south on Goethals Drive to end the trip at Knight Street TC, where it then switches to Route 26.

Route 26: Though the graphic for this route is more modernized, it too has been unchanged for a long period of time. From Knight Street TC, the bus heads east on Knight St, passing the Federal Building and the Richland Post Office. At the intersection with George Washington Way, the bus turns left and heads north. While heading north on George Washington Way, Route 26 passes many destinations, including the Richland Police Department, Richland City Hall, the Uptown Shopping Center and multiple other stores, Jefferson Elementary School, multiple apartment complexes and numerous houses, and Hanford High School. At the intersection of George Washington Way and Sprout Rd, the bus turns right to head east on Sprout Rd, which then brings it to the WSU Tri-Cities campus. (It’s at this point where the off-peak/peak routing for Route 26 differs.) During off-peak hours, the bus continues all the way down Sprout Rd to Harris Ave, where it then turns right and heads south. After passing several riverfront residences, the bus turns left to head west on Spring Rd, and then left again to head south on Davison Ave. At Snyder St, the bus turns right and heads west to reconnect with George Washington Way. Finally, the bus heads south along George Washington Way and then west onto Knight St to end the trip at Knight Street TC, where it then switches to Route 23. During peak hours, the bus turns left at Wazzu Pl (the street at the western edge of the parking lot), then travels north through the campus property by way of the very windy Crimson Way, where it passes by the Consolidated Information Center (WSU Library and PNNL-managed Hanford Technical Library). At the intersection with 1st St, the bus continues north along Port of Benton Blvd, passing by the offices of multiple Hanford-related companies. At 11th St, the bus turns left and then re-intersects with George Washington Way. After turning right and heading north for a short distance, the bus turns left and heads west on Horn Rapids Rd. At Q Ave, the bus turns left and heads south, passing through the middle of the Battelle/PNNL campus. At Battelle Blvd, the bus turns right, serves a stop directly in front of the PNNL building (at the north end of Einstein/W Ave), then heads south on Einstein/W Ave. When intersecting with 5th Ave, the bus turns left and then left again at Q Ave. The bus then continues north along Q Ave, passing through the Battelle/PNNL campus again. At Horn Rapids Rd, the bus turns right and then right again at George Washington Way. At the intersection with Sprout Rd, the bus turns left to head towards the WSU Tri-Cities campus. However, this time the bus continues on to Harris Ave and follows the same route that is always followed by Route 26 during off-peak hours.

Problems With the Current Routes

Let’s start with Route 23. As I’ve said in my complete BFT revamp post, the 23 is a strong performer. However, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like the circuitous route it takes when heading south from Stevens Center towards Jadwin Ave. Part of the issue stems from the bus serving the Richland Mobile Home Park. In the early days of BFT service, the residents of this area pressed hard to get the 23 up there, and as far as I know it’s been there ever since. Every time I’ve ridden the 23, I’ve seen someone boarding/alighting (or both) at that stop. And because of topography the bus stop location is pretty inflexible, since the next stop east is at the bottom of a small hill. Since BFT planners made the decision to have the bus serve a stop on the south side of Spengler St, the bus was stuck going east and the circuitous route back to Jadwin Ave was the result. The simple solution would be to just have the bus simply go east on Spengler St, south on Carriage Ave, and then west on Saint St to reconnect with Stevens Dr. Part of the reason that isn’t the case is because of Stevens Dr being designed as a limited-access urban highway in that area, along with the potential for traffic signal delays at the Jadwin/240 intersection. However, Newcomer Ave/St is not a bus friendly street. It’s not unusual to see the bus have to let a car coming from the opposite direction pass by first because of the narrow street width/cars parked on the street. Largely because of the time that is wasted on the turnback loop for Route 23, often it will be running behind and arrive late at Knight Street TC. This really becomes an issue during peak hours, though the high number of people boarding/alighting are also to blame for that.

In Route 26’s case, the issue is split between the off-peak/peak routes. In the case of the off-peak 26, it’s not so much that there’s a problem with the route, but more of what I see as a waste of service. If the WSU Tri-Cities campus was directly located at the corner of George Washington Way and Sprout Rd, we could just keep the 26 on George Washington Way. However, because the campus was built at the end of Sprout Rd (next to the river), the 26 has to run down there. That’s part of the reason why the 26 is stuck doing it’s turnback loop on Harris Ave/Spring St/Davison Ave/Spengler St. (It doesn’t continue down Spring St since there isn’t a street light at the intersection with George Washington Way there.) The other reason is to bring the bus closer to Hanford High School. I think that may be an unnecessary endeavor, as the bus already serves Hanford High with a stop at Hanford St and George Washington Way, as well as some school trippers that run directly to/from Knight Street TC. With the peak 26, the issue is that the route is among the most circuitous in the BFT system. As I explained earlier in the post, the bus meanders quite a bit through the area. It also adds a half-hour of service time when running on the peak routing, which requires an additional bus to be dispatched for the 23/26 and then ends up taking away service hours that could be used elsewhere.

Possible Changes

As I explained at the beginning of this post, a lot of focus for this revamp is not only strengthen Routes 23 and 26, but to do so while bringing better service to the North Richland area. With that in mind, I have a few options to consider, each with their strengths and weaknesses.

-A “loop” is perhaps the simplest revision that could be incorporated. Both buses would leave Knight Street TC at the same time, with Route 23 heading up Jadwin Ave/Stevens Dr and Route 26 heading up George Washington Way. At Battelle Blvd, Route 23 would turn right and head east, while Route 26 would turn left and head west. At the corner of Q Ave, the bus running as Route 23 would turn into Route 26 and vice versa, with the bus that left Knight Street TC as Route 23 returning as Route 26, and the bus that left as Route 26 returning as Route 23. However, this option would present a couple of issues. Service on Route 23 would no longer cover Stevens Center or the Richland Mobile Home Park, and service on Route 26 would no longer cover the WSU Tri-Cities campus or Port of Benton Blvd. These destinations would still be within a 10 minute walk of a bus stop, and paratransit would not be affected, but this option has too many cons to make it worthwhile.

