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.