Bell Street Park, now with 25 fewer rush hour buses. (Photo by Oran).
Bell Street Park, now more parklike with 25 fewer rush hour buses. (Photo by Oran).

On Valentine’s Day, Metro and Sound Transit will implement their February service change, bringing a handful of small changes to the transit network. This is the last ‘quiet’ service change for a while, as upcoming service changes promise to be much more extensive. June will bring a taste of Prop 1 improvements, September will fully flesh out Prop 1 while restructuring tunnel service for ULink, and next March will bring the big ULink bus restructure. In the meantime, here’s what you can look forward to next week.


  • Route 7: Tweaks the schedule to improve the Prentice Loop
  • Route 50: Reinstates the VA loop
  • Routes 55, 111, 114, and 143: These routes will no longer serve Bell, removing 25 buses from Bell Street Park during the PM peak.
  • Routes 193, 303: These two First Hill peak routes will have their last trips leave much later (7:40pm).
  • Route 204: Sees its evening service span expand by one hour.
  • Routes 212, 255, 312: Minor schedule changes.
  • DART 913: Route revision in Kent.
  • Route 628: A new peak-only route serving North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Issaquah Highlands.

Sound Transit

  • 522, 592: Minor schedule changes.
  • 590, 594, 595: Major schedule changes to better meet demand.
  • 574: Southbound frequency reduced from 15 to 20 minutes from 12-3pm.

Fare Changes (March 1)

  • Metro fares go up by $.25 across all fare categories except Access, which rises by $.50.
  • Link fares go up $.25.
  • The new Low-Income Fare, “ORCA Lift“, begins.

Construction Detours

In early April, routes 4, 8, and 48 will begin an 8-month detour, on which more this afternoon.

30 Replies to “February Service Change Details”

  1. Community Transit’s service changes, effective Monday, February 16:

    Smokey Point Transit Center opens, moving Routes 201, 202, 220 227, 230 and 240 from their temporary stops to the three-bay island platform.
    Minor schedule adjustments to ST Route 510, Route 412 and Route 425

    Can’t wait for the June service change, with up to 27,000 service hours restored.

  2. That 15-minute frequency southbound only on route 574 from 12-3pm always confused me. There is no equivalent increase in frequency northbound, and the time the frequency is increased is mostly off-peak (2-3 is probably the beginning of the afternoon rush back home).

    Maybe these are deadheaded 590s and 577s just running the 574 on their way back to Lakewood?

    1. I believe these trips were added when the 194 was eliminated to handle overloads due to airport shifts.

  3. Route 50: Reinstates the VA loop

    Booooooo. Not that I don’t support veterans, but this doesn’t help them, nor the other 5 people who ride the route. I know the 50 was sort of an experiment and I think its going to fail. It seems to mostly serve school kids who don’t want to walk up Columbian way.

    1. Seriously, what the hell? If Metro wants to kill the route, they should just kill the damned route.

    2. ” nor the other 5 people who ride the route”

      Perhaps ridership dropped when the stop was taken out. I will withhold judgement until I see how the new version of the stop works.

      Really, the route was stillborn when no up-front investment was made in improving the connecting bus stops with light rail. The route could still conceivably be saved by prioritizing RTA signage and shelters at the transfer stops. Sadly, Prop 1 money isn’t supposed to be used for that. Nor does ST usually invest in station access outside the boundaries of a station, except when building a storage facility for automobiles.

      If we can spend a huge chunk of ST money on car storage, we ought to be able to spend a tiny amount on improved bus, bike, and pedestrian access. Want to impress Rainier Valley residents? How about transfer bus stop improvements?

      1. I agree. It is really crazy the way we built these stations. They are too far apart to provide easy walking service, and really poorly designed from a bus to train perspective. There is no way we were going to get rail to everywhere (which is why the train skipped the VA, a major employer) but we should be able to get train service that compliments bus service. It isn’t that hard (Vancouver has done it, L. A. is doing it, and I’m sure there are lots of other examples).

      2. I should have added that in theory I like the idea of route 50. Living in Columbia city, it allows me to access Beacon Hill, SODO and West Seattle in a somewhat East-West fashion (rather than going downtown first). In practice, it isn’t quite frequent enough and is just kind of slow (as RossB explained already).

        It would be interesting to look at the ridership patterns and adjust this route to be sort of a limited stop West Seattle / Rainier Valley route. Starting at one of the West Seattle junctions and heading directly to the VA, then Columbia city station, and maybe another couple stops on the way to Seward Park. But I’m guessing there just aren’t that many people in the RV trying to get to WS, so maybe it would be a flop.

        Seems like this route has been written about in the past, maybe by Bruce?

