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The portion of Route 4 between Jefferson/23rd and MLK/Plum is duplicative of routes 8 and 48, which currently run at a much higher frequency. The other part of Route 4 is the exact same as Route 3.

A possible solution is to discontinue Route 4, and run Route 3 at 15-minute frequency. The former Route 4 riders could transfer between Route 3 and routes 8 or 48. This would also reduce confusion along the shared 3/4 corridor.

19 Replies to “Is Route 4 Redundant?”

  1. This is one of the oldest running arguments at STB. Yes, it is redundant to have both the 4S and 8 serving the same neighborhoods, but I generally argue that the 8 is out of place and the 4 should be revised to stay on the arterials and be extended to Mt. Baker. There will be others who disagree.

    1. I do agree that if Metro is to keep Route 4, it should definitely be extended to Mt. Baker. I wonder why they didn’t do that back when Mt Baker Station first opened. Maybe budget constraints?

      1. I went to a couple of community meetings to discuss the proposed south end bus restructures before Link opened. The question of why the 14 was extended and not the 4 came up several times and Metro only said that they had a federal grant to pay for the new wire on route 14 and no money to modify the 4.

      2. I can hardly believe that’s the whole reason, though – Route 4 already touches the Route 7 wire on Rainier on its turnaround loop, with a switch in one direction. Literally all Metro would have to do is add another switch in the other direction and extend the route a few blocks. Are they saying they were so close to the wire that they didn’t have enough money for that, or that they didn’t want to extend it without straightening it (which would need more wire), or something else?

      3. I think the idea was to run the 4 straight down MLK to Mt. Baker Station which would have required more wire. If Metro tried to route the 4 from Walker St. via a left turn onto Rainier Ave., that would require a new traffic light and a whole lot of civil engineering. And remember, Link opened at a time when the economy was very bad and money was tight at Metro. The grant to re-route the 14 was federal money and Metro wasn’t free to say “we’ve changed our minds and we want to use the money on a different route”.

    2. @Guy — When you say the 8 is out of place, how exactly would you change it? I think everyone thinks the little back and forth seems silly, but other than that it seems OK to me. Would you truncate the 8, send it a different direction or what?

      1. There are going to be some changes in Madison Park/Madison Valley service when the G Line opens, so who knows what will become of the 8. I talked about some of the options for the 8 in this page2 post: (the 8 stuff is at the end). Assuming the 8 continues on MLK, I think it should terminate somewhere near Garfield HS or 23rd & Jackson. That way riders on the north end of MLK would still have a connection to Link at CHS and riders on the southern part of MLK could use the re-routed 4 to connect to Link at Mt. Baker.

      2. OK, yeah, that makes sense. I would do things a bit differently (which I explain in part below). Truncating the 8 at either Yesler or Jackson would work in my scenario as well. I probably need a map to fully go into the details, because there are a lot of buses that would be moved around.

      3. @GuyOnBeaconHill:

        Back in 2014 when Metro was facing Transitpocalypse, they were going to truncate the 8 at the current 3/4 “mid-route terminal” (near Garfield, behind Ezell’s at 21st and James) and riders of the 8 who wanted to continue on to Link could do so on the 48. I was greatly in favor of this plan since I used to live right near that terminal.

        When they found they money to keep on keepin’ on (thanks, Seattle Proposition 1), the truncation was scrapped and I wrote in to express my opinion that route 8 should still have been truncated. At the time, the Metro employee who wrote back said that the neighborhood wanted the 8 to continue onto Mount Baker Transit Center and not end at Garfield.

      4. “G Line”

        Names please. The letters are too new and little-used to keep track of, both the RapidRide lines and the Seattle TMP corridors. In this case I think you mean Madison RapidRide.

      5. “Back in 2014 when Metro was facing Transitpocalypse, they were going to truncate the 8 at the current 3/4 “mid-route terminal” (near Garfield”

        Metro tried to delete the 4 twice, once in the 2012 RapdRide C restructure and again in the 2014 cuts. The first one was withdrawn because 2N activists didn’t want to lose service on 6th Ave W, and 2S activists didn’t want it moved from Seneca to Madison Street. So Metro withdrew all the related restructures in Queen Anne and the Central District. It did the same with the Fremont restructures when people objected to putting the 5 on Dexter. All of these were a victory for status-quo advocates, but they didn’t guarantee no changes forever, because Metro merely withdrew them to rethink them for a later restructure.

  2. I think that Judkins Park Station entrance on 23rd fundamentally changes the importance of Route 4. I think a reroute should be in the planning stage now to change the path to run by the future station entrance because it takes a few years of planning to move wires.

