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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SE Seattle: Bus Service on Rainier

posted by on October 21 at 16:43 PM

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.


RSS icon Comments


Why don't they just cut bus service to the rich areas near Rainier Beach (Seward Park that is).

After all, they never use it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 21, 2008 4:47 PM

I commute on the 7 every day. This morning, I thought the sight of three 7's in a row, waiting at a stoplight was a psuedo-apocolyptic numerological sign, but it was only poor management.

Posted by Edward | October 21, 2008 4:56 PM

Notice that two of the 7s are heading north and two are heading south. Which is not good, but not as bad as ECB intends you to assume.

Posted by F | October 21, 2008 4:57 PM

Well, it's obvious they want to force feed the choo-choo train so they can show ridership and bilk us for more tax monies.

Here's my question though. I take the 150 when I go to the city for concerts at Benaroya Hall. The 150 basically flies once it gets on I-5 and then down the busway to the tunnel.

How can a train which runs down an "avenue", Rainier, compete with a bus in an HOV lane on the higheway with no stops?

It doesn't make sense!

Posted by John Bailo | October 21, 2008 5:05 PM

If the buses in my neighborhood came that often, I might ride them. Ten minutes is the magic number; any less often, and you (a) need timetables and (b) make bus travel a production number. Real cities send their buses (and trains) 5-9 minutes apart.

Posted by Fnarf | October 21, 2008 5:09 PM

The 7 is scheduled every 10 mins or less in the day time. They should be lined up in a row. But here is a BIG TIP. The 7 is a TROLLEY. They run on electricity. They can only pass one another if they pull their poles down, then put them up (takes five mins plus). When one incident affects one number 7- it affects the next thirty mins of service. Trolley service is great. It is; totally green- runs on energy from Seattle City Light, less noisy, and faster up hills. It has mechanical draw backs. Many of them could be eliminated. Siding wire exists at a few terminals and several zones downtown. Siding wire is a wire that a trolley can move to in order to let others pass it up. Rainier is a HUGE stretch. Why not add a few siding wires to let other trolleys pass up overloaded ones?
It would be nice to think that all of our transit solutions relied on the big ones at the top. There are a few that do. But most of the solutions rely on us. Have your fare ready- be in the bus zone on time.

Posted by Kat | October 21, 2008 5:09 PM

so if they get rid of the 42 i have to hike about a mile from orcas and mlk to alaska and mlk to catch light rail?

Posted by SeMe | October 21, 2008 5:10 PM

@7 - no, all of the proposals still have a local bus running on MLK, just not the 42. You'll probably have to change to light rail to get downtown, though.

Posted by cdc | October 21, 2008 5:51 PM

If you need a more useful bus tracker (phone,sms,iphone,web), check out

Posted by Brian | October 21, 2008 5:55 PM

Nice post!

"Well, it's obvious they want to force feed the choo-choo train so they can show ridership and bilk us for more tax monies."

....except, as implied in the text of the post, if those people can't get to the train from far flung reaches.


Posted by derek | October 21, 2008 7:56 PM

Nearly all of the local service will be retained under the proposal. If Metro finds the money(big if I admit) those locals will run more often. Sometimes with new numbers! The Horror!

What's going away are the useless express buses, 7x 34x 32x, that stop every other block but usually get stuck behind the 7 or 36 trolley. Some of the loyal riders of the Rainier Valley expresses have convinced themselves the rides are faster and attract a "better" class of passenger. They seem to be the biggest whiners. (The ones that aren't Kemper Freeman sock puppets against the ST proposition.)

People who want to get downtown faster than the locals, will have to transfer to light rail from a local. BFD. I'm sure the rest of the city feels real bad for us. - 39 commuter.

Posted by RV Resident | October 21, 2008 8:07 PM

Brian @9: Thank you! I've put it on my iPhone. Amazing application!

Posted by ECB | October 21, 2008 8:52 PM

What I'm puzzled by is why they're planning to eliminate the 194 express to the airport, via the bus tunnel and the bus lane. The claim is that it duplicates service. Well, not really, as it is direct, and doesn't go through Rainer. There are no stops between third ave and the curb at the Terminal. As far as I can tell it's still faster than the Light Rail line. And it doesn't require you to stop, change to another bus or train, to go the last segment, almost, but not quite to the airport, as the Light Rail/Airport Rail combo will. (The final stop is closer to east of the Airport parking garages.)

Yet they'll cancel this great express service, which I won't be able to use anymore after the Light Rail is in service.

