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In 2016, the bus system in Capitol Hill was changed due to the opening of the Link station. Though many people found the new network convenient, some people did not like it. In this post I will talk about my suggestions for a Capitol Hill bus system after Madison BRT (RapidRide G) opens. I decided to divide this post by different bus routes.

Route 11/RapidRide G

Many people seem to want the Madison BRT to extend all the way to Madison Park, and I completely agree with them. However, it does not seem like Metro has the money for that at this moment. When Metro does get the money, they should do it. In the meantime, Route 11 can stay the way it is now. When the extension comes into service, Route 11 can be discontinued.

Route 49/36

Currently, Metro has a plan to combine routes 49 and 36, but going through First Hill instead of Downtown. It plans to use 12th Ave, but I think it would be better for the corridor to be on 14th/15th because 12th is a bit too close to Broadway, which already has frequent service with the First Hill Streetcar. Plus, a bus along 14th/15th will provide new north-south service through Squire Park.

Route 49/36 routing between CHS and 12th/Jackson:

Route 8 (new Route 38)

The main portion of Route 8’s ridership is along Denny Way, not MLK. When RapidRide G gets extended to Madison Park, the East-West portion of Route 8 will terminate at the former RapidRide G terminus at Madison/MLK. The north-south portion will be renumbered Route 38, and west of Madison/MLK, it will run like the current Route 11 via Pine. Route 38 will also run straight on MLK instead of deviating to 23rd between Yesler and Jackson. Route 38 will run at 20-minute midday/weekend frequency. Route 38 and revised Route 12 (see below) will together provide frequent service along Pine.

Route 12

Route 12 will be moved from Madison to Pine to replace routes 11 and 49 and provide frequent service together with Route 38 (see above). It will also operate at 20 minute midday/weekend frequency.

I also heard that there was a plan to extend Route 12 to U-District via Boyer. I feel like this would duplicate existing service, since the area served by Boyer is also within walking distance to other frequent bus corridors, such as routes 48, 49, and 70. However, many Montlake residents miss the one-seat ride to Downtown, which was provided by Route 43 before it was cut to peak-only. Adding such a route could increase demand along the Boyer corridor.

Route 2

I heard somewhere that there is a plan to move Route 2 to the Pike/Pine corridor. I think that if Metro plans to keep Route 2 running to Queen Anne, the current routing via Seneca would be better. Plus, it would keep the connection to Virginia Mason Hospital.

Route 10

The routing will stay the same, but the northern terminus will be moved to Olin Pl.

Route 47

The routing will stay the same, but frequency will be increased to every 30 minutes during midday and weekends, and 15 during peak.

I heard somewhere that there is a plan to extend Route 47 to U-District via Lakeview Ave. I like the fact that it would restore service lost from Route 25, but I don’t think there is enough ridership along the Lakeview Ave corridor.


My main goal of this restructure was to reduce duplication and make buses run more efficiently. If you guys have any ideas, feel free to put them in the comments section!

13 Replies to “Capitol Hill/First Hill Bus System after Madison BRT (RapidRide G)?”

    1. I don’t know, Frank. If I remember right, Metro was very clear that the proposals they had on the map were just sketches. They were ideas of possible bus routes, and shouldn’t be assumed to be what the network will look like in the future. Even when Metro has produced concrete plans, they were modified because of feedback. What we eventually got — especially in the greater Central Area* — was nothing like either of the original proposals. The long range planning maps is a great tool to give folks an idea of where Metro is leaning (e. g. send the 8 to Madison Park) but ideas like the ones Anthony have are reasonable and could happen.

      * I would consider Capitol Hill part of the Central Area (I’m basically talking about everything

      1. Oops, sorry — now I see what prompted your comment Frank. You were simply explaining to Anthony where he could find info in response to his statement that he “heard Metro had plans”.

