On March 26, bus service along MLK Way between Mt. Baker Station and Rainier Beach Station took a quantum leap forward, with the roll-out of new route 38, which was split off from the infamously-unreliable route 8.

But even before the first run, Metro decided to undo the reliability improvement that was the raison d’etre for the split. On March 23, three days before route 38 was born, Metro forwarded a proposal to extend the route down Rainier and Jackson to the International District.

Metro hasn’t even given route 38 a chance to work.

Metro is funding the extension by cutting route 9X off-peak. That money could better benefit MLK riders by increasing frequency on route 38, to every ten minutes all day on weekdays. Or it could benefit a lot of Renton Skyway residents by enabling the eastern portion of route 106 to through-route with route 38 and have route 107 through-route with the western portion of route 106, albeit without increasing frequency on route 38. Or it could be used to help increase frequency on routes at the top of the priority investment queue in the annual Metro Service Guidelines Report.

Ironically, the official reasons cited for removing off-peak 9x service are reasons clearly violated by the proposal to extend route 38 duplicatively along route 7’s path downtown:

Revise service to improve productivity and operate in coordination with other public transportation modes, in accordance with the Strategic Plan for Public Transportation, 2011-2021 and King County Metro Service Guidelines:

• Strategic Plan Strategy 3.2.2: Coordinate and develop services and facilities with other providers to create an integrated and efficient regional transportation system
• Strategic Plan Strategy 3.4.1: Serve centers and other areas of concentrated activity, consistent with Transportation 2040.
• Strategic Plan Strategy 6.1.1: Manage the transit system through service guidelines and performance measures.
o Service Design Guideline – Routes should be designed in the context of the entire transportation system.
o Service Design Guideline –Routes should serve connection points where riders can connect to frequent services, opening up the widest possible range of travel options.
o Service Design Guideline – Routes should be designed to avoid competing for the same riders.

Increasing frequency on route 38 to all-day 10-minute headway, matching the headway of routes 7 and 48, with which it meets up at Mt. Baker Transit Center, and Link Light Rail, would actually be in line with these goals.

The Public Engagement Report engages in a little bait and switch. Yes, there was widespread, near-universal, applause for the idea of extending route 38 to Renton Transit Center. The more narrow proposal before the council, to extend route 38 to the International District (the least defensible and most controversial part of the original proposal), makes it much less likely that the Renton extension (the best and most universally-supported component of the original proposal) will ever happen.

The County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee will take up the proposal, Ordinance #2016-0199, at its meeting tomorrow at 9:30 am. See agenda item 10.

Email and call your county councilmember to urge her/him to save route 38 by voting No on Ordinance #2016-0199, and insisting on a better plan that doesn’t destroy the new reliability of route 38.

43 Replies to “Action Alert: Save Route 38”

  1. The problem with connecting the 106 to the 38 appears to be lack of layover space at Mt. Baker Station. The new 38 is live-looping at MBS and I don’t think that Metro is willing to live-loop a route that starts in Renton. So, another terminal would have to be found for the 38+106. But without a connection to Renton, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to extend the 38 to the ID. We all know that the ACRS to ID service isn’t going to generate big ridership. The biggest benefit would be an easier transfer for MLK to Bellevue/Eastside riders at I-90 station.

    1. The extended 38 would layover at Central Base, running out of service on each run from the International District to base, eating another good chunk of service hours.

      One good thing about the current live-loop of the 38 is it actually provides a one-seat ride to places like ACRS from the east side of MLK, without requiring those with disabilities to cross the Link tracks or busy traffic. That, too, would go away.

      So many better uses for this money: increasing frequency to Renton, matching Link frequency on MLK, extending 107 to Beacon Hill, or in other neighborhoods, providing basic Sunday service on Route 73, having better than half hourly Sunday service on Routes 65, 67, and 372, having frequent Sunday service on Route 8, or bumping the 26X up to 20 minute frequencies to match the former 16, atoning for the recent service cut between Green Lake and Northgate.

      1. Even with a bump to 26X, it’s still a 10 minute walk from WFords commercial dist and most old Route 16 stops. (Odd there’s a push to improve frequencies on a route going though mostly single-family homes south of E Green Lake.) The half-hour weekend service on many of the routes kinda hurts network utility. To top it all off, the UDistrict is still a congested mess.