    Once the new Judkins Park Station entrance opens, Route 4 will be the preferred way to connect to Swedish Cherry Hill and Seattle U — and maybe even Harborview — with the Eastside.

    In other words, it will be much less redundant after 2023.

    1. You beat me to it. I was going to say the same thing. I would make minor changes, but otherwise live with it. I would start by ending at Mount Baker station. Then I would get rid of the the Dearborn/Judkins turn. I would either stick with 23rd, or use Jackson to change streets. The latter would make it easier to straighten out the 8. You would still have a bus that connects MLK with 23rd via Jackson, you just wouldn’t have the Yesler weave back to MLK.

      The other big change that will occur is Madison BRT. This will free up a fair amount of service hours, and allow a restructure that is a lot more of a grid. I would really like to see a bus go north-south on 14th/15th to serve Cherry Hill. That would provide a direct connection between Swedish Cherry Hill and Group Health as well as plug a hole in the grid that is quite large (about 14 blocks). What the bus does on either end is debatable. But for the southern end, I could see it going down as far as Yesler*, then taking a left (east) over to 23rd or MLK, then heading south, to MBS. That would basically replace the 4, although not completely. Right now the 4 does provide a (slow) one seat ride for people along parts of 23rd and MLK who don’t want to walk to other buses. The biggest benefit is for those close to Judkins Park, which is why it really wouldn’t be needed. With the combination of a bus like that (providing service to Cherry Hill) along with East Link (providing downtown service for Judkins Park) you pretty much make the tail of the 4 obsolete.

      * Ideally you would go as far south as Jackson. The bus would drive over the streetcar tracks. That would require some curb work, allowing a bus to go straight while heading south ( If the streetcar was ever replaced with a normal bus, it would also mean that you could straighten out the streetcar route (remove the stop on 14th) and replace it with a bus stop from this bus.

      1. Your point about a missing north-south route between Broadway and 23rd is spot on. That gap is why a true grid system doesn’t work well for this part of town.

        I would support putting keeping Route 4 on 23rd to Plum Street, and electrifying that part of 23rd for Route 4 because if Route 4 doesn’t use the wires, other routes can be set up to use them.

        I am often surprised that the very utility of Route 3 east of MLK is never called the questionably valuable route tail; it’s always Route 4. The part of Route 3 east if MLK is a low density, single family neighborhood until the end point in Madrona is reached — and the end point is served by Route 2 as well. It’s not much different than the Route 14 Hunter Blvd tail that everyone whines about except the houses aren’t quite as expensive. East of Swedish Cherry Hill, Route 4 is the Route that serves the denser residential areas and the most strategic non-residential destinations creating the most potential for two-way, day-long demand — especially if it can tie in better to Eastlink when it opens. Route 4 also has several important community destinations along it south of I-90 — Lighthouse, Wellspring, Red Cross, the 2100 Building, NAAM and the Tennis Center. It seems that the people who want to eliminate Route 4 and keep Route 3 aren’t really aware of the many community destinations on Route 4 and just see it as duplicative. It’s not.

        The interesting thing is once a concept begins to significantly adjust one route, the entire sector’s routes seem to warrant some sort of basic route restructure. To that end, we need a new systemic process looking at a number of alternatives to update our network for the many travel changes going on. The opening of Judkins Park Station and Madison BRT in addition to the recent openings of Capitol Hill Station and maybe the First Hill Streetcar completely change the way that this part of town should be served after 2023. The 2016 Metro restructuring process was not successful for a variety of reasons, including being politically premature about how Link changes the way that Seattlites look at transit..

      2. I agree with all of your points, Al. I think the restructure surrounding CHS failed because it was the only station in the greater C. D. (broadly defined as east of I-5 between I-90 and 520). To make matters worse, while the station itself is excellent from a pedestrian standpoint, it is not very good from a bus standpoint. The bus system in the area didn’t get much out it, which lead to a restructure that was unpopular, even if it was better. A lot of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and in the end, the status quo largely won out.

        I think Madison BRT is a major improvement, though, and will warrant a restructure. There are several buses that go on Madison, and now they shouldn’t. Six minute, all day surface with several stops is a big deal. When you consider that each major intersection (especially 23rd) will have a stop, it is a bigger improvement to the bus system.

        I also agree about the tail of the 3. After MLK there isn’t much. The logical end would be somewhere around there. I think the argument is that it is coverage in nature, unlike the 4 (where people have alternatives). Without it, you have a pretty big gap of service, even if the area is low density. For what it is worth, it is not super low density. While it is mostly zoned for houses, there are a lot of duplexes and such that bring up the numbers a bit. It isn’t like west Magnolia. Finally, given the lack of a grid, the connecting service to the 2 is actually an argument to keep it. From the eastern tail of the 2, the easiest way to Cherry Hill is to transfer there. Anyway, the thing is, the 3 already has a truncation mode (stopping at Garfield) which may be why people don’t mind the extension very much. I think it really depends on what you could get if all the buses stopped there (or at MLK). I have a feeling you wouldn’t get much, because the tail end of the 3 is a pretty quick ride.