    2. Yeah, for just about every “I heard somewhere,” the somewhere is the LRP. I like using it as a guideline (as well as an example of what kind of proposal Metro would seriously consider), but it’s not gospel by any stretch of the imagination. When the LRP map came out, I said “I wonder how long it will be before Metro caves into the political pressure to put routes 43 and 71 back in the LRP,” and I was only half joking.

      1. The “43 on ADD” is close enough to the 43 that it will probably mollify the demand. The main difference is it’s on 19th instead of 23rd between John and Aloha. Many of the 43’s ex-riders come from around 19th anyway, and those east of 23rd now have a more-frequent 48 and 8.

  1. A few points: It is the city of Seattle, not Metro (the county) that funds the Madison BRT project. So it won’t be extended to Madison Park unless the city finds money (which would likely require another ballot initiative, and likely take years).

    Second, in general it is easier if your BRT buses don’t run on the same streets as your regular buses. Sometimes this can’t be helped, but if it can be avoided, it should. The BRT bus will be 100% off board payment, with level boarding. If a regular bus pulls up right in front of it, then everyone (in both buses) have to wait for people paying with change or wheel chair lift. You can put the bus stops a ways apart, so that the BRT bus has room to pass the other bus, but obviously that is less than ideal.

    In this case, there is no reason to have any bus run on Madison. There are a couple ways that the 11 can be modified:

    1) Just get rid of it, but send the 8 to Madison Park. Metro has been leaning that way for a while (I think they proposed that as part of the earlier restructure) but ran into too much opposition from folks in Madison Park. They didn’t want a two seat ride to downtown (even if it involved a fast and frequent transfer to Link).

    2) Have the 11 start at Madison Park, but turn on Thomas and John, following the western end of the 43. This would be ideal from the perspective of a Madison Park resident (in some ways better than if the BRT were extended). They would retain a one seat ride to downtown, but instead of staying on Madison for a while, it would swing by the light rail station. This means that a rider would be able to make a quick transfer to get to Link, or to the Madison BRT.

    Personally I favor the second routing.

    49/36 — I also think a bus route on 14/15th makes a lot of sense. It really improves the grid, connecting Cherry Hill with the rest of the area. For example, getting from Swedish Cherry Hill to Group Health right now takes about 20 minutes (or more) on the bus. You might as well walk. This is two hospitals in the middle of the city, and you can’t get from one to the other in a reasonable amount of time. A bus along that route would solve that problem.

    12 — I’m not sure if the 12 should even exist, once Madison BRT is there. Buses every four blocks is less than ideal.

    I have some more thoughts, but at some point I want to make a map and display them. The situation is tricky, because there are two major destinations (downtown and CHS) competing against a grid. I would like to see more of a grid, but I could see examples that might not be popular. For example, you could take the 10 and have it start at Galer (as it does now) and then go down 15th/14th to Yesler or beyond. That would provide for some very nice connections, but it would mean that folks on the north end of 15th lose their one seat connection to downtown or Link.

    1. With Madison BRT running every 6 minutes at peak (which is excessive IMO, especially on an outlier route in a gridded network serving a corridor that in the first U-Link restructure metro served in a piecewise manner), that should be a good olive branch to Madison Park residents who will miss a one-seat ride. Transfers will be as frequent as Link, and the time saved by faster BRT service is likely to actually exceed the headway (I.e., even if you just miss the G, waiting 6 minutes for the next one could still be faster than current service).

      Terminating the 8 at Madison Park makes the 8 a consistent east-west route, and gets rid of the awkward split that the current 8 has. I like it that way. I honestly can’t understand why Metro ended up splitting the 8 at MBS instead of putting the (now cancelled) 38 on MLK all the way up to Madison.

  2. Metro’s LRP shows its biggest wish as of now, so we can assume that what it proposes will be substantially that. The actual reorganizations may contain new ideas or compromises, but we won’t know that until after they’re proposed and passed.

    11/G/8/38: Metro wants to reassign the Madison Park tail to the 8. This is one of those grid-favoring, Link-favoring, downtown-disfavoring moves that’s controversial. I see a stronger market for a Madison-Pine route (the 11) than for an all-Madison route or a Madison-John route, so I’m concerned about this. The 38 is already gone; it was absorbed into the 106. Upper MLK will be part of a brand-new route to Beacon Hill. I can’t say that’s any better or worse than the current routing.

