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Ask Metro’s trip planner to plot a journey from anywhere in Rainier Valley (south of Alaska Street) to Southcenter Mall and the results will almost always show a trip that takes roughly one hour and requires more than a quarter mile of walking. If your starting location isn’t near one of the light rail stations, your journey will always require 2 transfers (usually the unreliable 8 > Link > 128 or F). When you arrive at Southcenter, you will also be dropped at a location that may be far from your ultimate destination inside the mall and you will have to navigate through a parking lot that is not well lit in winter or in any way pedestrian-friendly during any season. Most automobile trips between Rainier Valley and Southcenter will take 15-20 minutes and, on most days, you will be able to park close to your destination in the mall. Of course, at the height of Christmas rush, in a singly-occupied vehicle under miserable weather conditions, your auto trip may take longer than 20 minutes, but your transit trip will also be lengthened under those conditions, too. One of my teen-aged neighbors worked at Southcenter during the Christmas retail season and she had to make that 60+ minute trip twice a day, often returning home late at night after making 2 connections, sometimes in very bad weather conditions. How could her trip have been more convenient and quicker?

It might be possible to extend route 156 to Rainier Beach from Southcenter. The frequency and span-of-service provided by the current 156 would likely match the demand for service between Rainier Beach and Southcenter. The extended 156 would need to serve Rainier Beach Station and provide a connection to route 7. Metro could also extend the 156 to serve the Prentice loop and then terminate every route 7 trip at Rainier Beach. Extending the 156 to Prentice Street would also provide a direct connection to the Rainier Beach Link Station that might help to revive ridership on the Prentice loop.

For a few years, Metro extended old route 39 (Seward Park) to Southcenter between about 9am and about 6pm. But that was before Link was built and the 39 had few riders. Today, Southcenter has become much more of a destination since the days of the 39 service and the city of Tukwila is making plans to create a walkable and more active neighborhood in the area surrounding the Southcenter mall. I think a direct bus between Rainier Valley and Southcenter would attract many more riders in 2015 than the 39 extension did in the early 1990s. But the current service that relies on an unreliable route (8), requires 2 transfers and can take 60+ minutes when everything goes right isn’t going to attract many riders.

9 Replies to “Connecting Rainier Valley to Southcenter”

    1. That would be great for the RB to Southcenter riders but the trip from downtown to Southcenter would be quite a bit longer. Let’s look at the real-time schedules for an AM trip to Southcenter from 3rd & Union for Monday morning.

      Leaving University Street Station on route 150 at 804am, the bus arrives at Southcenter at 832am. Trip time = 28 minutes.

      With a transfer at RBS, leaving University Street Station on Link at 809am, the train would arrive at RBS at 833am (trip time = 23 mins.), then allow 5 minutes to walk and wait for the 150, then I estimate 15 minutes to make the RBS to Southcenter trip. Total trip time = 43 minutes. So, the trip from downtown to Southcenter increases from 28 minutes to 43 minutes. Great for Rainier Valley riders, but a lousy trade-off for the CBD to Southcenter riders.

      1. To be clear, if there 150 were to be truncated, an all-day Kent->Seattle express would become essential. Since most of the homes along the 150 are all the way in Kent, those people would probably be better off, even if the express didn’t run as frequently as the 150 does.

        Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggests that a scheme to split the 150 into an express a local version, with the local version truncated at Ranier Beach and the express version going nonstop between Kent and downtown Seattle could work, provided a peak-only route existed on top of it to serve Tukwila P&R.

        The theory is that most of the people taking the 150 between downtown and Southcenter are not really going to Southcenter, but are merely being forced to pass through it because the bus network requires it. I would expect most people who actually work at Southcenter, especially those willing to take a bus, to live somewhere closer to work than Seattle, which would incidentally, also have cheaper rent. For instance, a bus ride to Southcenter from Renton or Kent would likely take much less time than a bus ride from Seattle, featuring a downtown transfer to the 150 from some other route.

      2. Are you suggesting a service pattern built around a modified all-day version of the 158/159 to serve Kent to downtownSeattle and a local route between Kent and Rainier Beach (via Southcenter)? It seems that the amount of time spent getting to I-5 from Kent is about equal to the time it takes to get to Southcenter. What the folks in Kent really need is all day Sounder service–even if it’s only a DMU during off-peak hours–but I know that’s wishful thinking.

        If the 156 were extended to Rainier Beach, I think the 150 could be revised to skip Interurban Avenue (the roadway between Southcenter and the Tukwila P&R) and go directly from Southcenter to I-5 and downtown Seattle. Interurban Avenue would then be served by the 156 and riders from Kent to downtown would get a faster ride without having to pass through Tukwila’s Casino Row. That modification might save 5+ minutes on the Southcenter to downtown run and then there might not be a need for a downtown Seattle to Kent express. The 156 would run from Southcenter to Rainier Beach via Interurban and the 150 would skip Interurban and go directly onto I-5 from Southcenter. There would still need to be peak hour express buses between Tukwila P&R and downtown, but wouldn’t everyone be better off?

  1. Guy,

    I doubt that the City Council would be jumping up and down in glee with the prospect of south Seattle residents having easy access to Tukwila’s sales tax machine. Don’t expect such a route to be stitched up with Prop 1 funds any time soon.

  2. ” -reviving ridership on the Prentice loop”.

    I don’t think that Prentice St needs reviving. Metro intended to cut the Prentice loop due in its planned service reduction (I wish they will soon). Having used to frequent that neighborhood a lot, most of the ridership along Prentice St & the Skyway area is taken up by the 106. Prentice St. residents simply walk bare the hill to reach 106 service on Renton Ave. It’s like having the 47 operate in proximity to the 49. In this case, the 7 and 106 are much closer.

    Yet, your idea has some merit. I can see the 156 operating along I-5 between Rainier Beach and Southcenter.

    1. I, too, question whether there is any need for the Prentice loop any longer. But when I look at the 7 schedule, I see that there is a service gap on the Prentice loop during peak hours every day. There are only 3 morning departures from Prentice Street that arrive downtown before 9am and in the afternoon peak there is no service on the Prentice loop between 403pm and 530pm. Would ridership come back if there was a 10 minute ride to Link?

  3. The original proposal was just to extend the 156 without affecting the 150. That has a higher chance of actually being done because it avoids one of the biggest points of opposition in south King County and making an already-too-long trip even longer. It does the basic job of connecting Southcenter to Link Rainier Valley to Southcenter, and we can worry about a controversial larger reorganization later.

  4. You just made a great case for at least one bigger box store in Rainier Valley. Like the Target that got rejected next to Goodwill at Dearborn and Rainier.

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