The Downtown Seattle Association is running a two-month “Waterfront Shuttle,” starting August 1st and running through October 1. It is free to ride and serves the stops shown on the map.

It is clearly aimed at tourists, although this month is a little late to start serving that market. It runs from 10am to 8pm, seven days a week, and hits many of the obvious tourist spots. The literature suggests people use the shuttle to access waterfront businesses after parking elsewhere downtown.

The money comes from WSDOT, as mitigation for their endless project on the waterfront. This year’s operation is a pilot to develop service concepts for future service should a long-term funding source arise. WSDOT’s mess will continue through 2019, so if the pilot is promising we may see another year of it. The DSA contracted with MTR Western to operate the buses.

The stated headway is “approximately” every 25 minutes, with no attempt to match any printed schedule. However, the end-to-end trip time is (at best) also 25 minutes. As 3 to 4 22-seat vehicles simultaneously serve the route at different times of day, the headways are often quite a bit shorter than 25 minutes. Although there are no real-time arrival information signs or data feeds, today DSA deploys “concierges” at major stops to communicate with buses on the radio.

When I first read about this service concept, I was skeptical that a 25-minute headway on a short-haul line would attract many riders. The DSA says that a total of 4,957 riders used the shuttle in the first two weeks, and (anecdotally) in peak hours these shuttles are sometimes standing-room-only. 35 riders per hour isn’t bad for new service with some of the limitations above; it would be great to see what a properly provisioned bus line could do.

61 Replies to “New Shuttle Pilot Serving the Waterfront”

  1. The waterfront is kind of a transit desert, and ought to have something. But, at the same time, 25 minute headways with no schedule, no OneBusAway, and unpredictable traffic smells like a service where unless you’re going all the way end-to-end, or happen to see the bus approaching, walking is going to be faster than waiting.

    The waterfront is also a great corridor for bikeshare, being flat, and with the typical trip just the right distance. Is LimeBike getting 35 trips per hour in the downtown waterfront? That’s slightly more than one trip every 2 minutes. But, since that’s over the entire waterfront, it might be equivalent to seeing one Lime Bike go by every 10 minutes or so, looking at a particular stretch of waterfront. I don’t have the data to verify, but, during the summer daytime hours, it definitely seems plausible.

    1. The waterfront streetcar was 20 minutes, and that’s why I didn’t ride it, because I didn’t want to go out of my way to the stop and find out it’s 18 minutes away.

      1. I remember getting off the Victoria Clipper and seeing the 99 go by and checking for the next departure, and it was something like 110 minutes.

        So, if they are continuing the 25 minutes until 8 pm this will be a huge improvement over the 99.

      2. As I recall it was always 20 minutes whenever it ran. The frequency was determined by the time it took for the number of trains to traverse the single (two-way) track.

      3. @Glenn, Mike: I think Mike is referring to the old waterfront streetcar (often referred to as “The Benson Streetcar” by some regulars here), the one that ran on actual rails (off-street and single-track) along the waterfront and Pioneer Square. Glenn seems to be referring to Metro route 99, a (free?) waterfront circulator route that was one of a few half-hearted attempts to bring some service back to the waterfront after the streetcar was canceled.

  2. It would be interesting to have a better understanding of who is riding it. You mention tourists, but from personal observations on my bike as the shuttle blasts by me it appears most of the riders are people who work along the waterfront (hotels, restaurants, gift shops, etc.), which makes perfect sense as most of them wouldn’t have access to an affordable parking spot and as you rightly pointed out it’s a transit desert.

  3. Boy, just imagine if we had a Metro route running there. Oh, wait… Or imagine if there was a streetcar running there that would be popular with the tourists. Oh, wait… :-|

    1. Beat me to it, although 1st Ave. is *not quite* the water front (still a significant tourism/service corridor with limited parking for workers, though)

      1. We had a cool sreetcar which served both workers and tourists. I still can’t forgive the Seattle Art Museum for its unwillingness to incorporate the streetcar barn into the design of the sculpture garden. The waterfront streetcar served a different market than the first ave serves

      2. Just think if some forward thinking individual brought back the Waterfront streetcar, with integrated service to the CCC system, and even having a day pass that was good on …

        Link, the Central City Connector, The Monorail, and the waterfront..