    49/36: There’s four issues here. (1) The community has long felt 12th needs a route. (2) There’s a steep hill between Broadway and 12th which many can’t walk. (3) 12th has recently added many storefront destinations and mixed-use buildings. (4) 15th and 19th south of Denny are all residential, and there’s no evidence that they need more bus service. So moving the 49/36 from 12th to 15th would be moving it to an area with less demand and make it less useful.

    2: Moving the 2 looks pretty certain, as David Lawson said, to backfill the loss of the 49 and 11 on Pine as well as the former 10. The 2’s First Hill coverage would then be split between RapidRide G and the new 2, while the Pine-Union routing would partly replace the 11 (at least east to 17th). The 2 would become extra-frequent to take on all those responsibilities alone. I’m tentatively hopeful for this 2 routing.

    12/47: These will become part of brand-new coverage routes under Metro’s plan. The 47 will take on the 25’s Lakeview-Roanoke-Delmar-Lynn routing. The 12 will become what David called “a 43 with ADD”. This could theoretically remain a trolley route if Metro adds wire on Aloha between 19th and 24th. The 47 would have to be dieselized since it would need a mile of wire in low-ridership, million-dollar-view areas. The Eastlake part of the 25 will become a pair of east-west routes from Magnolia and West Queen Anne (2N) to Aloha Street and 23rd & Madison, giving 19th & Aloha another set of options. I doubt any of these routes will be strong; they’ll probably be the first ones chopped if there’s a recession. But the 47 will keep its existing ridership and add some. The 43 will get back some one-seat rides. The other two routes are a stab in the dark because they’re connecting residential areas with unproven ridership.

  3. >> 15th and 19th south of Denny are all residential,

    Say what? I’m not sure what you mean by that, but there are shops close to Madison. There are also shops on 14th, south of Madison. Not as many as 12th, but this simply puts you at another section of the Seattle U. campus. It also puts you much closer to Swedish Cherry Hill, which my guess is the largest employer (after the university) in the area.

    But the big benefit is that it simply makes a better grid. Right now there is a huge hole in the system, with no north-south bus service between Broadway and 23rd. Adding a bus on 12th helps a little, but that is still a big gap (11 blocks) and as luck would have it, there is a hospital roughly midway between. This is a fairly densely populated areas (and likely to grow — it is zoned multi-family) and it makes sense for folks to have some reasonable way to head north via a bus.

    Meanwhile, by providing service on 15th north of Madison, you provide a nice connection from First Hill to the north end of 15th. There are other ways to do that, but all require a transfer, and I doubt any transfer would be as good as this (with the Madison BRT running every six minutes).

    >> 1/G/8/38: Metro wants to reassign the Madison Park tail to the 8. This is one of those grid-favoring, Link-favoring, downtown-disfavoring moves that’s controversial.

    I’m not sure if this favors the grid at all. After 23rd there is no intersection, so by sending the 8 that direction, I don’t think you favor the grid any more than what I proposed (keeping the 8 along, but sending the 11 to downtown via the southern tail of the 43). I think the big reason why Metro wants to send the 8 that direction is to avoid traffic and thus make the northern part of the 8 more reliable. It is a decent way to split things and by covering Madison Park, you don’t spend a lot of extra money.

    I personally just don’t like it. It isn’t as good for Madison Park folks, and I think it sets up a pretty big service mismatch between that part of the 8 and the rest of it. I guess I would rather give folks on MLK extra service, rather than Madison Park.

    1. 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd have one or two mixed-use buildings right at Madison but it drops to sleepy residential-only within half a block. 14th is denser further south, between Denny and Madison, yes, but it’s also just two blocks from a 12th Avenue bus. With buses on 12th and 23rd, the furthest anyone would be from a bus is five or six blocks, which is within the standard good walkshed for transit.