-Another option would be to keep each route on their current corridors (Route 23 on Jadwin/Stevens, Route 26 on GW Way), but simplify the routes and have their northern ends oriented around the Battelle/PNNL campus. There are multiple variations on how the buses could traverse the North Richland area, but for a general guideline, they would go something like the example pictured on the right. For Route 23, the route would still leave and arrive at Knight Street TC via the same direction currently used. When travelling north, Route 23 would head north on Stevens Dr, then turn right to head east on Spengler Rd. On Spengler Rd, the bus stop for Richland Mobile Home Park (abbreviated as “RMHP” on the map) would be moved further west. The bus would then turn onto Stevens Center Place and go through the complex, heading west to reconnect with Stevens Dr and continue heading north. At Battelle Blvd, the bus would head east, passing by the main PNNL building. At Q Ave, the bus would turn left to head north, passing through the middle of the Battelle/PNNL campus. Turning left at Horn Rapids Blvd and then left again at Stevens Dr, Route 23 would then head south towards the Jadwin/240 intersection. It would then turn left to continue south on Jadwin Ave, and then finally end the trip at Knight Street TC. For Route 26, the new route would be a consolidated version of the off-peak/peak routings. When heading northbound, the route would follow Knight St east, and then turn left onto George Washington Way and head north. At Sprout Rd, the bus would turn right and head east towards the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Just as the peak 26 currently does, the bus would turn left at Wazzu Pl and then left again at Crimson Way. At the end of Crimson Way, the bus would continue north along Port of Benton Blvd, and then turn left at Battelle Blvd. When reconnecting with George Washington Way, the bus would turn north for a little bit more, and then turn left at Horn Rapids Rd. Making another left turn, the bus would head south on Q Ave, passing through the middle of the Battelle/PNNL campus. At Battelle Blvd, the bus would turn left and head east for a short distance to reconnect with George Washington Way again. Finally, the bus would turn right and head south and then end the trip at Knight Street TC. There are multiple variations on the directions/roads that the routes could travel through the North Richland area, but there are a few destinations that largely dictate the possibilities of how the routes can be designed. (The names are underlined with red on the map.) With Route 23, ideally the bus wouldn’t have to meander off Stevens Dr to serve the Richland Mobile Home Park and Stevens Center. However, unless there was a convenient bus stop at the corner of Stevens Dr and Spengler St (like the curb cut at the corner of Saint St), it would be a hard sell, particularly for the mobile home park. In the case of Route 26, I would prefer to have the bus running all the way north on George Washington Way, but the location of the WSU Tri-Cities campus prohibits that. Even if the bus were to go down Sprout Rd, serve the campus, and then turn around to head back to George Washington Way, the time consumed on that maneuver would actually be more than the time spent heading north along Crimson Way towards Port of Benton Blvd. Also, with all the Hanford-related employers on Port of Benton Blvd, moving the bus off that road would be a bit contradictory to the goal of getting more people in this area out of their cars.

-Lastly, there would be the option of instituting an express route running between Knight Street TC and the North Richland area. It’s important to note that this option could be instituted as soon as tomorrow if BFT so wished, and it would have no impact on service hours, bus dispatches, or staffing. Routes 23 and 26 would remain unchanged and continue running as they currently do. However, the peak-extension that the 26 currently has would be deleted, and instead it would be shifted to the express route, which we’ll call Route 26X. Departing Knight Street TC at the same time, Routes 26 and 26X would both follow the same path when heading northbound. However, the key difference is that the 26 would be making all the stops along the way, but the 26X would have zero stops until North Richland. In the graphic on the left, you’ll see the red markers which indicate the locations of the stops for Route 26X. All of these are stops that are currently in existence, so the infrastructural work for this change would be very minimal (minus the removal of stops on the east side of Q Ave, as well as the one at Einstein/6th). You may also notice that there is a red marker to the left which isn’t on the route’s path. That’s the location of a current stop on the peak 26 in front of the PNNL building. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep that stop for the 26X, but it is still a key location, so I thought it would be best to note it. Once headed southbound back to Knight Street TC, Route 26X would still not be making any passenger pick-ups, but it could do drop-offs if requested. I don’t think this would be a big issue, as in my experience from riding the peak 26, very few if any riders from the North Richland area disembark before the bus arrives at Knight Street TC. Using the same parameters of the existing schedule for Route 26 (view it here on BFT’s website), Route 26X would run 6 times during each peak period. AM Peak would see a departure from Knight Street TC every 30 minutes from 6:15 to 8:45, while PM Peak would see a departure every 30 minutes from 3:15 to 5:45. Something else that could be considered with this restructure is adding a 6:15 departure for Route 26. It’s not absolutely crucial, but I know it’s a trip that would be used by riders. This could even be a good application for my Drop-Off Only idea, though I still think it’d be better to have the buses running later in the first place.

In Conclusion…

Each of these options has their strengths and weaknesses. However, I do think that one of these options, or even a hybrid, would leave service for riders of the existing routes unaffected while still improving access to transit for the North Richland area. Personally, I would like to see the 2nd option instituted, but one of its biggest downfalls is the minimal spare time it allows, which could lead to late buses and missed connections. That’s why I think the last option, creating Route 26X, would be the best way to go.

What are your thoughts on this? Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet to @ziggzagzac.

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