New tunnel hours start May 30.
New tunnel hours start May 30.

According to the image above, provided by a bus driver that we’ll keep anonymous for no particular reason, Metro’s tunnel buses will now stay in the tunnel beginning on May 30th and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel’s hours will be extended.

Metro told us that the change is “related to the coming of light rail.” They’re not kidding, considering the hours sync up perfectly with Link’s operating hours. Link light rail begins service on July 18th and will serve all of the tunnel stops with the exception of the outdoor Convention Place station.

Sometime between now and 2016, the opening of the U-Link extension that’ll serve Capitol Hill and the U District, light rail headways will become too small for bus operations and the downtown tunnel will be light rail only.

31 Replies to “Metro’s Tunnel Buses to Match Link Hours”

  1. I posted this over on the Light Rail Date Announced story, but in case you didn’t see it:

    Based on the current timetables (which I would expect would change) I took a look at how many non-tunnel trips there would be.

    194: 1 morning trip
    041: 1 evening trip
    071: 3 evening trips
    072: 2 evening trips
    073: 2 evening trips
    150: 2 evening trips
    174: 6 evening trips (possibly 7)

    041: 1 evening trip (possibly)
    071: 2 evening trips (possibly 3)
    072: 1 evening trip (possibly 2)
    073: 1 evening trip
    150: 1 evening trip (probably 2)
    174: 6 evening trips (possibly 7)
    194: 1 morning trip

    041: 2 evening trips (possibly 3)
    071: 7 evening trips
    072: 3 evening trips (possibly 5)
    073: 2 evening trips (possibly 3)
    106: 2 evening trips
    150: 3 evening trips (possibly 4)
    174: 9 evening trips (possibly 11)
    194: 1 morning trip
    255: 1 evening trip
    550: 1 evening trip

    I based this off the times they’re currently listed at arriving on nearby surface street intersections. Buses move faster in the tunnel, and Metro might fudge the schedules a little bit to make one or more trips in (or out of) the tunnel, so that’s why it might be say 2 instead of 3.

    This means 3 really awesome things:
    1) In the 7 months of winter you won’t have to wait outside in the cold if you’re transferring between two tunnel routes (which is nice because the tunnel stays decently warm). Same for the 2 months of summer, except you won’t have to wait in the blistering heat.
    2) It’ll be suuuuuuper easy to transfer from one of these routes to Link!
    3) Easier to read timetables! Now instead of two extra columns; Metro will probably do what they do on the 194 timetable–a symbol after the time, in this case, ‘D’: “D-Tunnel closed. Arrives/leaves 2nd Ave & Pike St at this time.”

    Horay all around!

    1. I would imagine that our service cuts for next year would dramatically change the number of runs outside the tunnel. :(

  2. Taking a late night bus Wednesday through Sunday, this will be nice.

    What excites me even more is the weekend afternoon trip to work that will be much less disrupted by downtown re-routes due to construction or games (or both, as was the case last weekend.

    1. That is a really good point. I always have trouble with buses on the weekends, this’ll be nice.

  3. Great, no more walking to 2nd Ave to catch the 194. I never figured out where the stops were supposed to be.

  4. Is it really true that by 2016, with University Link, headways will be short enough that we will no longer have room for buses in the tunnel? When does this become the case?

    1. Two please – and real sworn police officers, not those “security” guards that stand around in a group chatting instead of walking around assisting riders and lost souls.

      1. The security guards are a contracted service, and that contract is cheaper than the KCSO (King County Sherriff’s Office, who is the contract provider for the transit PD) contract. They often work together on incidents. I know they don’t have as many rights as the actual officers (they can’t do much beyond detaining you) but they do have specialized tunnel training.

      2. As is often the case, IF the security guards were walking around, even in pairs, we’d all be better off. Most often when I pass through Westlake station, however, 2 or 3, or even 4 of them are standing around together on the Mezzanine level chatting. Not what they were trained for or what we need or are paying for. They should talk to people, find out what those yelling teens are doing, ask the lost souls if they need help, interact with the folks paying their salary, please. It is basic customer service. And no, they do not have anywhere near the rights as sworn police officers to stop and detain suspects.

  5. Kinda off-topic, but why is service being stopped before last call at the bars? Perhaps I’m just a lush, but this seems like a kind of big benefit for transit. If you know you are going to be out late and you know Link won’t be able to get you home I’m sure there are a number of people that would drive and “chance it” on the way home (or for those with a conscience, just leave their car wherever they are for the night if possible and cab it back).

    I’m curious about drunk driving stats in cities with transit that runs to these sorts of hours. Is this sort of schedule common for new systems and possibly get extended later in life?