        Having been using the new network, it has two obviously gaping holes making transiting around a bit painful: U Dist and Roosevelt Station. It’ll be great in 2021, but we’re still in 2016.

      2. +1 to Mike. Rather than bump the 26X, I’d rather institute a 16X, at least at peak hours. Or, even more significantly, fix Roosevelt Way.

      3. Gentleman, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to discuss other parts of the service change. Let’s let the comments here stick to the topic of the post, our newborn route 38. Thank you.

      1. Or even better, could we somehow buy some of the parking lot behind the station, in front of Kings Hall?

      2. Mt. Baker Station is very cramped considering that both the 8 (12 minute headways) and 48 (10 minute headways) now use it as a terminal and bathroom location. There are also plenty of 14s passing through every hour. More layover space is needed if more buses are going to terminate at MBS.

      3. There is currently some fenced off, unused Sound Transit property adjacent to the north of MBTC. If that was opened up, there would be space for another much needed lane for bus layovers.

    1. So one thing impacts you directly and you give up completely? Hopefully others are more willing to voice their opinions and work on it, rather than stop trying.

  2. OK. What are the politics behind this really sudden Route 38 shift? Especially if it messes with trip from 23rd to Capitol Hill Station if the 43 stays removed? Other hand, might be good pressure to get the 43 back where it belongs.

    From time on two routes I really liked, the 7 to 62nd and Prentice, and he 107 along the lake to Renton, why not put Rainier express route, whatever number either uphill past Prentice or along the lake?

    And/or transferring Rainier-to-CBD passengers to LINK at Rainier Beach?


    1. It’s about social services agencies and community groups that represent particular voting blocs. This constituency has been vocal about losing duplicative bus service since Link opened. Instead of telling these groups to deal with reality, the politicians have finally caved. Planners at Metro are too smart to push something like this themselves, especially since they were just able to implement the 38. What right-minded person proposes to change a route that was just changed?

      Another good example of perhaps why Metro shouldn’t be part of the county.

  3. It seems Metro is offering us a deal. We lose off-peak service in the southern part of Rainier Valley for more service in the northern part of RV. Ridership on the 9 isn’t impressive during the off-peak hours, but those buses aren’t running empty either. Losing the off-peak 9 makes the trip from the south RV longer and more frustrating, while adding more duplicative service along the northern part of Rainier Avenue and Jackson Street isn’t going to generate much ridership either. (We’ve seen how much ridership an ID to ACRS bus draws). I certainly wouldn’t want to defend keeping the off-peak 9, but this deal isn’t worthwhile. As many people have said: there are better uses of the 9’s hours than funding this dumb proposal.

  4. It’s not just route 38 at stake, it’s also route 9. Route 9 is the type of service that should be increased, not decreased. The 7 is just too slow to the only route available on a corridor like Ranier.

    You also have point about the merits of improving the 38 to every 10 minutes, as headways of 10 minutes and 15 minutes don’t mesh very well. At best, it means just one well-timed connection every 30 minutes.

    But I don’t see what the point in fuming about it here if Metro has already made up their mind. They had probably already committed themselves so this back when the 42 got cut.

    1. The point of bringing this up is that the County Council still gets to vote on this proposal, starting with the TrEE Committee tomorrow morning. The change will not happen without the council’s permission.

      1. My guess is that the political forces that have demanded this service will be well represented at the hearing, while anyone opposed won’t be able to show up on such short notice.

      2. True enough, but a proposal like this reeks of something the county council is forcing upon Metro, not the other way around. Probably because they promised it to the ARCS 5 years ago. So, of course they’ll approve it. Year by year, the service guidelines are looking more and more worthless.

      3. I recall the council approving various appeasements for the supporters of the old route 42, but I do not recall a promise to restore a 42-type service.

      4. As much as I don’t like this change, I don’t feel I really have the right to complain to the county council about it, since it won’t personally affect me; I don’t live in the Ranier Valley and don’t travel along the route 38 corridor very often.

      5. @asdf2:

        Everyone has a stake in the proper application of the Service Guidelines. Once we start letting political forces like the ACRS dictate routeing decisions we’ll be back to Council as Service Planners.