Posted by Steven Bradford | October 21, 2008 9:19 PM

Not just the 194 would be eliminated- so would the 174, according to a letter they sent the union last summer. The 174 serves neighborhoods in king county no other bus does- Riverton/ McMicken Hieghts, Desmoines, Redondo, Star Lake, and others. Metro seems to be riding the Wave as a cop-out to it's current ridership.
We need both buses plus light rail. Thats a fact. Dumping one responsibility of a municipality on another doesn't cut the cake- for anyone, but those balancing the books.
I live in Burien, currently. They have props in our area with the whole sound transit subsidized build a new downtown Burien. None of the meetings are even close to our area by bus. Yes, I have a car. I am tired of driving to shit about NOT driving.

Interestingly, the highest fare revenue routes(direct cash) are: 194, 174, 150, 7, and the 120. All are South Seattle routes, that pay for themselves more then any others. They are also the most security ridden. Go figure.

Posted by Kat | October 21, 2008 10:19 PM

God. All I can say is this is going to seriously suck. I have never seen a 7 that doesn't have buttloads of people on it. Expresses are not trolleys and have limited stops, therefore wonderful in comparison.

But if my only option is walking 15 blocks to a light rail station to get on the train to go transfer to something else so I can get to the other side of Beacon Hill rather than take the 34/39 up and over? Yeah, that hurts. Thank god I'm not old like all my neighbors. Too bad for them!

Posted by grrrrr | October 21, 2008 11:03 PM

The 48 is a really weird bus. Actually it's like two buses routes put together. I live in Greenwood and work at the UW; I ride the 48 every day, but I have never ridden it further south than Montlake. I know other people who only ever ride the southern portion of the route. Maybe it should be split up into two routes that run on different schedules?

Posted by jan | October 21, 2008 11:17 PM
"And it doesn't require you to stop, change to another bus or train, to go the last segment, almost, but not quite to the airport, as the Light Rail/Airport Rail combo will."

That arrangement is only temporary. The Airport leg of the light rail is going to be finished a few months after the rest of it, so that arrangement will be in place during those months. After that, the light rail will take you all the way to the airport.

Posted by litlnemo | October 22, 2008 1:43 AM


I think your accounting is really misleading. The 39, 42, 42X, 48, 106, 107 each run relatively infrequently and cover a few blocks of Rainier at most. It's the 7 that's the workhorse of moving people up and down Rainier, and that's untouched.

The vast bulk of Rainier Ave service is intact, and meanwhile a large minority of 7 riders are going to walk over to light rail or get on it at Mt. Baker station.

Posted by Martin H. Duke | October 22, 2008 7:39 AM

Also for most whom don't know,

The distance to the domestic airline terminals from the 194 stop is 1300 feet vs 1000 feet for ST Link. Just small potatoes. The 194 has the advantage for some International airlines.

The 174 WILL NOT be eliminated and the 194 will not be eliminated until AFTER ST Link goes to Sea-Tac Airport and AFTER the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"The new Route 195 to provide service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport during early morning hours when Link light rail is not operating. Route 195 would operate between downtown Seattle and the Link light rail SeaTac /Airport Station (International Boulevard S and S 176th Street) seven days a week, with departures from downtown Seattle at 2:15 a.m., 3:30 a.m., and 4:40 a.m. on Monday through Saturday, and an additional 1:15 a.m. departure on Sunday mornings."

As for additional Tukwila - Federal Way service, RapidRide A Line will run from South 154th Station to Federal Way Transit Center via Hwy 99 starting in 2010 (unless delays occur). Those new HOV lanes that run from Sea-Tac Airport to Federal Way is specifically for this service, even though the Northbound HOV lane from 218th to Sea-Tac Airport does not exist (at this time at least)

And not to be all smug... but Transit Now was voted on in November 2006, it'll be 2010 at the earliest for the first line to start service and 2013 for the last route..that isn't very rapid at all but Sims says that adding new buses is "fast" Hmm, 4-7 years isn't fast for a bus with roads already available.

Posted by Brian Bundridge | October 22, 2008 8:40 AM

Typical ECB post. Even when it's about something as straightforward as bus routes -- facts that are readily available -- she manages to mislead and slant the information toward her point of view. Then the comments just add more misinformation.

Posted by rjh | October 22, 2008 8:54 AM


It is relatively fast. The county has to buy the buses from the manufacturer (New Flyer). Then they build them. A Hybrid (articulated 60ft)goes for close to a million a pop.

There are days when drivers have to wait for another coach to return to the yard, before they can take it out to start their work. Our equipment is driven to pieces. We have excellent mechanics, but they are patching them up as best as they can, then sending back in service.

The roads are there, but there aren't any buses to provide additional service. Buses aren't like cars. One can't go down to a bus lot and pick them out. Metro is still reeling from Eyman's 695. It basically shut down metro's ability to prepare then for more transit now.

Posted by Kat | October 22, 2008 9:01 AM

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