On Sept. 21, the King County Department of Transportation released a statement detailing more than 40 bus routes to and from areas in the North Seattle region that would face changes starting Sept. 29.
The changes, spawned by budget cuts, were aimed at eliminating low-ridership routes, moving some buses to serve more people, and launching new bus service. Routes 15, 17, 18, 45, 46 and 81 were discontinued, and more than a dozen other routes faced significant scheduling changes as a result of these cuts.
In a press release, Metro Transit general manager Kevin Desmond explained, “Together, these changes will make Metro’s transit service work better and serve more customers. In the North End, they’ll especially enjoy the new RapidRide D Line (serving Crown to downtown via Interbay and Seattle Center) and new routes with more frequent and convenient service.”
Among several changes in Queen Anne (listed below), some routes were deleted (Route 45 Express, Route 17 Local), while others were combined and extended. One notable extension was Route 2 Express, a popular transit route, which was expanded to Ballard and renamed Route 29, according to Jeff Switzer, public affairs coordinator for the King County Department of Transportation.
While most public response has focused on routes that were cut or eliminated, some routes have actually added service times during peak periods, such as the Route 1, which was improved to run every 15 minutes, according to Switzer.
New Route 62 was implemented, which provides “reverse peak” (northbound during the mornings; southbound in the afternoons) service between Downtown Seattle and Ballard via Nickerson Street and Seattle Pacific University.
Route 17 local was deleted, with Routes 29, 31, 32 and 62 providing replacement service along West Nickerson Street.
Service levels on Route 1 were improved to every 15 minutes during peak periods, but reduced to every 30 minutes during off-peak periods.
Route 3/4 service to the Raye Street loop on North Queen Anne was eliminated early Saturday morning, late Saturday evening and all day on Sunday.
Routes 15 and 18 (local/non-express variants) were converted to RapidRide D Line, and additional northbound morning trips were added on Oct. 8 on the D Line to address crowding issues.
Route 45 Express (Uptown/Seattle Center to University District via upper Queen Anne and Wallingford) was deleted due to poor performance.
The new Route 32 (Uptown/Seattle Center to University District via Interbay, Fremont) replaced Route 30 between Uptown/Seattle Center and University District
Extra peak-period trips were added to Route 31, and Routes 31 and 32 were combined to provide frequent service on West Nickerson Street and interlined with Routes 65 and 75 to provide frequent service between 15th Avenue West and West Nickerson Street (Interbay) and University Village.
Switzer explained that the most notable change for Magnolia riders was the discontinuation of Route 24 night service (after 9:30 p.m.), as well as the peak-period trips that were added on Route 31, which provides service from Magnolia to the University District via Wallingford.
Several community members have complained about the route changes, which Metro Transit hopes to address during subsequent revisions and route modifications.
“We continue to hear some complaints about the late-night service reduction on the Route 24,” Switzer explained, “and we are working on that issue as we prepare for the next round of transit changes in February.”
A matter of timing
In conjunction with several route changes and cutbacks, Metro Transit also implemented a pay-on-entry system while eliminating the Ride Free Area in Downtown Seattle, which has been a staple of Seattle public transportation since it began in 1973, according to the agency’s website. The changes were aimed at standardizing the boarding procedure.
However, a primary complaint that many riders vocalized is that buses have become overcrowded, thus, leading to an arduous boarding and de-boarding process.
“There is a lot more people at bus stops now,” explained Queen Anne resident Jason Matthews. “[The buses] are overcrowded and less frequent. It has affected a lot of people.”
Despite being occasionally inconvenienced or crowded, most riders still have been able to use Metro Transit to commute in Seattle. Steven Washington, who lives in Queen Anne and commutes to Downtown Seattle by bus has noticed a change in his commute since the implementation of new routes.
“My biggest complaint, I would say, is that [the bus times] used to be every five minutes, and now it comes like every 10 minutes,” he said. “I take either the [Routes] 13, 2 or 19. Only one bus really goes up to where we live.”
The large undertaking has limited many riders in their commute times, but Metro Transit has been working to address the concerns of riders in a timely and efficient way.
“We have focused in recent weeks on concerns about RapidRide C Line (serving West Seattle to downtown) overloads and gaps in service from West Seattle residents,” Switzer said.
Other changes possible
So what changes can commuters in Queen Anne and Magnolia expect to see resulting from these concerns?
“It’s still too early to see data on ridership trends since the service change,” Switzer said. “We hope that the improved network and connections are helping riders get where they need to go and continue to ask riders to let us know when they aren’t satisfied with Metro’s service.”
Riders are encouraged to vocalize specific questions and concerns via community groups or individual inquiries through the Metro Transit’s website (metro.kingcounty.gov).
“Depending on the issue, sometimes we can make changes within the tight budgets we’re working with,” Switzer said.