Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Savage Love Letter of the Day | "That's What Makes America Spe... »

Monday, October 20, 2008

Big Changes Coming To Bus Service in SE Seattle

posted by on October 20 at 17:56 PM

Big changes are underway for bus service in Southeast Seattle, where King County Metro plans to re-route, reschedule, or eliminate more than a dozen existing routes. (Details and route maps available here). I got my flyer in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a rundown of the proposals, along with some observations (I’m ignoring the “potential service enhancements” on the theory that Metro isn’t going to have a lot of discretionary cash for a long, long time).

1) Get rid of the Route 7 express, which runs infrequently between Rainier Beach and downtown during morning and afternoon rush hours, and extend service on the Route 9 (Rainier Beach to Capitol Hill) to serve the Rainier Beach light rail station. As a frequent Route 9 and non-express rider, I won’t actually benefit from these changes (I would benefit from one of the fabled “potential enhancements,” “more frequent service on Route 9 express,” but I won’t get my hopes up); but it’s a no-brainer to improve access to light rail from points east of MLK. However, if Metro improves access to Rainier Beach without making it easier for everyone else in the Rainier Valley between Othello and MLK to access light rail too, they aren’t going to see many people leaving Rainier for light rail; it doesn’t matter how fast it is if you can’t get to it.

2) Extend Route 14 (Mount Baker to downtown) to serve the light-rail station at Rainier and MLK (the “Mount Baker station.”). From here, the Mount Baker proposals break into two options. Both would eliminate the Route 42 on MLK (which duplicates light rail), and both would eliminate a small segment of the 14 between the Mount Baker station and S. Hanford Street. Plan A would extend all 48 trips to Rainier Beach but eliminate service to Columbia City along S. Alaska St., and eliminate service between Beacon Hill and SoDo on the 38. Plan B would create a new route 109 between Skyway and Mount Baker, but would basically eliminate service on the 48 to the south end. It would also eliminate the 38. Both plans seem like mixed bags for South Seattle residents—the first one screws Beacon Hill who need to get to SoDo and Columbia City residents who want to head west (to light rail, for example); the second might improve travel times on the 48 for north end residents, but for southenders, it creates a new milk run that could be as slow and unreliable as the 7.

3) Eliminate the Route 34 between Rainier Beach and downtown, and either: a) also eliminate Routes 35 and 39 and “replace” them with a new, infrequent (every 30 minutes to an hour) Route 50 serving Seward Park and the northmost end of Columbia City; or b) keep the 39 but end it at Othello instead of Henderson in Rainier Beach. It’s hard to see why cutting a route entirely and replacing it with one that serves fewer people is better than cutting it somewhat but serving almost everyone.

4) I don’t know enough about Renton/Skyway transit issues to speak fluently on them, so I’ll just tell you what they’re proposing: Eliminating service on the 7 between Henderson and Prentice Street, and either: a) extending the 107 from Renton to serve the Rainier Beach rail station; moving the 107 off Rainier and onto 62nd Ave. S., eliminating service for some riders; and creating the Route 109 mentioned above; or b) rerouting the 107 even further east, along the route of the 109 (not included in this proposal), and making it longer; and creating a crazy-looking loop Route 108 to serve Rainier Beach, Skyway, and West Hill.

5) No more route 32 from downtown to Beacon Hill and Rainier Beach (who knew so many bus routes ended up in Rainier Beach?), and a shorter, all-trolley Route 36 that would only run to the Othello light rail station (instead of, once again, Rainier Beach). A longer Route 106 would pick up some of that slack, but it would no longer serve Rainier Ave. S. Is it me, or does an awful lot of service on Rainier get eliminated under Metro’s plan?

6) Cut the 194 to the airport, which light rail would duplicate, and replace it when light rail isn’t running with a new Route 195. This seems like a totally common-sense move that no one except anti-rail zealots could oppose, though I suppose someone will try to prove me wrong.

A few observations from other places. Seattle Transit Blog points out that Metro’s proposals miss a big opportunity to link the Rainier Valley to other parts of South Seattle—in other words, it still assumes, like the current bus system, that you’re trying to get downtown—and not, say, between Beacon Hill and Rainier. As nice as it will be to get to points north without having to go through downtown, sometimes you just want to go from Georgetown to Columbia City (which is currently more or less impossible).

The Rainier Valley Post has (uncharacteristically) little to say about the changes, but commenters there note that what Southeast Seattle needs is more bus service, not less. Given that Metro’s recent “service improvements” failed to provide a minute of additional service in Southeast Seattle, I’d say that’s about right.

Scott at the Central District News is psyched about the changes, noting optimistically, “it would be nice if this all worked out as planned.”

I agree. And I’m optimistic. I hope Metro will find the money, political will, and vision to create a bus system that works with light rail and makes the whole city easier to access without a car.

If you want to learn more about changes to bus service in Southeast Seattle (or to share your thoughts or concerns with Metro staff), Metro is holding a series of community meetings on the proposal. The first one was last week, but there are still seven more to go; information, including addresses and times, below the jump.