      6. Hasn’t the county council micro-managed Metro for years when to comes to changing, deleting and adding routes as council members are not immune to pressure from certain groups or persons or groups from where the contributions to their political races come from. It is all about politics.

      7. In 2011 the Council approved Metro’s new Service Guidelines and told it to follow them. This was part of the bargain that enacted a 2-year MVET to postpone recession cuts and ended the Ride Free Area. The guidelines were supposed to replace the Council’s ad hoc interference in route changes, where it overrode one or two specific routes every change to appease a few “squeaky wheels” who complained to their Councilmember. This had the effect of watering down any frequent corridors promised in the restucture.

        For the next couple years the council didn’t interfere and let the experts manage the routes. Their only order to Metro was, “Follow the Service Guidelines”. Metro was still gun-shy and self-censored sometimes but it was gradually proposing bolder reforms and getting them approved. But the past two years a few overrides have accumulated again, and this 38-Rainier looks like the same kind of thing only behind the scenes. So the Council is starting to go back to its bad old ways, and I hope it doesn’t become a common pattern.

      1. Another opportunity precluded by this proposal is, now that the FH Streetcar is open, the 9 could be shifted to share the 60’s routing and create a frequent service segment between Broadway & Madison and 12th & Jackson. IOW, actually link the heart of First Hill to Link.

        I like increased frequency on the 38. I like extending the 38 to Renton or through-routing the eastern segment of the 106 with the 38. I like extending the 107 to Beacon Hill. I don’t like putting duplicative service on slow Rainier Ave and slow S Jackson St. They could at least take Dearborn to 5th instead of Jackson. That street moves like molasses.

  5. OK, I’m going to guess what Metro’s reasoning here is, step by step (with rebuttals):

    Metro: The 9 is somewhat redundant now. The unique part of the run (a route up Broadway) is now replaced by the streetcar.

    Rebuttal: I don’t think the streetcar is reliable or frequent enough to serve local trips, let alone a transfer.

    Metro: One of the big trips was from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill (e. g. Seattle Central College). That is unnecessary now, because of Link.

    Rebuttal: The transfer at Mount Baker is terrible. It is so bad that a lot of people don’t make it, even when they are going downtown. It is hard to see how they will make the transfer to Capitol Hill when the 9 is a shortcut. The only time that riding the train might make sense is rush hour — the only time that service is retained for the 9.

    Metro: With that in mind, it makes sense to cut the 9 off peak.

    Rebuttal: As mentioned, the 9 is an express, and for lots of people does a very good at getting from the south end of Rainier Valley to the north end. That, plus the other advantages of the route justify its existence.

    Metro: With the extra service, we provide relief for the one of the biggest haulers in our system — the 7. By running the 38 along the same northern route, we relieve some of the pressure on the bus.

    Rebuttal: Then just run the 7 more often. I doubt that these buses can be synchronized, so even if a rider can take either one, it isn’t likely to solve the crowding. Meanwhile, for a lot of trips, you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. From Jackson and Boren, if I want to get to the Rainier Valley, I take the 7 or 9. Now I’ll take the 7 or 38. I don’t see that as a huge win.

    Metro: This provides a one seat ride from downtown and the I. D. to MLK Way.

    Rebuttal: Link provides a one seat ride from downtown to MLK Way. Are there really that many riders going from the I. D. to MLK Way (as opposed to Rainier Avenue) to justify a one seat ride? If there are, then maybe this should take over the 9. Just run this up Broadway, in the BAT lanes we added for the streetcar (ha — just kidding). Seriously though, that would make more sense. If you are going to get rid of 9 service, than replace it with similar service. In effect the 9 is replaced by the 38 — moving from Rainier to MLK. Better yet, just do that half the time (like the old 73 — sometimes Jackson Park, sometimes Cowen Park). In this case, it would sometimes end at Mount Baker, other times keep going up Broadway and ending at Aloha.

    Or, since this isn’t a clear victory, leave it all alone. When in doubt, the status quo makes sense. I see a lot of doubt with this change.

