Several independent sources have confirmed that the city and Metro have come to agreement on an expanded restructure of Metro bus service in SE Seattle for the September service change. The city had balked at partially funding the initial restructure on policy grounds, with disagreements largely centering on the merits of extending MLK bus service to the International District via Rainier/Jackson. Unable to fund the larger restructure on its own, Metro came back with a scaled back version that seemed to please no one, cutting Route 9 to fund a weekday-only Route 38 extension while leaving the remaining network untouched.
The new compromise has not been published yet, but our sources say the city will fund additional Route 124 trips and will acquiesce on the IDS extension. There seems to be a mutual understanding that the 106 extension would be a temporary (but indefinite) measure, waiting until things like interagency fare policies align and transfer hubs like Mt Baker improve, which unfortunately may be 4-5 years away. Longer term, an MLK-Downtown route may (rightfully) endure if Routes 48 and 7 are consolidated as laid out in Metro’s new Draft Long Range Plan.
We’ll find out more when the amendment to the prior proposal is introduced (likely at May 3rd’s TREE Committee meeting), but here’s the broad outline from what we’ve heard:
- Routes 38 and 106 are combined and run from Renton to the International District via Skyway, Rainier Beach, MLK, Rainer, and Jackson, with weekday frequency of 15 minutes
- Route 107 is extended to Beacon Hill Station via 15th Avenue S, with a short out-and-back over I-5 to serve Georgetown
- Route 124 is boosted to have 15-minute service more of the day (with Prop 1 funds)
- Route 9 is cut back to peak-only
Though our objections to sending the 106 downtown remain – we worry about reliability on Jackson and Rainier and would prefer better overall frequency on MLK – the rest of the restructure would do lot of good work providing new connections between Renton, Skyway, Rainier Beach, South Beacon Hill, and Link. We’ve been moving towards a frequent transfer network in Seattle, with the ULink restructure as the most prominent example of that, and reinstating a mostly redundant service is disappointing. The same riders the new 106 is intended to benefit will suffer on evenings and weekends when the extension forces their frequency down to 30 minutes. But no restructure is perfect, and the proposed changed are likely a net win for riders in SE Seattle.