• Tuesday, Oct. 21 – 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave. S., Seattle

• Tuesday, Oct. 21 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
New Holly Gathering Hall, 7054 32nd Ave. S., Seattle

• Wednesday, Oct. 22 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Federal Way City Hall, council chambers, 33325 8th Ave. S., Federal Way

• Thursday, Oct. 23 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Fire District #20 training facility, 12424 76th Ave. S., Seattle (Skyway/West Hill)

• Tuesday, Oct. 28 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle

• Thursday, Oct. 30 – 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
SeaTac City Hall, 4800 S. 188th St., SeaTac

• Thursday, Oct. 30 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Foster High School, 4242 S. 144th St., Tukwila

RSS icon Comments


People live there?

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 20, 2008 6:35 PM
"the first one screws Beacon Hill who need to get to SoDo"

The light rail will fill that gap, basically. There's a station near the stadiums and one down on Lander, I think.

The only real issue with the elimination of the 38 is for people who are about halfway up Beacon Hill who have difficulty walking to either the Beacon Hill station or the Mt Baker station -- they aren't far apart, technically, but that's a hell of a hill if you aren't fit enough to make the walk. Some of the older folks who live along the 38 route will miss that bus a lot. (Heh, we should put in a McClellan cable car.)

However, if I recall correctly, while one of the proposals eliminates the 38 entirely, the other one keeps it running to the top of the Hill, and so the part of the route going to SODO is replaced by the light rail.

Posted by litlnemo | October 20, 2008 8:12 PM

The 39 change isn't as bad as you say; they're promising evening service, which gives the Seward Park neighborhood an opportunity to use the train in the evenings.

If you live on Rainier, the only real access to the train is at Mt. Baker and Rainier Beach stations.

Posted by Martin H. Duke | October 20, 2008 8:55 PM

Re: the 194, some of us prefer the thrill of heading to the airport with a flight to catch, crawlig through I-5 traffic as the minutes tick away, wondering just how long the anti-terrorist-pretend security lines will be when we arrive. Germans and Franco might have preferred timely trains, but we Americans, I think, prefer the challenge of a less predictable schedule.

Posted by kinaidos | October 20, 2008 9:24 PM

shut yo mouth, kinaidos!

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 20, 2008 9:37 PM


Posted by Switching to Seattle Weekly | October 20, 2008 9:41 PM

@ 6: why? is their blog better?

i'm confused about why increased 9 service wouldn't help someone who frequently rides the 9.

as someone who lives near the 9 terminus on the hill i am soooo thrilled that they increased service. can we talk about express buses that JUST go to the international district? or buses that leave as late as 10pm? (as opposed to like 6pm before). hell yeah the 9 bus made some major improvements and i wish the 60 would follow suit

Posted by bridget | October 20, 2008 10:14 PM

Bridget @7: Oh, hell, yeah, more service on the 9 (and 60) would help. I'm just saying that since those improvements are just "possible" if more money is found, they seem pretty unlikely to happen.

Posted by ECB | October 20, 2008 10:52 PM

Hey, leave the 194 alone! It's a quick, efficient, and extremely inexpensive way to get from downtown to the airport. Or back. I'd want to see the light rail actually functioning and providing a superior service to the 194 before I'd think cutting it was a good idea.

Seriously, the 194 is one of the best bus routes in the city. Cut one of the lines that *doesn't* do its job.

Posted by Monty | October 20, 2008 11:28 PM

According to my calculations, the 194 to the airport is cheaper, faster if there's zero traffic, and goes right to the terminal instead of way the hell on the other side of Pacific Highway. And I PRAYED for light rail.

Posted by Sue Ann | October 21, 2008 7:25 AM

Isn't 7 the "Bum bus"?

Posted by TheBaron | October 21, 2008 8:14 AM

"Is it me, or does an awful lot of service on Rainier get eliminated under Metro’s plan?"

Once the "road diet" goes into effect on Rainier Ave from Alaska-to-Henderson, having buses on Rainier will not be reliable. There will be far too much traffic to deal with and they wouldn't be able to keep to the time tables. How about rather than a road diet, just make BAT lanes instead that both the bikers and the buses can use. In effect doing the same thing as a diet yet still allows Metro to run routes and not leave all of us on Rainier stranded.

Posted by dkl | October 21, 2008 9:13 AM

Keep the 194, trim the frequency maybe a bit, but it will be cheaper and usually faster than light rail (

Posted by Pro rail/Pro transit | October 21, 2008 9:31 AM

also metro neglected to put the longer (almost 10 minutes!!) travel time to Seatac via rail over bus in the bulletin--Ive been taking that 194 from LQA to Seatac back and forth for over 4 years now twice a week and even with my 2/13 connection I'll still be taking the 194. Until oil becomes untenable that is. plus, having to walk several blocks to get each connection and then sometimes awkward entrances to the tunnel, having to walk another 5 minutes once I arrive at the airport will be annoying. now matter how well decorated it is. keep the 194.