        Nah…. Must have MORE PARKING !!

      3. >> I still can’t forgive the Seattle Art Museum for its unwillingness to incorporate the streetcar barn into the design of the sculpture garden.

        That really wasn’t what killed it. The viaduct replacement did. From Wikipedia:

        A new maintenance barn was proposed to be built at Occidental Park to allow the resumption of operations as early as summer 2007.[8] However, Metro cancelled involvement after delays made the new facility unlikely to be completed before the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct began.[9] An alternative proposal by the Port of Seattle was to extend the line northward along Myrtle Edwards Park to Smith Cove, where a new maintenance barn would be built on Port property.[10] This proposal was not pursued.

        Streetcar service was replaced by King County Metro Route 99, which operated along Alaskan Way until February 2011 when construction forced Metro to reroute the line to 1st Avenue.

        So, basically the viaduct replacement project killed it, and its replacement.

  4. This bus helps anyone working or living west of 3rd because 2nd, 1st, Western, Elliott and Alaskan Way have no bus service. And this is a very dense neighborhood with more apts and condos being built (see Spaghetti Factory).
    I’m 73 yo and not going to be riding a lime bike, sorry.
    This bus is fantastic, end of story.

    1. Deborah,

      Thank you for your comment that you are not going to be riding a lime bike as I am in the same age bracket and I am not either.

      But there are posters on here who are just convinced that everybody can ride a bike or walk and not drive to wherever they are going.

      Sorry to tell all of these posters that I am going to drive because it is the most convenient way for me to go to most places but I will ride the bus and light rail if that is convenient but most of the time that is not the case.

      1. That’s why we need more infill density and funding for transit, so people can easily go to more places without driving.

      2. Good points. Often the weakest link in a system is what matters, and seemingly small things can have a real impact on ridership. I bet these folk would have an issue walking between the UW station and the Rainier Vista busses too. Something Sound Transit, Metro, and SDOT need to keep in mind.

    2. Because you both are someone who has physical limitations but is still mobile and active, I’d love to know your thoughts on access issues about Link. Are missing down escalators a problem? Are there enough elevators? Does signage confuse you?

      Most planners and advocates are self-admittedly very active and don’t see your problems. Please keep speaking up!

      1. Whom should we speak up to? Not having a bus got up the hill from either the waterfront or 1st to 3rd has been a big problem for me.

      2. At this point it’s just speak up everywhere and often. The Powers That Be have pretty much decided not to go in this direction so it’s a long shot, but 130th Station was also a long shof for years before ST finally included it in ST3. Many of us are still pushing for a Ballard-UW line for the same reason.

        SDOT considered terminating RapidRide G at the ferry terminal but decided on 1st Avenue, saying it’s close enough and the walkway is flat with the Marion Street bridge. The waterfront transit will connect on the south end to Intl Dist Station but maybe or maybe not anything at the north end. Neither Metro’s long-term plan nor Seattle’s transit master plan have anything on Elliott or Western Avenues; the closest is 3rd Avenue and Alaskan Way. (And Alaskan Way is not in Metro’s LRP so I guess that means it’ll be a non-Metro service.) It’s a judgment call whether this is sufficient. On the one hand, 3rd Avenue is only a couple blocks from this area. On the other hand, when I’m on Western I’m shocked at how dense it is — more apartments/condos than anywhere else — and no transit at all, and the walk to 3rd is steep. So it’s similar to the issues around Summit and the 47.

    3. Agreed. The hill from Elliott to Third is the reason we don’t use transit as much as we might. My wife cannot make it up there since being ill last year.

      Whenever I’ve seen this mentioned (eg the deletion of the 99) the claim is that 3rd is close enough, ignoring the geography of the area.

  5. >> it would be great to see what a properly provisioned bus line could do.

    I agree. I understand the reasoning behind this, but until you can get the frequency up, it has limited value. I would rather the money go into a regular bus route, even if that bus route charges money. Even a discounted fare (say, 1$) might raise some money, and be easy for tourists to handle and folks to market (e. g. “Ride the One Dollar Bus! It runs every 15 minutes all day long”). Speaking of which, the timing is a bit odd. Ending at 8:00 PM is one thing, but why start so late? I guess it is cheaper (you don’t have to pay for morning rush bus drivers) but that just seems a bit too late.