      3. I’m an occasional 50 rider (Columbia City to WSJ) and I notice that most of the riders are only riding for a short distance. On a trip from WSJ to CC the ridership will turnover several times. Most of the people who get on at WSJ are gone by the time the bus leaves SODO and the riders that get on in SODO are gone by CC. The ridership in West Seattle is much higher than on Beacon Hill or thru Seward Park.

        I guess every bus system has a route 50. Most of the service is on corridors that don’t get great ridership but there are enough riders to warrant some bus service. It’s unfortunate that the 50 suffers from so many bottlenecks and chokepoints like the VA deviation and the potential delays passing over the BNSF ROW that it feels like a direct trip from WSJ to CC is slower than taking the C-Line + Link to Columbia City Station.

      4. Besides West Seattle junction being a more pleasant place to wait than SODO, taking the C-line is out-and-out faster (no surface streets through SODO and pioneer square). Once you get to the junction, you also have the additional option of taking the 128 or water taxi shuttle partway and walking, or just outright walking all the way from the junction. Not a trivial walk, but still faster than waiting 30+ minutes for a #50 bus you just missed.

        In fact, I don’t really see a good reason for the 50 to serve SODO at all. Granted, the SODO connection will become slightly more useful in a year, for people who are already on Link from Capitol Hill or the UW, but with the 50’s poor frequency, it still sucks.

        With proper network design, the 50 could have been made more useful by focusing frequency on the portions of the route where it actually has unique coverage, rather than the current design which merely provides a one-seat ride from Beacon Hill to West Seattle that isn’t really any faster than alternative 2-seat ride configurations.

        For example, imagine this:
        – Modify the 128 to follow the current #50 route between West Seattle Junction and Alki
        – Modify route 775 (water taxi shuttle) to take California Ave. from the junction to Harbor Ave. (replacing the 128). Then, follow Alki Ave. to Alki Beach, eliminating the section on Admiral Way which duplicates the new 128. Extend the schedule of route 775 to operate all-day, year-round, not just on days when the water taxi is running.
        – Truncate route 50 to operate between the VA Hospital and Othello Station only, using the VA hospital loop as a layover spot to turn the bus around at the end of the route. Use the savings from the route truncation to boost frequency on the remaining portion of route 50, so that the total budget (including increased route 775 service) matches what we have today. (Riders on the tiny sliver of 15th Ave. west of the VA hospital would still have the 60, plus the option to walk to Beacon Hill Station and ride Link (about 3/4 mile)).

    3. The 50 is a bizarre route, with or without the VA loop. It really gives non-downtown bus routes a bad name. It connects Rainier Valley to West Seattle, which is admirable goal, but the way it does it whacky. From Othello, it heads the wrong direction. So if you aren’t on the train already, you should get on it, and meet the bus later, as it intersects at nearby Mount Baker (assuming you are headed to the VA). If you are headed to West Seattle, then stay on the train until SoDo. That would be all good and well if this ran often enough to make the connections easy, but it doesn’t. Half hour buses are terrible for connections and this is a half hour bus at 8:00 AM! I can just imagine someone in Rainier Valley saying “Why do all the buses have to go downtown. If I want to go downtown, I’ll get on the train. I want to go West Seattle, why isn’t there a bus to West Seattle”. With this bus route, I think the same person will say “never mind”.

      The route isn’t fast enough to be great as a one seat ride, and it isn’t frequent enough to be a good connector (for the parts that are fast). It isn’t that good for folks headed to the VA, either (unless they are coming from West Seattle). The 36 is just a lot better for that, because it runs a lot more often.

      The VA is a major destination, and growing. They are a huge huge parking garage. This is crazy, since it is in the middle of the city, but not crazy given the confused transit situation. Part of the problem is that they don’t charge (anyone) for parking. UW hospital charges people, and they get a lot of people to ride the bus as a result (although plenty park as well). No one wants to charge veterans, but they should charge the staff to park (and give them free bus passes). We should also get Paulo Nunes-Ueno (new head of transit for Seattle) to work with folks at the VA, and do what he did for Children’s (get over 60% of the people to commute by bike, foot or transit). Given the relative location of both places (i. e. the VA being a lot closer to Link) I think they could better than that.

      If Metro insists on having one of its routes go through the parking lot, then they should just run a scaled down 36. Run from the Beacon Hill station to the Othello station. That is a 15 minute run, even during rush hour. Better yet, run from the Beacon Hill station to the Columbia City station. Go a little further to Rainier Ave, but just find a good spot to turn around on Beacon Hill. This route would take less than twenty minutes (may less than fifteen). It wouldn’t cost that much to provide a lot of “Cadillac” bus service to the VA and a shorter connection to Columbia City if you aren’t close to the train station (e. g. if you are on Beacon Ave and Spokane Street, this would save about ten minutes on the alternatives — and a lot of walking).

      It would compliment the normal 36, but do the extra loop and not go as far. If you are headed to the V. A., get off the train at the Beacon Hill stop and wait for either the 36 or this new bus. If you really need the loop, you will wait for this bus.

