From Metro's 2008 Proposal

One early component of Metro’s Southeast Seattle service reorganization proposal was replacing Route 39, running from Seward Park to downtown, with a Route 50 that would run from Seward Park to the Junction in West Seattle. The 50 would have had a sizeable diversion through Sodo to improve connections from both neighborhoods to jobs there.

As  a member of the advisory group for those changes, I’m sorry to say I had a small role in this idea dying. There were two big concerns: this route was more expensive to operate than the 39, and therefore would divert resources from other priorities in the Southeast; and there was an extensive and persuasive campaign from the VA hospital to keep the one-seat ride from their front door to downtown.

All that said, as the link suggests I think the VA is not a good long-term reason to keep the 39, and tight budget constraints will hopefully not last forever. Crosstown connections between West Seattle and Southeast Seattle are atrocious, often requiring a trip all the way downtown; connecting West Seattle’s transit hub with a route that crossing all the key corridors in the Rainier Valley would solve this problem.

If the 50 does come back, I hope Metro reconsiders the routing through Sodo. There’s value in providing a direct connection to the Link station and Sodo jobs, but it would add substantially to travel time and introduce reliability problems due to game traffic and the like. Shortening it to, say, Lander St., would involve crossing the train tracks at grade, creating more disruption.

Moreover, if we invoke the principle of a gridded system, it’s far more direct to briefly exit the Spokane St. viaduct to drop people off at the entrance to the busway, providing easy transfers to hundreds of buses headed north, and then get right back on the viaduct and West Seattle Bridge to head to the Junction. Eastbound, buses would use the 4th Ave offramp and two quick right turns to do the same thing.

A direct route is more likely to attract choice riders and give West Seattle residents a quality connection to Link southbound. I don’t have data, but it might also make the cost implications neutral or even slightly positive.

33 Replies to “Resurrecting Route 50”

  1. I know I’ve been flogging this dead horse for a while now, but did you ever put your RV mobility proposal in front of any eyeballs at Metro, and if so, what did they say? That proposal seems to offer significantly better connectivity at a modest price, and its advantages over the current 7 will only be magnified by the build-out of Link and the FHSC. Moreover this route 50 proposal would tie in perfectly, by eliminating the duplicative SODO busway section of your proposed route 39.

    1. To clarify, I’m suggesting marrying this route with Martin’s proposed 39, which would mean it would serve Ranier from Genessee to Othello rather than go out to Seward Park.

    2. I’m sure plenty of “eyeballs at Metro” saw it, but I haven’t gotten any feedback from them.

      The overall response, from ECB and others, was pretty lukewarm, which probably didn’t help.

      1. That’s a real shame. Having spent some time in the RV on weekends, I can understand why the RV’s Link ridership is low, given the absence of P&Rs (which is not to say I disagree with that choice; in the long run I think it will pay off) and the existing bus network. I mostly end up walking everywhere.

  2. I’m curious about the status of grade separation on Lander between 1st and 4th, which would seem to solve a multitude of issues with reliability that you point out. Any hope of it happening in the next few years?

      1. Also, the design work appears to have been done before Link was built. If you’re going to build an expensive bridge, you might as well go the extra 1/4 mile and cross Link, too.

      2. As to crossing Link too…I would guess that would not be desirable from a transit perspective, if the idea is to create reliable bus service to/from the west to SODO station.

  3. Thanks for the post. I reposted to the Delridge Grassroots Leadership Blog (

    As I said there, this would be a significant step in increasing Delridge residents’ access to jobs, goods, and services; reducing the historic separation between Delridge and the rest of West Seattle; and knitting together the set of South Seattle communities that share so much in common. I would personally advocate strongly for it.

    1. “Reducing the historic separation between Delridge and the rest of West Seattle” could be done by rerouting any current West Seattle Bridge route that uses Avalon Way.

    2. Yes, the re-route down Genesee to the top end of Delridge is an important idea. In fact, I have thought of the same routing for the 22 between the W. Sea. Jct. and downtown. There would be a minimal incrrease in travel time, for a vast improvement in connectivity. The North Delridge neighborhood would be directly connected to the Junction, with it’s supermarkets etc., and riders from further south on Delridge could transfer to the Junction.

