Perched at the northwestern-most tip of West Seattle, the Alki neighborhood is blessed with clean air, beautiful views of the Sound, and one of Seattle’s few beach parks; it’s a nice, transit accessible getaway from the city, although it’s usually crowded in the summer. I’m told that decades ago, West Seattle, and Alki in particular, were considered weekend getaways for Seattle residents, West Seattle then being only sparsely populated and weakly connected to the city.
The center of the neighborhood is a dense, low-rise commercial and residential district immediately to the south of Alki Beach, which tapers off into mostly single-family homes to the south; up to the western shore, there is mix of single- and multi-family housing. The neighborhood also includes a small strip just inland of Alki Ave, to the northernmost point of West Seattle, this area being mostly mid-rise apartments of recent construction, with a few vintage beach houses still remaining.
West Seattle and Alki were served by streetcars in the 1940s, with many of the alignments used then still recognizable today. Route 37 appears to be almost unchanged (even in number) since then. Streetcar #18 ran from Ballard to Downtown on the current alignment of Route 18, then continued to Fauntleroy just like today’s Route 54. Streetcar #8 ran almost the same alignment as today’s Route 56 to Alki. Unfortunately, some of these alignments have stood the test of time better than others, and Route 37 is one that has not done so well. Ridership chart after the jump.
Now a peak-only express service, Route 37 falls in the bottom 25% of comparable routes, according to Metro’s performance reports. Looking at the stop-level data, we can see why:
- Unspectacular maximum passenger loads. For a service to be averaging no more than about 15 passengers on-board in the peak is poor performance.
- The overwhelming majority of riders come from the Alki Commercial District. About two-thirds of the riders board or deboard on Alki Ave between 63st St and 53rd St, or on 63rd St. This won’t surprise anyone who’s walked around this area, as most of the residential and commercial density of the neighborhood is concentrated there.
- Most riders on Route 37 are served by other routes. The only able-bodied riders who will completely lose access to transit under the proposed restructure are those on Beach Drive south of Caroll St, who comprise at most two or three riders per trip on average. Riders on Alki Drive will have access to Route 775, providing connections to the grocery stores in Admiral and the Water Taxi to Downtown.
I also obtained data for Route 53, the neighborhood shuttle that serves the much of the same area. Ridership on this route is so vanishingly small as to not be worth charting, with the bus essentially empty at almost all times, the only stops having noticeable ridership being those on Avalon Way up to Alaska Junction, with a handful of riders on board at most; almost all of them could probably have taken any number of the other buses that serve this corridor.
This post should make clear the reasons that Metro has proposed cutting service on these two routes. The tiny number of riders who will lose service are dwarfed by the number of people who could use these service hours elsewhere. While the Alki Commercial District will lose off-peak one-seat-rides to downtown, it will gain dramatically better crosstown service and connections to other neighborhoods in West Seattle, and keep the Water Taxi connection to Downtown.