Posted by pro rail/ pro transit | October 21, 2008 9:37 AM

A woman on my #7 express bus addressed us all about this potential change last night. I ride the #7 express, and it's a hell of a lot faster during rush hour than the stop-once-per-block-for-30-minutes #7 Rainier.

I'm pro light rail, but I'm a lot farther from a station than I am from Rainier and Orcas where I can catch a bus.

Posted by jackie treehorn | October 21, 2008 10:09 AM

There are many problems with Metro's service to Rainier. I can vouch, because I have driven them ALL. The biggest problem, true expresses don't exist on Rainier.
The 7X makes every stop from Waters and Fletcher to Graham street, then stops every five blocks until I-90. It skips very few stops on Rainier. The only riders whom truly benefit board from Edmunds- aka Columbia City residents. Most of them are left holding the bag, because the 7X never runs on time.
The local 7 is bogged down by Seattle Public school students. Many 7 trips have been made to accommodate both Rainier Beach and Franklin High students. The 7 is in no way as bogged down as the 48 by students using the bus (Rainier Beach, Franklin, Garfield, Roosevelt, AND Ballard High) all at the same time commuters are using the bus system.
The 9X is a joke. I felt so bad yesterday. A lady boarded my 7 in front of the Rainier Beach Safeway. She asked if I connected to the 60. I said yes, but the 9X would get you there faster then me. As I pulled around Rainier and Henderson, a 9X pulled in front of me. It didn't take me long to pull up behind the 9X and transfer her. However, within one more stop, I passed up the 9X. I left it in the dust. My bus was jammed with Franklin High kids. Many riders refused to be squashed in with them. My bus emptied out to less then 10 people after I dumped off the students at MLK. I beat the 9X to 12th and Jackson. Moral of the story. The lady would have been served better staying on my bus- it isn't supposed to be that way.
Why not have express routes that cut off earlier- the north end has them the 5X, 15X, 17X, 18X, 26X, & 28X all cut off @ 65th with one, maybe, two stops at Market/45th then use the main arterial. NOTHING in the south ends does this.
Why don't we have BRT lanes on Rainier in the first place? How are people going to connect to light rail on time, if their bus is bogged down by local traffic?
Something that many haven't even thought of. The fare cost of riding light rail. A person with reduced fare will NOT be able to use their fare sticker. They WILL have to pay Sound transit, albeit a reduced fare, on top of a fare sticker they use to ride metro.
The amount of people who use a fare sticker/ card is higher by magnitude in SE Seattle, then anywhere else in King County.
The south end has a large population of both elderly and disabled users. Most of the service up to now has been geared to work for them. Now a large commuting population is surfacing. We don't have more money to create more service in substantial amounts. We will have to compromise one group in order to accommodate the other. It will be a tough call to be made.
Here are some solutions that could ease congestion. Start with making the city of Seattle pay for their students: Student cards should ONLY be valid during school durations. We could sign the coaches 7STUDENTS. Their cards would ONLY be valid on these trips. Any other time they would have to pay cash, or use a ticket. What about the students whom are late start, early release, or have after school activities? They can pay cash. They always had to before when the rode Laidlaw.

Make discount fares invalid during rush hours (Los Angles does this already). Presumably, anyone going to work makes money to pay their bus fare. Doctors appointments can be scheduled between rush hours.

Eliminate the Ride Free Area. It is an agreement grandfathered in from when Seattle owned Metro. County subsidies to any specific business district are not fair. The DBA pays pennies in the jar for this service. It creates huge fare evasion and security issues. It also costs time by confusing customers about when they should have fare ready.

Work to eliminate cash fares. They make unloading, loading more difficult. Why not have kiosks, vending machines in major transit areas, where passengers can purchase tickets/ passes? Every subway I have ever ridden on has them at every station.

Educate people how to be smart passengers. Other people make your bus late. Public transportation is a team effort- everyone has a job.

Posted by Kat | October 21, 2008 1:07 PM

Most of what #16 wrote is right on. The ride free area should be a fri-sun dealio anyhow. it does create huge fare enforcement issues and greatly slows down the loading and unloading of the coach. The popular slogans Go With the Flow work very well in other cities.

BRT down Rainier (a la 15th) would be pretty solid. Those coaches take way way too long as it is.

Posted by righton | October 21, 2008 1:49 PM

Hey Erica!
Looks like the biggist change is the forced transfer for all former 42 riders, who now board a 48 bus, then transfer to Link for the trip downtown, unless your lucky enough to live within walking distance to a Link platform.
That could be alot of riders, since it's up to 1.6 miles between 2 of the 4 stations.
About how much time does this add (given the frequency of trains) to the trip downtown on average
How many riders will this affect?
Is the fare exactly the same as Metro's?

Posted by Just Wunderin' | October 22, 2008 11:19 AM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.