    I also don’t understand the marketing push towards parking. None of the places on that route look like they are easy parking places. I think it might make more sense to start close to the dock for the ferries, that way they could serve the cruise ship riders, and those who would just park there. I know there is plenty of free parking close to Elliot Bay Park: There might be something similar in the SoDo area (which only fill up on game days). If the idea is for people to use this shuttle bus instead of their local bus as a way to get downtown, then connecting to a good parking spot would make sense.

    Of course the parking emphasis, as well as the late start and no fee aspect of this might just be a way to get tourists staying with relatives or friends to visit downtown without worrying about a complicated bus system. I get that. Free buses are not just cheaper, they are easier — you don’t have to worry about everyone having money, or what the fare is (are kids free?), or where to pay. Just hop on. So I guess the idea is to drive downtown, pay a bundle for parking, then hop on this thing to visit several places. You will probably spend some time checking out the area around where you park, which means starting at 10:00 AM is no big deal.

    Good in theory, but I’m not sure how well it will play out if folks are waiting at the curb for 20 minutes, with no idea when the bus will get there. I have no idea how this compares to free shuttles around the country, but I have used the free shuttle in Oakland, and it was great. It was very simple. It is called the Free Broadway Shuttle, and (you guessed it) it runs on Broadway. It runs 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. It runs every 11 minutes during commute hours and lunchtime; every 12-15 minutes other times. You can see when the next shuttle bus is coming (the same way you can see whether any bus is coming). To me, this makes a huge difference. 15 minutes is often enough that I would not hesitate to just wait. At the same time, if it is hot, or I had impatient kids, then I could check the phone to see when the next one is coming. If it is too long to wait, I’ll make other plans.

    1. Isn’t this basically the old 99, under a different name? The old 99 was cancelled due to low ridership.

      1. Yes, but things change. The areas that this serves has grown considerably (and will likely increase in popularity as the area transforms following the demise of the viaduct). It is also important to know that this is a subsidies route. There are plenty of routes in Seattle that you would consider ending if not for the subsidy (or at the very least, cutting back on frequency). I would rather subsidize a regular Metro route to provide good service than subsidize free, but awkward service.

    2. Everyone agrees there will be a bus route on Alaskan Way when the seawall, viaduct, park, and boulevard projects are finished. The waterfront transit study explicitly recommends that. (Specifically it recommends an electric bus or electric minibus, and includes the Seattle Center segment as a possible extension. [Neither the streetcar nor the 99 went east of Elliott.])

      The 99 was moved from Alaskan Way to 1st Avenue when waterfront construction got to be too much for it. It was on 1st when it was deleted. We don’t know how the budget-cutting process would have considered it if it were still on Alaskan Way, where it’s clearly a significant coverage service and promotes tourism. Maybe it would have been deleted anyway because it was one of the lowest-ridership routes, but the case for deleting it would have been weaker.

  6. As someone who likes to take the train from Portland and stay near Seattle center with my family, I would love for this to become a permanent route. As it stands now, I can’t see us waiting for a bus with no schedule, up to 25 minutes. If your mayor kills the streetcar, this needs to become a metro route.

    1. OK, but it will be an indirect and slow way to get there. RapidRide D goes from Pioneer Square to Uptown more directly and frequently. Metro’s long-range plan also has two Frequent routes, 1/14 and 2N/3S, which may be of interest.

      1. The D takes about 25 minutes and it’s a 3 block walk across some time consuming intersections to get to it from King Street Station. You can shave a couple minutes off this by transferring to the monorail. It’s so slow that it doesn’t even show up as a primary option to get from King Street Station to Seattle Center on Google maps. The only single seat ride (not transferring to the monorail halfway through) that shows up on Google maps on the transit directions is the 24/33 combination. You can sort of force it to give you the D as an option by using the schedule explorer but it is slow enough to not show up easily.

        Alaska Way can be a much faster way to avoid downtown intersections and this route doesn’t look like it would be particularly slower.

    2. The 3S routing will be on Yesler instead of James. I should have mentioned that, because that’s what makes it a viable alternative from the train station.

