City SE Seattle: Bus Service on Rainier
posted by October 21 at 16:43 PMon
In my post on bus service changes in Southeast Seattle yesterday, I mentioned in passing that it seemed like Metro was planning to cut an awful lot of routes that currently run on Rainier Ave. South. Although all the Metro staffers who might know exactly how many routes run along Rainier are busy hosting two public meetings on the bus changes at the Holly Park Community Church today, I used Metro’s route list to get a sense of what kind of service will remain on Rainier if all Metro’s route cuts go through. First, here’s a (probably noncomprehensive) list of the routes that run on Rainier: the 7, the 7 Express, the 9 Express, the 34, 39, the 42, the 42 Express, the 48, the 106, and the 107. Of those, only the 7 and the 9 would be unaffected by Metro’s rerouting proposals. (Like yesterday, I’m ignoring the changes Metro says it may consider “depending on resources available,” such as more-frequent service on the 9, on the assumption that a bunch of resources aren’t going to fall on Metro from the sky any time soon.) The 7 Express would be eliminated; the 34 would be eliminated; the 39 would be either eliminated or shortened; the 42 and 42 Express would be eliminated; the 48 would either be shortened to exclude most of South Seattle or no longer serve Columbia City; the 106 would be moved off Rainier; and the 107 would be moved off Rainier. So that’s eight bus routes that currently run on Rainier that Metro is proposing to eliminate, shorten, or move away from Rainier.
Despite all those cuts, Metro is not proposing to increase service along other routes on Rainier; of three potential new all-day routes, only one—the new one-way loop, Route 108—is partly on Rainier. And it’s in Renton.
Lest you think access to transit is a simple matter of walking to the nearest light rail station, think again. Light rail will do a great job of serving people who can get to MLK by bus, bike, or on foot. But if Metro doesn’t greatly enhance bus access from points east of the light rail line, they could be leaving whole neighborhoods without easy access to transit service. Right now, Metro’s proposing exactly three new bus connections that would only improve access to light rail for residents of Mount Baker, Rainier Beach, and Seward Park. That isn’t enough. Rainier and MLK aren’t close together in most of the Rainier Valley, and there are lots of neighborhoods east of Rainier besides Seward Park.
In the comments yesterday, someone suggested that Metro might have targeted Rainier for so many cuts because of a “road diet” it had planned for Rainier that would reduce the number of lanes in the road. Not true. According to a letter written by Seattle Department of Transportation planners Tony Mazzella and Eric Widstrand and posted on the Columbia Citizens web site, SDOT has abandoned plans to shrink Rainier, because doing so “would result in very significant delays on Rainier for transit and all other traffic.” Instead, they’re widening sidewalks near bus stops, improving striping, and adding—you guessed it—sharrows. A better solution would be to get rid of all the on-street parking (it slows traffic, right? so SDOT should like that) and turn those “extra” lanes into bus-only lanes or lanes for buses and bikes. But, this being Seattle, pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders get lane markings, “bus bulbs,” and “special signs in business districts.”
Incidentally, while I was looking up bus routes, I came across Metro’s real-time bus tracker. It’s pretty cool, if utterly useless unless you’re sitting at a fast computer. (And actually even then—it’s not like you can make the buses move faster WITH YOUR MIND). Anyway, I grabbed a screen shot that illustrates the problem with bus service on Rainier as it currently exists: Four 7s, all lined up a few blocks away from one another. Somewhere down the line, someone has been waiting a long, long time for one of those buses to show up.