      I’m not categorically opposed to putting a bus on 15th, I just think there’s not enough evidence for it yet. The community has been saying “12th, 12th, 12th!” for years. Where are the residents on lower 15th and 19th demanding transit and promising to use it? It would have to be them providing the ridership because there’s not businesses to draw additional people from outside the area.

      I just can’t see Metro moving the 49/36 from 12th to 15th at this time. It would look like a really bad move, ignoring all the mixed-use and university students on 12th to run by some houses. But a large community outcry could change that, an emerging consensus that that’s where it belongs. But that doesn’t exist yet; it’s up to the proponents to create it. Without that, you can’t expect Metro to do it.

      1. I see your point. 12th has more retail and cuts through the heart of Seattle U. If the bus went on 14th it would go by a lot more shops, especially if it took a jog to get there (e. g. turning on Pine). That idea definitely has merit.

        It is worth mentioning, though, that most of the area between 12th and 23rd is zoned multi-family (, and there has been some development ( The little parts that are zoned single family have a lot of multi-plex buildings that have been grandfathered in. A lot of houses, but a lot of density as well.

        Without a doubt there is more to the west, especially close to Broadway. But that really is my point. You have two transit routes merely 3 blocks apart. Getting between them is a bit steep in places, but not everywhere. The main reason to have a bus run on 14th instead of 12th is that you have much better route spacing. Even that is less than ideal — the bus should run on 16th*, but of course our streets don’t allow it.

        There are other factors, of course. It may come down to specifics that are beyond my understanding. For example, how difficult is it to make specific turns, or how much traffic is there on one street versus another. It seems crazy to have the Roosevelt BRT not use the Ave, or Brooklyn, until you realize how difficult it is. It isn’t worth slowing the bus down even though it brings you much closer to more destinations, and makes transfers a lot faster. The same may be true with 14th versus 12th, but I have no idea which is preferable in that regard.

        Political support is another factor as you mentioned. That being the case (people really want bus service on 12th) then you are right, it makes sense to run it there. What I’m proposing is way more of a grid than Seattle is used to — a lot of people won’t care for it (initially). But once you change your perspective and think of transit as a way to get just about anywhere (instead of just to work) I think routes like that become a lot more popular. But you have to start somewhere, and 12th cuts the distance for a lot of riders (just not as much as I would like).

        * My understanding is that ridership drops off drastically after 400 meters, which is roughly four blocks in Seattle. Then there is the issue of stop spacing (the fewer the stops, the more people have to walk). Since there aren’t stops on every block (thankfully) it does add up. In an ideal system, you have lines 600 meters to 800 meters apart (some overlap in coverage, but little in the way of coverage gaps). So, for Seattle that is basically 6 to 8 blocks apart. If we could run the bus on 17th, they would be a “perfect” 7 blocks apart. (

        Oh, and another interesting thing is that the rules governing parking are based on proximity to transit, with 1/4 mile being the distance. Thus adding a line on 12th increases the amount of land where you can build without parking, but adding a line on 14th increases it more.

      2. 14th would have a better chance that 15th. Also note that 15th is blocked by a new mini-park between Madison and Pike.

        14th would be halfway between the 12th commercial district and Swedish Cherry Hill, two blocks on each side. That would be an advantage. It’s biggest disadvantage would be not going past the 12th Avenue storefronts.

  4. Here’s an idea: kill the 12, and replace service on 19th with a new clockwise loop on the 10: north on 15th, east on Galer, south on 19th, then west on Thomas. Enabling trolleys would require wiring Galer for four blocks (15th to 19th), as well as reconfiguring the wire on the 19th/Thomas intersection to allow the right turn onto Thomas. This would create a “central Capitol Hill loop” that connects to downtown and Link, and preserves downtown service for most riders on the lower-ridership tails while more efficiently serving them with a loop instead. As a bonus, the short section of Thomas between 15th and 19th gets their downtown service back that was cut to peak-only when the 43 was revised.

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