  7. The ridership patterns could explain lots.

    I’ve often felt that the areas north of Pike Place Market and below Western Ave are underserved. The back-route path to and from SLU is also interesting. Finally, it’s right next to the Ferry terminal.

    Let’s hope that they get some good trip-making data out of this! Is anyone going to find on-board research?

  8. When downtown capacity gets squeezed due to the DSTT closing to buses, couldn’t some third avenue buses be moved to this pathway? Particularly the 27 and 33 pair, since waterfront routing would give it quick access to Elliott Ave W, and the 27 is already on Yesler way to begin with, so it can bypass third entirely.

    1. Yes, that is definitely a possibility. There are trade-offs, though. More people are headed to places on Third than the waterfront. For the 27, though, the transfer is easy. Just get off the bus at Yesler and Third and catch one of the many buses headed up Third. You really don’t have to wait long at all, and pretty soon you won’t have to pay to board (at worse you will have to tap something outside again). For riders of the 33 it isn’t quite as good. You could transfer to the 24 at any point, but that bus is very infrequent. You could transfer to the D, but that detours to Queen Anne first (and you would likely transfer along Elliot, which is a lousy place to sit and wait for a bus). It is kind of a schlep to catch a bus up on 1st Avenue North ( You could transfer to a bus headed up the hill, but that isn’t as frequent as buses on Third, and for some areas (Belltown) the buses simply don’t go that close to the water.

      At the same time, though, it would be a lot faster. It would be interesting to see what people think (do they prefer speed over convenience). I would also add frequency as an additional carrot. Both of these seem like borderline routes anyway — I could see them bumping frequency to every 15 minutes. I think you would want a combination that had that kind of frequency to make it worth it anyway.

      In general, I prefer moving buses that cross Third. In the south end, this is easy. But to serve the waterfront around Belltown, it is trickier. I could easily see a few of the south end buses being moved over, while north end buses get different pairings. That would mean that the 27 would have the same tail as this route (up Broad towards the Seattle Center). That looks like a very popular tail, really. I could easily see just that. Disconnect the 27 with other buses, but run it down the waterfront, then up to the Center. Run it more often, which seems like a good thing to do in general (30 minute headways on Yesler seems crazy to me when there are buses in Wedgwood that run every fifteen minutes). That seems like it would be winner, regardless of how it helps with the bus congestion on Third.

    2. Another problem is that the 27/33 pair is only part-time. Southbound, it only applies evenings, Sundays, for 5 somewhat scattered runs during weekday non-evenings, and 2 morning runs on Saturday. Northbound, it applies evenings, Sundays, the first 5 runs on weekday mornings, 4 somewhat scattered runs weekday afternoons, and the first two runs Saturday morning. The rest of the time the 33 is paired with the 124. Thus, without a considerable schedule rejuggle (and probably addition of service hours to maintain similar frequencies), you would need to consult a timetable anytime you caught the 33 downtown to figure out what street it ran on.

    3. Some good points. The argument that “More people are headed to places on Third than the waterfront” on it’s own is kinda moot, because the problem in the first place is that too many buses are in one place, so to move some buses, some people will need to walk farther. So that argument will need some context or corroborating reasons for a specific route to need to remain on third (for example, the 3/4 would be excellent candidates to be moved because it would remove the left turn off of SB third, but they can’t be moved because they’re trolleybuses).

      Another good reason to keep the 33 there is that the 33 and 24 are each at 30 minute headways, but are timed to have a bus every 15 minutes, so together they form a frequent route to the Magnolia Bridge, then split, then rejoin for a short span in north Magnolia, which has frequent service to downtown. So it would not be good to move the 33 without also moving the 24, which interlines with the 124. The 124 would actually be a pretty good route to move, since it could avoid third entirely and could be easily readjusted to connect to the east side of IDS after “Seattle Blvd” (aka Airport Way). It’s also duplicates Link end-to-end, so the 124 could be billed as a good weekend connection between free parking at TIBS and a fun day at the waterfront.

      Since the 33 also interlines with the 124 usually, that actually works out nicely. I was actually still thinking in terms of when the 124 was half-hourly. It’s easy to overlook how much something that seems simple like doubling the frequency of the 124 can require complex reassignment of bus through-routes.