      1. The second sentence of the third paragraph should read “They are building a huge parking garage”.

      2. I haven’t seen how the bus will operate on the VA grounds when the construction project is complete. It could be that the new routing will facilitate an easy trip across the VA property and the deviation won’t be a waste of time–but somehow, I doubt that will be the case.

        There are 3 types riders that use the VA deviation: the VA workforce, able-bodied clients and visitors to the VA and the disabled clients. The first 2 groups wouldn’t be burdened with a walk from the street to the hospital; it’s the 3rd group that needs to be accommodated. The VA should be sharing in the problem of how to connect disabled transit riders to its facilities. If the parking garage makes it more difficult to provide transit service for disabled clients, I would say that a serious ADA violation has occurred. Is it solely Metro’s responsibility to provide front door service for the disabled vets or does the VA have a responsibility to ensure that disabled clients can get to the facility without undo barriers?

    4. When I’m going to Alki I can either take the C+50 or Link+50. Being a railfan I try to take Link but Metro makes it so hard. If I miss the bus I’ll have to wait half an hour or an hour. Well, I’d rather wait in the West Seattle urban village than in concrete emptiness without a bench or shelter. And new riders have to first find the SODO bus stops, and maybe miss the bus in doing so. So in the daytime I take the C half the time, and in the evening I always take the C or don’t make the trip. So there goes the 50’s ridership.

    5. The route 50 discussion on this thread reminds me of the story of the elephant and the blind men. Comments and criticism often seeming to come from a narrow point of view or set of needs. Will the 50 get you all the way across town from east to west quickly? No, but that does not prove it is a useless route. Does anyone have any hard data on how this route is being used? To do that you would just about have to ride it end to end 24/7 taking notes.

      As to the types of people using the VA stop, you forgot to include West Seattle golfer who can’t afford 18 holes at the WS golf course. Or the senior WS woman who can only find the fitness class she needs at Jefferson CC and doesn’t want to climb the mountain goat hill of Spokane Street to get there.

      Now for some other viewpoints on the VA bus stop:

      1. Yes, when it was operative. There’s a path between the golf course and the hospital. Now it’s a longer walk or continue on to Beacon, transfer buses and cross Beacon again to get to those destinations.

  4. Will any of this improve the reliability of the 316?

    That bus is totally unreliable in the evening, and for no apparent reason. Why?

    1. Some of the 316’s should be pulling out of Central Base in the PM when the driver’s shuttle brings the driver’s down from North Base. Those trips, should be leaving on time.
      But as for the rest, there would be two explanations for the 316 trips being late….. Buses deadheading from N Seattle on I-5 often get caught up in the traffic on I-5 southbound. Other reason, is some 316’s may be a 41/71/72/73 on the inbound trip, with little recovery time at IDS and we all know too well, those buses can be late often.

  5. Where can one find Sound Transit’s significant changes to the 590s? It’s really frustrating that Metro is the only one listing those changes, but is so generic that Tacoma riders have no idea what to expect next week.

    1. The new schedule books are out. I got one on a Link train.

      Fourteen trips are being removed from the 590, but six of those are being converted to 594 trips,

      The 592 is losing a pair of trips, but that is offset by the six additional 594 trips.

      These are all during peak, to match ridership, so the only thing most riders will notice is fewer buses and fewer empty seats.

      This is also in preparation for the new route 580, being rolled out later this year. The money for that has to come out of the Pierce County subarea.

      If you want more run-by-run details, I can do a post on that later this week when the link to the new schedule book goes live.

      1. But is there really no info online? I can’t find a basic ST February Service Change page anywhere on their website.

      2. Ah, there it is, under “Rider News.” I had no idea how to find it from their website; it should be much better-announced.

  6. Also, not advertised in the Bell Street Calming, the inbound 120 will no longer use Bell Street to reach its layover at 2/Virginia from 3rd. (Will instead use the Lenora Loopty-loop routing)

  7. Nice to see an extra evening hour of the 204. Previously last southbound Mercer Island bus left downtown MI at 6pm. For downtown commuters with work days that end around five, this will dramatically increase flexibility. I used to work across the street from the University Street station, and if I wanted to be absolutely sure of making a 6pm bus on MI, I’d be afraid to stop work much after 5:10: the Tunnel runs slowly often enough that a 6:30 bus would be nerve wracking. A final southbound run at nearly 7 makes stopping for a quick drink after work viable.

    [In practice, for me, the 201 would have been a viable backup, especially since the tunnel gets more reliable as the 5pm hour progresses, and more or less addresses the issue, but I doubt someone living between 40th and 55th would be satisfied. I’d considered suggesting that the 201’s deadheads back to East Base run in service to 40th, which might have satisfied them, at very low cost.]

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