    1. How to cut the 9 and improve Rainier Avenue service at the same time:

      1) Keep the 38 but restore the 106 to its former routing via Rainier Avenue to Othello and Othello Station. This would give deep south RV riders a chance to transfer to Link at Othello Station where bus to link transfers are easiest.
      2) Extend the 38 north to 14th & Yesler (this allows easy transfers to the FHSC, but Metro would have to find a layover point for the 38). The 38 would make all local stops between MBS and Jackson St.
      3) Make the 7 an Express between MBS and Jackson Street (stops would be at 23rd Ave, I-90 and maybe Dearborn)

      The 9 would be gone but its hours would provide almost all of Rainier Valley with a quicker trip to downtown. The 107 would also have to be re-routed to cover the deleted 106 routing on south Beacon Hill, but there’s a lot to be gained by not supporting the current proposal.

    2. For almost no service hours, the 9 could be shifted, between Broadway/Madison and 12th/Jackson, to share the 60 routing. This would create a new frequent service segment on First Hill. It could also be more useful for hospital/clinic access.

  6. Metro’s quest to end all bus service on Capitol Hill continues unabated I see!

  7. Thank you for explaining the politics, which I should have known. Very good lesson in politics: widely spaced appeals and demonstrations are usually less effective, especially for a longstanding problem, than quiet, sustained pressure.

    Some action over 38 problem is a good start. But also as the beginning of a much longer effort to shape this whole part of the transit system so that it works. Remember that since there are so many unknowns right now, anything can be changed. Some longer-term examples:

    Good to pair goals with solutions- especially leaving aside which agency should do what.

    Remember that Tacoma LINK is an excellent precedent as to what else can be painted blue and white to serve a LINK station, even sharing a major corridor with local buses. Pierce Transit through Downtown Tacoma Museum, for instance.


    Problems: Fast transferless Broadway-Rainier Valley ride. And Rainier Valley LINK station to Renton, same.

    Solution: ST Route 9X Aloha to MLK to Rainier Beach to Rainier Ave. South (old 107 route along the lake) to Renton.

    Also politically, more ST colors on more buses might give ST3 some more votes. And also justifiably annoy Metro and Sound Transit into admitting they’re the same agency and should act accordingly. Should work just fine for the 43 too.


  8. Perhaps it will soon be time to walk away from MBS, and end buses at other places — some at Judkins Park, Columbia City or Rainier Beach.

    1. MBS has no east-west bus connectivity unless one counts the empty 14 end leg.

    2. Transfers are horrible and designing a solution is painful. It’s dangerous and confusing.

    3. The major destinations are Franklin and QFC. Both can be reached by the 7 and 38 as well as Link.

    4. The land would be an excellent 12- story development site, with garage access from only MLK so that the Rainier face is a retail front on the ground level.

    One concept: The 8 and 4 could end at Judkins Park. The 48 could extend to Columbia City on Rainier or MLK. The north part of this new 38 segment could extend from Chinatown to Columbia City, where it would end and become the 42. The south part of the 38 could turn towards Rainier at Columbia City to Genessee/ 38th to replace the 14 Hunter Blvd/ McClellan leg and end at Hudkins Park. The 14 could extend to Beacon Hill on McClellan with trolley wires to enable the bus to scale that hill.

    MBS was a nice concept but is such a mess! Maybe we should open the box and consider a different scenario after East Link opens?

  9. It seems to me one of the issues is trying to transfer from anything to anything at Mt Baker. There is still a lot of car traffic through there.

    Another issue I would guess is that people don’t want a three seat ride, so they want a one seat ride to the International District to transfer to something else. What if the extension went somewhere so that more people had a one and two seat ride to elsewhere?

    For example, that suggestion about making the 38 run north on the 60’s route gives a whole new set of one seat and two seat rides that are now available due to the intersecting routes. That might satisfy the concerned citizens that want a downtown route as that might make things better for the trips people are actually trying to take.

  10. Maybe too late but I also emailed. I live a block from Rainier and Massachusetts. If you’re in this north end of the corridor you have other ways of getting downtown. The 9x itself is pretty not useful except at peak now and even that’s pushing it because it’s still very infrequent. But it’s at least one seat ride for a few blocks in First Hill that would be hard to get to other ways. Though it’s so infrequent (and sometimes irregular) that if you counted on it you’d be late a lot (“oops missed my bus, guess I’m waiting 20 minutes”). It definitely seems silly to duplicate the 7 and then recreate the 42 which I actually ride a few times to the ID (never saw more than a handful of folks even at peak) over frequency increases in the 38 or really any south side route. We don’t need a “late 38”!

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