      1. Moving the 24/33 to First would be extremely unpopular in Magnolia. It would add a two block walk to almost all downtown area transfers – including to northbound Link (and not help any of them).

        Several years ago, all of the all-day “city” buses (and almost all of the “city” peak-only buses) were consolidated on third, largely to improve transfers during the periods when frequencies were lower. Tle “county” buses were placed on the Second/Fourth couplet.

        If Third is hopelessly crowded at midday, then of course something has to move, and Magnolia service is as good a candidate as any. As I remember, it was the last service to move from the Second/Fourth couplet to Third (of course, that only involved a one block extra walk). However, it doesn’t appear to me that Third is over-capacity at midday (or soon will be). It is certainly extremely busy at peak, though that can be ameliorated in various ways (which, of course, might be “politically” impossible to do). Moreover, the peak loading on Third should be reduced somewhat (considerably on the Second/Fourth couplet) when Link extends to Northgate and Lynnwood. Thus, to that extent, Third’s problem may be temporary. If midday-overcrowding on Third becomes lasting, it would seem to be better solved by using the Second/Fourth couplet rather than First.

      2. “The argument that “More people are headed to places on Third than the waterfront” on it’s own is kinda moot,”

        That’s partly true but it’s not only because that’s where the transit is. It’s where the most people are going — places between 1st and 6th — and it has a full walkshed on both sides, and it’s where the most transfers are.

        Moving buses to 1st or Alaskan Way — the advocates just don’t understand how the preponderance of people’s trips work. You can’t just move a bus for coverage’s sake without inconveniencing more people than you’ve gained. People on 25th Ave NE are “taking one for the team” because of the long walk to UW Station, and unlike some others further east they don’t have the option of taking the closer-and-more-frequent 65. Moving the 33 to Alaskan Way would be a similar situation. Yes, it adds coverage, it may benefit some 33 riders, and some other riders may not care, but many existing riders — maybe even half of them or more — would be fuming, and as they take every day over time it will be a nagging frustration — like the broken escalators at UW Station. It will bring them to the edge of driving instead and voting against transit taxes, even if they don’t go over the edge. So the answer is to leave the trunk routes on 3rd and add coverage on Alaskan.

      3. These are all good points. I get that it would inconvenience many people, and that it would be better for actual downtown coverage to just use the 2nd/4th couplet. However, it’s not just third that’ll have capacity issues. If we move a bunch of buses to 2nd/4th, then that will have severe peak capacity issues as well. And in this case, cars aren’t banned at all except for the right lane (right turns ok though). So at peak 2nd/4th is very crowded and slow, and buses often accumulate delays of 10+ minutes before they even get to the bad freeway traffic!

        2nd/4th is very smooth during off peak (only the 577/578, 554, and 594 run off peak, every 20-30 minutes each), so it could probably be fixed by moving a bunch of peak buses (212, 217, 214, 157, 158, 159, 37 etc) to first, or some other place.

        I also think it may be a good idea to have some peak express routes in particular on 2nd to have express spacing in downtown, i.e., have two stops: a dedicated stop near Jackson or Main and a dedicated stop near Pine street. This way, buses can use the left lane while dozens of buses queue up at regular stops. I think the best routes for this would be the 158/159 since they often run super late and riders who are removed from walking distance have the option to use the 150 to Kent, which can be competitive with the 158/159 during bad traffic conditions.

      4. So the answer is to leave the trunk routes on 3rd and add coverage on Alaskan.

        But there is a difference between moving a bus like the 27 to the waterfront versus moving a bus like the 33. With the 33, you make it very difficult for the existing 33 riders to get to Third. With the 27, on the other hand, you simply ask them to transfer to buses running so often they are overcrowding the street. No transfer is painless, but that one is pretty close (no waiting).

        What is true of the 33 is true of every north end bus. It is a classic trunk and branch situation until you get down to about Pine. That is why moving a bus from the south end would make sense, while moving a bus from the north end wouldn’t.

        On a related note, the problem isn’t as bad when covering First Avenue, as long as you aren’t concerned with covering the north end of First. The 70, for example, could be modified to use First Avenue, and thus overlap all of the proposed CCC streetcar expansion while having the same sort of easy connections to Third Avenue that a revised 27 would.

