One of the mild nuisances for riders of the 39 and 60 is the ~4 minute loop buses take through the parking lot of the Veterans Administration Hospital. The Hospital is a classic 1950s design, with the entrance hidden behind acres of surface parking. Given the large number of mobility-impaired customers, it’s entirely appropriate that buses come right up to the entrance.
Unfortunately, aside from increasing travel times*, this setup has had unfortunate impacts on transit planning. In particular, one reason Metro abandoned the idea of reinstating Route 50 from Othello to West Seattle (via Columbia City and Sodo) was because it would mean loss of the 39, and thus the one-seat ride from downtown to the hospital. Metro got a lot of mail on that subject.
What’s doubly frustrating about this situation is that one of Metro’s workhorse routes — the downtown-bound 36 — is mere steps away from the building on the Beacon Avenue side, on the right side of the map above. What’s needed is a remodel of the facility to create an accessible entrance on the Beacon Avenue side, and possibly some redeployed trolley wire to bring buses right up to the building.
However, it’s no one’s role to make this happen. The funding would come from Congress, and it’s the kind of thing Patty Murray specializes in. But Sen. Murray isn’t going to do something the VA doesn’t ask for, and they seem satisifed with the status quo. Meanwhile, Metro has neither the competence nor the authority to request a remodel of the facility, even if it solved several headaches for them. Someone in government, City or County, would have to step up to make this happen, informally coordinating the various agencies to make sure everyone’s interests are addressed.
*By my count 144 buses serve this stop every weekday and 91 each on Saturday and Sunday. If it’s really a 4 minute diversion,the back-of-the-napkin estimate is that it’s about $360,000 a year in operating time.