      3. Yes, the Capitol Hill Station is terribly sited for feeder buses. All the streets radiating from it towards the east are east-west or north-south. To drop in a diagonal route would require a zig-zag route design and those are not that great for riders to use and understand.

        I do think that the next restructure should target taking advantage of the Judkins Park Station. A Rainier-14th-Pike-Broadway/John/12th loop would be one route idea; a Rainier-12th-John would be another. The only current bus that connects the future Judkins Park Station with Capitol Hill is Route 9 (on Rainier Ave), and that now is running only as a periodic peak hour service. It’s a major routing deficiency. As the only other Capitol Hill routes from the area near this future station, Route 8 will be several blocks from the 23rd Avenue entrance and Route 4 is a few blocks from the entrance unless wires and routing are moved. Why would Metro want to make everyone from Seattle U and Harborview and Swedish Cherry Hill go Downtown to transfer?

        Finally, I think the utility of the Madison BRT would be substantially better if it turned at 23rd and went up north to Montlake/UW Station. That would enable a direct connection between the 520 buses and the University of Washington with the hospitals on First Hill as well as Capitol Hill in general. The recent discussions about making someone from Kirkland/Redmond transfer at UW (one connection issue) then transfer again Downtown (another connection issue, because Madison BRT still won’t directly connect to a Link line that goes to UW — even after 2035 when the 5th/Madison Link station opens) to get to a First Hill hospital just seems so darned inconvenient. Especially with the Link capacity problems in both the short term and long term north of Westlake, this would seem to be a lots more strategic way to create a Rapidride corridor. Wouldn’t it be logical and great to simply get off a 520 bridge bus and get on a Montlake-Madison RapidRide bus?

      4. The 4 is horribly slow on Jefferson and James Streets.James will be fixed if the Yesler wire project ever gets built but Jefferson will remain. I feel really sad for those who have to take the 2/4 from 23rd to downtown, and I know some people take the infrequent 27 instead if it’s coming. My friend did that, and I did that myself when I lived at Terry & Jefferson. (One block block from the 3/4 stop yet still I used the 27 eastbound!)

        Maybe Judkins Park Station will give new life to the 4 but I’m still not entirely convinced. Judkins to Swedish Cherry Hill, OK. But Judkins to Harborview, I don’t know about that.

        Preferring the 4 over the 3 east of 22nd contradicts everybody’s logic who has studied it, so I’d need more convincing on that. The argument for the 3 is that the Central District is way underserved and needs more east-west service east of 23rd. Even if it’s less dense than the 4 corridor, it’s denser and smaller-lot than most of Seattle — which is always the argument given for a Metro 8 subway, that the CD is dense and should have better service than just transferring downtown a short mile away.

        Metro plans to strengthen the 2 and turn it into a Pine-Union route. I don’t know if it’s close enough to Cherry Street to allow deleting the 3 since I’ve never lived in that area.

        Likewise, preferring the 4 over the 8 also sounds strange, although the 8 itself is a strange route. It’s hard to serve a north-south corridor that has no anchor north of it and all the dense areas are west of it. But the alternative is no service at all, and that’s worse. So there needs to be something, and the 8 is something, and I’m not sure there’s anything else better. If you live in Squire Park for instance, the 8 will take you to the Grocery Outlet at MLK & Union, but the 4 won’t. And low-income people tend to live in that area and go to Grocery Outlet.

  3. Looking at ST’s 90% design for Judkins Park Station it’s pretty clear that there isn’t any plan to integrate the 8 (or 4) into the station design. But by 2023 the 48 may be connected to the 7 (with RapidRide features) and the bus that stops on Rainier Avenue may be a southern extension of the 70. The distance from MLK to the Link platform is about 1200′ as the crow flies and slightly longer for pedestrians who traverse the slightly arced pathway of the Sound to Mountains Trail. That’s about a 6 or 7 minute walk or 2-3 minutes on a bike. The Trail is completely separated from the road network and it would be a great place for a bike sharing hub–hopefully integrated with Orca. Get off the train, use an Orca card as a transfer to a bike for a 2 minute ride and then hop on the 4 or 8.

    The holes in the network from Judkins Park Station will likely be First Hill if the 4 is deleted and connecting to the airport will require going downtown and making an up and over transfer at ID Station. If ID/Chinatown is converted to center platform operation the transfer there would be better, but I don’t think that’s in the plans.

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