      5. Almost all north end buses.

        You could extend the 32 or 8 down to Alaskan and not really interrupt any existing trips. You wind up with other issues (32 / 75 gets too long, and nobody wants more unreliability on the 8) but both end near that area.

  9. Provisions!? Ross, here I am trying not to insult anybody with “Pathetic”, and you’re making snide remarks about the thing being so slow it’ll have to carry dried ground bear with berries (sorry, ICE,but there’s no such place as The Pemmican Border) and things in puffed and dented olive-drab cans from WWII.

    How about Proterra, clockwise Yesler to Waterfront to Broad to First. Counterclockwise, same route. Should be enough diesels to handle charger problems. Ten minute headway? Somebody that knows the stats and other facts, please weigh in.

    Because whatever I’ve got no standing to say about Seattle…I’m not going to let the “DOT”people on MY payroll do this to you. Makes me want to toss my 1943 C-ration dessert.


  10. it would be great to see what a properly provisioned bus line could do.

    Apparently Metro didn’t think it would do too well; they killed the 99.

    1. Philosophical question: Is low ridership a reflection of the poor frequency not being worth the fare? Or is the poor frequency a reflection of low ridership? I’m more in the camp of once you have a critical mass, which downtown Seattle definitely does, “build it and they will come” applies.

      1. I agree. That is why I don’t buy the “they killed the 99, so it must suck” argument. Things change — some routes didn’t make sense years ago, but now do. Seattle also is spending way more money on its transit system. That makes some routes (like one along the waterfront) worth it, even if it isn’t the best route in the world. For the same reason, this route would be a lot more popular when making a transfer, as other buses come a lot more often. Run it often, and it would be reasonably popular.

      2. It’s not that it wasn’t worth the fare, but it wasn’t worth the inconvenience of waiting for it, or walking out of your way to the bus stop to see whether you’d have a long wait. When the 5 was half-hourly evenings I avoided going to Greenwood unless I had to, or postponed by trip until the bus was frequent, ir if I was with somebody who had a car we’d go in their car.

  11. Comparisons to the 99 are unfair. The 99 only ran for a few hours geared towards morning and afternoon commuters., and turned up from Elliott to 1st on Wall to go south. It didn’t go to the ferries.
    The demand for service is along the waterfront. I would take a 30 minute time between busses if there was a schedule and it was on one bus away. Easy to fill in a projected wait time.
    As for Link we only use it to go to the airport and we take a bus to University Station rather than Westlake because University Stn. is smaller and not confusing. Escalators and stairs are no problem. If there was a link station closer to where we live, 1st and Broad, we’d use it.

  12. I think Alex has the right idea. Send the 27 on the northern tail of this route. That means up the waterfront from Yesler, then on to the Seattle Center, where it would do a live loop (or find someplace to park up there). Run it every 10 minutes. That is a heavy subsidy, but not much compared to running a *free bus* for much of that route. Meanwhile, you have a bus that would be very popular. There are a lot of people along Yesler as well as this route. The only weak part is the eastern tail, but my guess is that doesn’t take long (and we could save money by truncating at MLK and running only every 20 minutes, similar to the 3). With frequent service, it becomes more than just a “niche bus”, but a big part of our network. You can connect to it easily from other buses, without waiting forever.

    The 14 could work for the same reason.

    1. Would you prefer that they drive from one part of the waterfront to another? The need for Transit on Alaskan Way is certain: not just for tourists but for workers, locals, ferry riders, etc. This service fills the gap. Who cares if it’s primarily marketed to people parking?

      Partly related, the owner of the Great Wheel floated a proposal for a privately-funded monorail from the waterfront to the Convention Place parking garage, as a way to bring tourists to the waterfront in the summer. That project failed but you can see how this is a different tactic for the same strategy. It’s also WSDOT mitigation funds for the state’s work on the viaduct. That should logically fund north-south transit near the viaduct. Well, that’s what this is.

  13. Just realized that, as much as I like the connection up the hill to Seattle Center, the railroad crossing at Broad St. could make for some very unreliable service, as trains are moving very slowly there, and can take a long time to cross.