    1. You can stop drinking at 12:30, you know. Then, when you get back, you can have a nightcap at your local bar.

      1. Crap, really? My girlfriend was right! :) I know you’re just messing around with that comment, but that tends to be part of the problem with transit in many cases. It requires you to adjust your life around it. Taking transit needs to be a no-brainer decision and make your life easier. I want to hear people saying, “Why would I want to drive downtown? It’s so dang hard to find parking and/or it’s expensive plus I have to deal with traffic on the way there and I might be a little tipsy at the end of the night. Ugh! I should just take Link and then I get there quicker, it’s cheap and no parking woes! Nice!” But if you plan on being out after 1am or, say, work at one of these establishments after 1am then you add complexity to the equation and you lose potential ridership. Maybe these are edge cases, I don’t know.

        I’ve always felt whenever the word “should” enters into an argument, it’s been lost. “I SHOULD use ST buses to commute to Issaquah each day from Seattle, because it saves me a little money and it’s better for the environment. Why don’t I? Because I have a choice of only 3 buses each way each day (at very inopportune times) and it takes at least 1.5 hours each way. OK…I’ll just drive for 35 to 40 minutes and save myself 2 hours a day.” Or for some out there, “I SHOULD live in or near Issaquah, but then I don’t expect to be working here for much longer than 3 years and man, Issaquah is just not my kind of town, not to mention everyone I know lives in Seattle so I’d always be driving over the bridge anyway.”

      2. Revenue decreases past 1am. On many runs, revenue might even be less than the operator’s hourly wage. I don’t want to see LINK losing money, but there’s also the ethical argument that ST should provide it as a civic service.
        But hey, if the 1am runs do well, they might consider extending it.

      3. I thought the issue was more one of needing to have a 4 hour per-day system shutdown for doing maintenance?

        Still if it doesn’t interfere with the maintenance a couple of “night owl” trains might be a good thing especially on Saturday or Sunday night.

    2. There are very few transit systems that run 24 hours a day. A couple lines of the NYC subway, the PATH train in NYC and New Jersey, and the PATCO in Philadelphia and Camden run all night, as well as a few others in the largest cities around the world. One of the limiting factors is that then there is no time to do track maintenance so many systems have to have three tracks if they want all night service.

      1. In Tokyo, where bars can operate 24 hours, the last train often does make for closing time, the bars and clubs get really empty around 12~12:30.

      2. Ooh! I like where this is going – maybe Link will indirectly lead to the creation of capsule hotels in downtown Seattle for people who miss the last train!

      3. Miami and San Jose used to run 24h rail systems but ridership was too low. Chicago runs the Blue and Red lines all night, and many european systems run 24h on Fridays and Saturdays.

    3. Last call in the bars is, what, 1:40 or so, and they kick everyone out at 2:00, so trains would have to keep running until nearly 2:30. Sorry but this doesn’t give ST enough overnight hours for maintenance purposes.

      1. If you really want to stay out that late, help stimulate the economy and buy a Belltown condo how about

      2. It makes sense to extend hours on Friday and Saturday night, imo. Even if it’s just three more trains, getting casual riders generates regular commuters.

    4. I currently live in Minneapolis, where for decades bar closing was 1 AM and the last bus out of downtown was also at (or a few minutes past) that hour. About 10 years ago our transit system experimented with 24-hour service on about half a dozen lines, only two lines carried enough people to justify continuing it, and a few others have a 2 AM -or- a 4 AM run but not both. “Normal” service resumes at 5 AM generally.

  6. My father always says that a city gets the kind of transit system that it deserves. If Seattleites want to see more nightlife focused near rail stations, they need to speak up and work out a way to offer the service economically.

    In Denver, the “standard” last buses since a 1983-84 improvement departed mid-Downtown at 1:15 a.m., similar to Seattle. (Portland was 12:32 a.m.) One major route had a 1:45 a.m. last trip and the noted or notorious 15 – East Colfax route operates all night.

    In order to match bus schedules, Light Rail to the northeast end of downtown quit at 1:15 a.m., but that created a 1:45 a.m. southbound trip, which matched the lone southbound bus time.

    When Light Rail was extended into Denver Union Station, the Lower Downtown community, which includes a nightlife area, contributed toward the local share of the extension capital costs. This led to introduction of all night service on Light Rail on Friday and Saturday nights, by the device of having a train on each line start the Saturday and Sunday schedules very early. This is very economical compared to running a daily schedule and the trains that have just been pulled out can be very precisely timed for when they are needed.

    These trains might vanish if the economy continues downward, but as they cost so little in the overall scheme of things, compared to the economic impact on central area hospitality businesses, the only reason they might be discontinued is if Denver decides to go back to its old ways and roll up the sidewalks at 8 p.m. During that era of marginal transit service, the hospitality businesses thrived in suburbs.

    If you have the chance to visit Denver on a weekend, be sure to see the 2:28 a.m. timed transfer at I-25 & Broadway Station, where as many as 70 to 100 passengers transfer between three trains and the Rte 0 bus after closing time. (Not everyone is partying in LoDo.) I’ll look forward to the day when Seattle gets to that level.

  7. The trains will start running on may 30 but will not take passengers till July 18. the feds require testing with out passengers

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