      Regardless of what happens with Route 50, I hope that this Delridge routing can be implemented on the 22 when routes are revised for Rapid Ride “C.”

    3. Metro will begin designing restructures around West Seattle RapidRide this fall…that will be a great time to push for changes like this.

  4. At some point, metro needs to get the guts to tell the VA to go fuck off. Just because they’re a hospital does not mean that buses have to stop right at their front door at the expense of everyone else’s time and money – especially after they’ve designed their facility in such a way so that no reasonable bus route can stop right at their front door.

    If they have a problem with that, let them re-model their facility to install a back door of Beacon Ave., or run shuttles from the bus stop 1/4 mile away on the street at their own expense.

    It is also important to remember that even though they’re a hospital, most of the people commuting there who might consider riding the bus are able-bodied doctors an nurses who happen to be working there. While there are certainly disabled patients who would need to go there from time to time, most would not be able to take the regular bus anyway because if they can’t walk from the street to the entrance, they probably can’t walk from their house to the bus stop on the other end anyway.

    We need to choose our priorities with the goal of providing a usable service for a broad base of the population, not with the goal of providing door-to-door service for whichever small segment of the population screams the loudest that they need it.

    1. Speak!

      Certainly, there are better ways to serve the VA than have over a dozen buses an hour at peak sitting in line with all the cars working their way up to the valet. That is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!!! No other hospital gets that sort of front-door, make-the-buses-sit-in-line-5-to-15-minutes service. No other facility in the entirety of King County, or the state, gets that sort of consideration from the bus service. I would challenge the VA to find any other facility in the world that gets this sort of service from a high-frequency public bus line.

      The added ten to fifteen minutes of travel time on the 60 wouldn’t be so unbearable if only there were actually someone getting on or off once the bus actually reached the bus stop. Alas, usually, there is not.

      If the VA won’t help solve the problem, then I suggest Metro implement an efficiency: Have streetside stops on 15th Ave S, Columbian Way, and Beacon Ave S that are designated colorfully as VA bus stops. Have a low-floor Metro circulator bus (not a high-floor van) that stops at all six streetside stops, and loops through the VA parking lot on each side of the complex to provide front-door service at both ends of the complex. The operating hours saved on the 39 and 60 would be far more than enough to fund the VA parking lot circulator. And hey, the VA is close enough to Beacon Hill Station that the circulator might be able to pick up and drop off there without significantly increasing the time to perform the loop.

      If anyone has other ideas, besides sucking it up and putting up with an extra 10-15 minutes of travel time on the 60 as our patriotic duty, I’m all ears.

  5. If anyone has a vision for how routes could be redrawn for the opening of the Line C/D, now would be a good time to start pushing such a vision.

    Don’t forget to extend the 75 down to the Line D, so that the 18 can be eliminated.

    Also, don’t forget about South Park, or any of the other neighborhoods wanting to connect to the Line C, which will terminate at Westwood Village rather than White Center.

    And start planning for the Delridge RapidRide Line G, which ought not end at Burien TC, but either continue down 1st Ave S eventually to Highline CC or serve the airport and Airport Station. Burien is just too middle-of-nowhere to be the endpoint. (But then, having the Line D not meet back with the Line E on its north end also feels teasingly incomplete.)

    Plus, as the Nelson/Nygaard report suggests, a RapidRide Line replacing either the 522 or 372. Having it replace the 372 could help force the issue with HOV lanes on Montlake/25th Ave NE so that the time to serve the station could become more dependable.

    Sorry if I’m getting a little far afield. Back to the 50.

    Consider skipping SODO entirely. What would the route look like if it just stayed on the Spokane St Viaduct and headed on up Beacon Hill to the VA?

    Consider headway also. Would the 50 be more frequent than the 39? If so, what can be done to deal with the approach to the stop at the VA, where all the buses get to sit in line with general traffic waiting to get to the valet station? The VA needs to help solve that problem (maybe by moving the valet station to streetside?), or lose front-foor service. As long as that front-door stop exists at the VA, maintaining 15-minute headway is impossible.

    1. “Don’t forget to extend the 75 down to the Line D, so that the 18 can be eliminated.”