    If this were part of a regular metro route, the train delays would propagate across the entire route, and affect people not going anywhere near the waterfront. If the train crossing is to be avoided, that not only breaks the Seattle Center connection, but leaves nowhere to turn around the bus on the North end in Belltown.

    Yet another reason why waterfront bus service is difficult to get right.

    1. Wow, you are right. Bummer. This probably explains everything. There is no way they can keep to a regular schedule, so they don’t pretend to. It also only makes sense as a stand-alone route. As you said, there is no reason to make other riders (that have no interest in this part of the line) suffer. This makes it different than service on First Avenue.

      About all they can do to improve this is to run it more often, and list the bus on One Bus Away.

    2. This was also a problem with the 99, as well as a problem with the current situation. The 99 turn around involved the crossing too. SAM’s pedestrian bridge could be useful but it’s closed for certain special events and at sunset (about 4:30 in the winter) so if there is a train there and it’s dark you can’t get from the north waterfront to anywhere. You could go down to Bell, but it’s a nice pedestrian bridge with an extremely dangerous crossing at Western (though not after the viaduct closes).

    3. The Seattle Center extension was mainly for tourists wanting to go between the waterfront and the center, so it’s not that big a deal.

      1. It’s not just about toursists. From a transit network perspective, you want routes that connect with each other and end at major destinations, rather than stopping just shy of them. This allows the large number of origin-destination points that make a route truly useful for large numbers of people. For example, in the case of the Seattle Center extension, you pick up people in Lower Queen Anne who need to get to the ferries, or people who live in Bainbridge Island who work at the Gates Foundation. People who live in Belltown condos near the waterfront might also use the shuttle to connect with other routes at Seattle Center if it ran frequently enough to be worth the bother (which it currently doesn’t). You also get transfers from the D-line and all the buses coming in from Fremont and upper Queen Anne. Yes, it is technically possible to detour south to Pioneer Square and back north again, but it’s a painful and time-consuming detour – on top of the overhead of a transfer – which few people would be willing to do.

        Ideally, you would make the line even more useful by extending it to the east, providing a cross-town service in the Mercer corridor that does not currently exist. But, the railroad tracks make it impossible to do any of this while maintaining reliable service. Realistically, a service like what we’ve got (with OneBusAway integration) as a shuttle for elderly and handicapped, plus Lime Bike for the able-bodied, is probably as good as we’re going to get.

      2. … From a transit network perspective, you want routes that connect with each other and end at major destinations …

        Exactly. Even if it was easy to end at the Sculpture Park (and not cross the railroad tracks) it is a poor route. It would lack the key connections to the north end buses as well as lower Queen Anne/Seattle Center. The contrast is striking. Imagine if we extend the 27 as Alex and I suggested above ( That means a bus running every ten minutes from the east side of the Seattle Center down to the waterfront and over to Yesler. Now imagine someone from Ballard, Magnolia or Queen Anne headed to the waterfront. It is a simple transfer. Now imagine it extended further east, as he suggested, to Fairview. You could use Mercer, but it would probably be better to use the new transit-only corridor on Harrison will be built after the viaduct goes down. That gives you connections to pretty much all the north end buses (the E, 5, 26, 28, 62, 40, 70). Not only is that great from a connectivity standpoint, but there are a ton of walk-up connections as that route manages to go through an area of very high population and employment density. That route seems like it would be very popular.

        Now imagine it truncated at the sculpture park. All those folks from Magnolia, Ballard, Queen Anne, Fremont, Wallingford, Westlake, Eastlake, etc. will just ignore that bus. It just isn’t worth going all the way down to Yesler, to take the bus all the way back. Folks will just walk from the bus or drive from start to finish. You’ve probably killed half your ridership.

        I think it makes sense to just live with this stand-alone bus route for now. But in the long run, there is another possibility. Once the viaduct is torn down, Alaskan Way will be connected to Elliot and Western (see page 25 of That would enable a route that isn’t bothered by railroad tracks. The only drawback is that it skips the north end of the waterfront. But that is the weaker end, and it would still be possible to reach it more easily than today. The Lenora Street pedestrian bridge and walk way is supposed to get better and Bell Street street has a bridge as well. From Bell it really isn’t that far to the north end of the waterfront. Walking up the hill to Western (for a northbound bus) would be a schlep, but at worse you could walk along the waterfront and then take the bridge on Bell, where it isn’t that steep to get up to Western ( Better yet, we could add a contraflow lane for Elliot, which means that at worse you end up walking up one block.

        Personally, I prefer that approach. I think a South Lake Union/Seattle Center/Waterfront/Yesler bus would be very popular as a connector and could justify good headways along the entire route (just like the 8). Making it reliable by using Elliot/Western on the north end seems well worth it to me.

  14. We had a cool sreetcar which served both workers and tourists. I still can’t forgive the Seattle Art Museum for its unwillingness to incorporate the streetcar barn into the design of the sculpture garden. The waterfront streetcar served a different market than the first ave serves.

    Carl, The Seattle Art Museum inaugurated its Sculpture Garden by destroying an irreplaceable working monument. Which could easily have that put SAM at the top of the art world. In addition to delivering park-loads of patrons. Its south terminal was an escalator ride from fast a train from an International Airport.

    The walkway across the railroad tracks could easily have been designed an built as a monumental piece of architecture containing both a streetcar station- it stayed in the plans for awhile- and a beautiful maintenance shop. So here’s what the perpetrators deserve:

    Adjust SAM’s whole video system, from laptops to website to giant wall projectors, so only image in sight is always a Thomas Kincaid painting. The whole art world will crowd-fund an Amazon order for a drone delivery consisting of Hellfire missiles with aged limberger and an olive.

    Excavation for new car barn…..Done.


  15. Ross, I really should check out wikipedia, and see how my memory compares. No question, I’m not a neutral party. Can’t prove bad faith on anybody’s part. It’s been just a sense that if anybody, or agency, had wanted the streetcar restored- ever- there would at least have been infrastructure left in place that would’ve gotten an updated line into service.

    Thousands of dollars worth of rail, stations, and trolley overhead, all the way through Pioneer Square sat oxidizing for years before….Federal auditors need some training to ascertain how long a certain-to-be-productive length of trollewire has been stored among tree-branches. So far- 28 years from Colman Dock to King County Courthouse holds the record.

    Do remember how, to me at least, dishonestly the designers of the new Waterfront kept “disappearing” the streetcar gradually between one rendering and the next. And all my conversations with staff raising ever more aggravation about concern over something everybody knew was already dead. I was, and have always been willing to wait.

    Exactly like with the land use and cars, the Waterfront’s own line-haul transit needs will certainly incorporate a Waterfront spur into CCC. Main force: in addition to how slow pedicabs and golf-carts are going to be, how BO-ring the new park will be without it. Because I can see another development coming. Waterfronts have traditionally been places of trade and industry.

    Of course the trading and machining have to be safe and non-poisonous. And complement, not spoil, and or the relaxation and beauty. But most powerful force, second only to boredom fatigue, will be Foundations’ continued ability and will to keep financing park-space. Trolley-freights used to be as common practice among interurbans as working waterfronts. And remember also:

    One of the Project’s first posters showed the shoreline as a beautiful circle all the way around the bay, from Alki to Magnolia. In the art of fine jewelry, a necklance of emerald and gold (and steel, and copper) should never lack for gemstones. Word to SAM. Who’ll probably be one of main instigators.


  16. Just for clarity about Foundation financing- I think there’s a question of how long it can last, and what the Waterfront can do when it doesn’t. So in addition to being more energetic an interesting, self-support is healthier (To bad “Robust!” left coffee promotions about the time espresso came in. Which is always robust if your keep your brewing heads clean) and a lot more reliable.


  17. The responses on2here are what I would expect. Not invented by this blog so it must be bad. Not operated by shitty Metro so it must be bad. Not enough of a war on cars, so it must be bad. The self proclaimed experts on this site are showing themselves to be more and more out of touch. Go cry to Sawant and Obrien..

  18. How often is the crossing blocked?

    TriMet had to deal with a blocked crossing for some 4 hours tonight, which they let everyone know about on the real time arrival signs and text messages that alternative routing was in place and certain stops were not being served.

    If such a service becomes a permanent fixture perhaps a blocked crossing and normal service pattern could be developed?

Comments are closed.