      Yeah, because the most convenient way to get to the not-nearly-Rapid-enough-to-justify-the-transfer-Ride is on the tail end of a 90-minute route that has traveled through every single other North Seattle neighborhood and is routinely 35-45 minutes late!

      1. We’ve had this discussion before. The tail of the 48 could handle North Beach, and provide faster connection to the RapidRide D Line. This will be especially important now that Seattle Public Schools has given all the high school students ORCA cards and told them “Good luck!”

        d.p., If you were catching the 75 down to the D Line, and it was 35 minutes late, wouldn’t it appear to you to be only 5 minutes late? If you really are in a hurry, wouldn’t you just walk nine blocks over to the nearest RR D Line stop?

      2. OMG LOL etc.

        How very Seattle! “It’s okay for a vehicle to simply not show up for 35 minutes, because it’ll probably be only 5 minutes behind some scheduled trip.” And anyone who happened to wait for it because that particular trip wasn’t “pinging” properly and provided no real-time information… well, screw them!

        Brent, we’ve been over this before:

        Real transit = 10-minute walk is always worth it.

        RR D = 10-minute walk, you happen to just miss the bus, the next bus is full of cash-payers and strapped-in wheelchairs and people who got on at a “non-station stop” and comes 20 minutes later and is slow as hell. (Or maybe it’s after 6:30 PM and it’s not even supposed to come for another 15 or 20 or 30 minutes.)

        RapidRide is a lie, Brent.

    2. I’ve been looking at Seattle’s Urban Village transit Plan (from the monoral days), and it has local BRT on Delridge to White Center (i.e., the former 20), and a separate limited-stop BRT on 4th Ave S to 509 to Burien. That might be better for Burien than trying to make the Delridge route do everything. Of course, there could still be a local route from White Center to Burien for those who are really going to West Seattle rather than downtown.

      I’m currently revising my own fantasy plan based on the commonalities between the UVTN, the Seattle Streetcar Plan, and the Rapid Trolley plan (all googlable).

      I’m wondering what would be best for South Park but I don’t know the area well enough to say. The UVTN would upgrade the 60 to local BRT, straightening out the couplets and detours, and transferring to the N-S limited at 509 & Cloverdale.

      The UVTN has local BRT on all parts of the 50 except east of Rainier. The map shows corridors rather than routes, so I’m not sure exactly how they’d join the segments, but it would at least go from Alaska Jct to Rainier/Alaska. There’s also a secondary-level “candidate BRT” (i.e., they’re not sure if it’s justified) from either White Center or Morgan Jct to Highland Park Way – Michigan St – Swift Ave – Othello stn. Then either it or the #36 BRT (probably the latter) would be extended east from Othello stn to Lake Wash.

      Instead of keeping the silly 75 routing, just extend the 48 south on 24th NW to Market. Extend RR D north on Holman Road to Northgate, and eliminate the NSCC detour. (That may not be feasable until the ped bridge from NSCC to the transit center is built.)

      What does replacing the 522 mean? Just making it more frequent? Or changing the routing and stops? When North Link opens it can be truncated at Roosevelt stn, but I don’t see much point in changing it beyond that. (Although there is a pizza place at 97th & LCW which doesn’t have any bus except the hourly 72.)

      The 373 seems like a commuter route to me. I’m not sure it should be expanded. Wouldn’t it be better for the main bus to continue down Lake City Way to 65th (Roosevelt stn) rather than going down 35th (UW stn)?

      1. Mike O,

        Burien has its express series to downtown (121/122/123) mostly in peak hours on weekdays. Some of it is two-way with the counter-peak direction being very express and not helping people get to work from downtown, unless they work in downtown Burien.

        Off-peak, the 120 is the route of choice to get between Burien and downtown. The 131, 132, and 134 are for access to neighborhoods in between, but are too painfully circuitous for anyone to want to ride them between downtown Seattle and downtown Burien.

        One of my wishes for South Park, after the new bridge opens, is for the 113, 121, 122, 123, and 133 to have a stop in South Park, then go over the new bridge and have a Boeing stop. This would provide South Parkers with a much faster trip downtown during peak, and improve the reliability of these routes, which tend to get stuck in gridlock on the 1st Ave Bridge (which opens far more frequently than the 16th Ave Bridge does).

        I’d also add a new route, interlined with the 132 on the half hour the 132 doesn’t run, that goes down to TIBS instead of Burien TC. This is something for which the neighborhood has been lobbying hard.

        As for the 60, it needs to extend to Westwood Village to connect to the C; needs an on-street stop, with crosswalk bulbs, at Arrowhead Gardens and the Olsen-Meyer P&R, to avoid adding 5-8 minutes to the route to stop at the P&R (and most of the time not pick or drop anyone); should go through Georgetown on Corson instead of Carleton in order to better serve the South Seattle Community College satellite campus while still keeping the entirety of Georgetown in the walkshed; should avoid the VA loop as I’ve cried about ad infinitum; and should be the bus route designated to get traffic signal priority on most of the streets it travels. If all this happens, the travel time from White Center to Beacon Hill Station would drop from roughly 45 minutes to under 20 minutes.

      2. Is the 120 really the route “of choice” or do people take it because it’s the only route available (and it’s at least faster than the 137/137 which preceded it). The city itself thinks there’s enough ridership demand for a limited-stop BRT on 4th S+509 (and on Aurora, hooray!). I suspect more people in Burien are going to downtown or transferring downtown to another bus than are going to West Seattle, and they’d appreciate not having to sashay through Delridge. Burien is a regional center for southwest King County; it deserves an all-day limited.

        The 113/121/122/133 are peak-only so they don’t interest me. They get commuters to work but they do nothing to enhance the all-day transit that would make people willing to sell their car or drive it once a week. For that you need what the UVTN suggests: a few limited-stop routes to neighborhood centers, and several more local BRT routes for shorter destinations, all running at least every 15 min 6am-8pm Monday-Sunday. (I would hope for every 10 minutes until 10pm, but you have to start somewhere.)

        The 131/132/134 are examples of the tortorous service throughout southwest King County. Each one runs hourly (some now half-hourly mid-day weekdays), and you have to juggle all the schedules and wait at different stops depending on which bus is next, and it takes forever to get anywhere. And if you live where only one of the routes goes, you get hourly service which is practically useless. This is not a poster child for attracting people to transit.

      3. Mike O,

        How do you propose to fund your wish list?

        Also, South Park is considered an urban village, so I hope it doesn’t get bypassed.

      4. We have to outline what we need for optimal mobility first, and then figure out how to fund it or prioritize things to fit the available money. Seattle did not fully fund the UVTN or streetcar plan it wrote them. It just said, “This is what we need,” and the city can then adopt it or not, and build pieces of it as funds are available. But if you don’t have a plan, you end up building lines piecemeal that don’t work together and aren’t as effective. What I wrote was just ideas for a plan, not a funding statement.

      5. I rather doubt Seattle will consider downtown Burien as a high priority for Seattle commuters. If Burien wants to prioritize and fund an all-day limited, I’m sure Metro would be glad to talk with them.

  6. One thing that it’s important to note, though, is that this would almost definitely not be a high-frequency route, which is okay. While this connection would be very useful, it still probably wouldn’t get that high ridership, so I’m guessing it would be limited to 30 minute frequencies, like plenty of other bus routes around the city.

    1. Are you refering to the 60, the 128, the 560, or the various routes that go downtown?

  7. I agree about cutting out the Sodo loop. If the route would stop at the Columbia City station, I think it’s unnecessary to stop at the Sodo station too.

    This is kind of a pet peeve of mine in Metro route design: if a bus is going anywhere near a transit hub, it must make a detour to that hub, even if it ends up adding length to a ride and only serves a handful of people. I can see how you’d think, “Oh, Sodo is so close, why don’t we just pop up there” but it doesn’t actually improve the trip for most people.

  8. I would like to second the idea of connecting Delridge with the Junction. As of now, metro and Google transit advice to walk if you want that connection. Unfortunately, the path is entirely up hill and many people can’t physically make that hike. Delridge has no grocery option so transit to the Junction is really needed to provide basic grocery services to the area. Please consider this route change.

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